Remaining Optimistic

As I enter my second year of graduate school, I sit back and reflect on all of my years of schooling. I have always had an interest in school, and furthering my education was never a question, but it is astonishing to think I have made it this far. Making this last year meaningful and putting my best work forward is significant as, at this time, I do not see myself receiving any degree higher than my master’s. With this, putting my best work forwards means managing my time and prioritizing. Attending school and working will be challenging, but course prioritization is needed with enrolling in a thesis course. 

Truthfully speaking, thinking about my thesis is stressful. There are numerous ways to go about writing one’s thesis, and I am unsure of where to begin. Perhaps, this is something I should have began working on over the summer, but here we are!

As I write my blog post, I have been trying to figure out what interests me. What grasps my attention? What makes me cringe? What topics do I strongly agree with, and what topics can’t I stand? I find that asking myself these questions will hopefully assist me in developing the below thesis possibilities:

  1. The African American community: Being that I am an African American female, I would perhaps want to touch upon my community. From taking Dr. Nelson’s course, I first wanted to write about the effect and/or impact someone’s environment has on them. I would like to see how different people react to the same situation depending on the environment they came from. For example, two individuals coming from the same neighborhood with similar family dynamics and both going out into the world but having two different. One individual refuses to be a product of their environment, while the other falls into the repeated family cycle. 
  2. COVID-19, elderly, and religion: During Dr. Nelson’s course, I did not go with the above topic, but I rather focused on COVID-19 and its effects on the elderly. My research question touched upon how strains of COVID-19 have affected faith in the geriatric population. I am not too sure if I still want to focus on anything COVID-19 related, but I have always been around the elderly as my mother works in a nursing home. Hearing their stories and giving back to the previous generations is something that is important to me.
  3. Work-life balance: Currently working in the same location as where I receive my education and where I live, there is always a challenge of keeping a balance. This made me think of completing my thesis on work-life balance. Honing in employees’ perception of work-life balance, organizational structure, the role supervisors play, and more are of interest to me. Work-life balance is something that I have a love-hate relationship with as it is easy to state that one needs to have that balance, but there are various factors that play a crucial role in preventing that balance.

A Month to Go

I feel like I have not blogged in forever! This is due to me being sick the past few weeks. I did not attend class on March 28, 2022, and class was canceled on April 4, 2022. I am glad that I am now feeling better. I am not sure what I had as every other day, I took a COVID-19 test (rapid and PCR), and they all came out negative. I was thankful for this, but also very confused. For roughly two weeks straight, I was sick with a stuffy and runny nose, congestion, cough, and a loss of voice. I thought I could play doctor and concoct a variety of medicines, but nothing was working between Mucinex, Alka Seltzer, TheraFlu, and DayQuil! I had to give in and go to doctors, and it wasn’t until they put me on antibiotics. Fortunately, whatever “cold” I had went away after taking antibiotics.

Being that I did not spend too much time on my thesis while sick, it put me back. May 9, 2022, is right around the corner. Truthfully, I am at the point where I need to eat, breathe, and sleep my thesis! This week I really want to hone in on the intersectional feminist perspective of work-life balance. This is the section of my thesis that needs the most work. Next week, I would like to edit and finalize my literature review with the addition of finalizing my personal narrative, which should not be as bad or painful, should I say.

I do not plan on reading anything from my thesis for my presentation. Hearing everyone else present and do well is great, but I get nervous that I am not where I should be, so I would like to avoid all possible feelings of anxiety. So instead, I would like feedback on some of the ideas that I have in place for finalizing my thesis.

What Now?

I loved Jessie’s presentation last week! I was very interested and cannot wait to purchase a book to read the entirety. I must state that when others were asking Jessie during her presentation if she was going to read the other chapters a part of me was saying “please don’t” on the inside. This is simply because I want to read everything at once! I didn’t want to have too many spoilers. Nonetheless, I am glad she did read the other two chapters because they were great! After listening to both Jessie and Susan, I was bummed out that I didn’t decide to go the creative route when selecting a thesis topic. I find that my work is more “traditional” and not that exciting, but it’s definitely too late to turn around now.

With that being said, I have finished all of my interviews! I completed my last interview this past Thursday. After the interview concluded, I was excited as the previous interview I had conducted had patterns in their responses and many answers were alike. It was interesting to see how many answers were similar and this will assist me in my study and literature review, but it was also great to hear from someone whose answers were drastically different.

What I now need to work on is finishing transcribing my interviews. Once completed, I will utilize the responses to pull out exactly what I want to focus on while ensuring my literature review is up to date and hones in on the topics I captured from my survey!

I Feel Good

For once this academic year, I can state that I feel good! Although this past week was Spring Break, I worked my normal nine to five therefore I did not have much of a break. I could have taken the nights off and rested as we did not have any classes in session, but I used this time wisely for once and I am proud. I was able to conduct three out of my five surveys and begin transcribing them as well! I can state that thus far this has been the most interesting part of my thesis work. Sitting and listening to my interviewee’s responses while also relating their answers back to mine was enjoyable. From the majority of the responses that I received, it was interesting to see how almost everyone was taken back and hesitant by the questions regarding one’s manager. I am now excited to begin working on this section of my thesis and seeing what patterns arise.

This past week I also was able to sit in on a training session “You Evolving Now.” The guest speaker spoke about the importance of viewing work-life as a harmony rather than a balance as there is no such thing. This is not the first time I have heard this, therefore looking into the reasons as to why there cannot be a balance will be a key part of my thesis.

In my eyes, we are basically in April, which means time is ticking. I do not have much time left so although I made progress this week, I cannot slack. I must keep this momentum going or else I will begin to fall behind… more behind than I already am.

A Four-Day Week

I can say that the four-day week was very much needed! For the first time in months, I was able to genuinely rest and sleep in. I had the time to celebrate my mother’s wedding with my family and not focus on work for once. This does not come often and I believe my mind and body began to confuse itself as I was getting the days of the week mixed up. 

Although I am appreciative of the time off, a part of me now feels guilty. As we start a new week and I prepare for classes, I realized that I did not get much done regarding my thesis. Thankfully, Spring Break is coming next week. I still will have to work, but the majority of the students will not be in the residence halls so hopefully (fringes crossed), I will not have too many incidents and meetings to attend to. With this, I am hopeful that I will be able to begin conducting interviews.  Thankfully, I have still been journaling, so I’ll also begin to see what snips and pieces I want to take from my journal to input into my opener/closer. I recently received an email with my subject as “Are you s stressed- out supervisor” and the body including “If you’ve felt stressed, exhausted, or even burned out in the past year, we’re here for you.” Perhaps, this email is telling him to get a move on my thesis.

Creating My Story

If there was such a thing, I would consider myself a perfectionist. My parents expected As and Bs from my sister and me during my childhood and nothing less. They are the type of parents that want the best for their children and are very understanding, but when it came to academics that was a top priority. I can recall getting an A- and hearing “What happened to the rest of the points?” inquiring about why I did not receive an A or the times I got straight As and heard “Well you did it once so we know it’s possible.” Since then academics has always been my focus. So much so that I graduated undergrad with one B and contemplated retaking the class. Now in my adulthood, perhaps this has affected me in the professional setting. I strive to do everything for everyone. I am one to receive praise due to being a team player, being detail-oriented, and always submitting tasks on time. With this, also comes additional tasks as my supervisors are aware I am reliable and “Bailey can get it done.” I am proud of my work ethic, but not proud of the challenges that come with it. 

I am tired. 

I have learned that I cannot do everything as much as I try to. I hear this from my colleagues and supervisors. In every evaluation I have had, the topic of creating a balance between work and personal has come about.

I begin to ask myself, “How is a balance possible?”

From living and working on campus and receiving emails, calls, and texts all throughout the day even when off, it is hard to create a balance and when one tries to, they suddenly don’t have “visibility” or is “never around,” but I must also realize that the tiredness I am feeling is also coming from my actions as well.

The Fun Stuff

From my one-on-one meeting with Dr. Zamora last week, I was able to gauge the direction I need to be headed in and narrow down the focus of my thesis. This week, I wanted to focus on the more enjoyable aspects of my paper. Dr. Zamora and I had discussed coming up with interview questions and determining who my interviewees would consist of. I also wanted to focus on the contributing factors to work-life imbalance. With this, I am looking to interview four women.  I will also be including myself in the case study. I would like the chosen women to be of different job titles and hierarchies. By doing this, I will see if there are any patterns, perhaps among women who have been in their field for a certain period of time or those who have just begun. As of right now, my interviewees consist of an Assistant Director in her early thirties who has been with her department for 5+ years, an Activity Coordinator in her early fifties who has been with her department for 10+ years and has children, and an Academic Specialist in her early twenties who has been with her department for five months and also takes classes. I am still looking for one more individual. I have drafted a few questions that I have come across while conducting research that I could potentially use regarding my interview questions. I am looking to narrow the interviews to six open-ended questions. I may do one or two questions that have the interviewees utilize a scale of 1-5, but I feel as if open-ended questions allow the participants to provide the interviewer with more insight and explanation. 

Possible Interview Questions:

  1. How would you describe the management style for your department?
  2. Could you benefit from delegating tasks and giving tasks to another employee?
  3. How often do you take work home? 
    1. Why?
  4. What can be done to enhance your work-life balance?
  5. What boundaries do you set to have a positive work-life balance?
  6. What does work-life balance mean to you? What does it look like?

Contributing factors to work-life imbalance:

  1. Excessive work hours
  2. Poor supervision
  3. Low compensation 
  4. Ideal worker norms 

Integration and Not Balance

As we begin the start of the Fall semester I thoroughly enjoyed last week’s class. I was able to get advice from my peers on how I should be managing my time with my thesis. It sounds ridiculous that my thesis is focusing on work/life balance but I cannot seem to manage my time. The group that I was in gave great advice of dedicating at least thirty minutes a day to my thesis. I find that this would be beneficial as thirty minutes provides me ample time to research and write but not overwhelm me. For the first few weeks, I really want to solidify my research. Similar to Diana, I want to further my literature review. My biggest fear is putting together a number of sources only to begin drafting my paper and realizing that it does not flow and needing to start over. With this, I need to be intentional with the work that I am doing. This past week I did set aside time for my thesis and surprisingly it came in the strangest way. I needed to read a text, “Sustainable Careers in Student Affairs” for my job as we were then having training. Shockingly enough, the text focused on work-life balance. I guess in theory I really didn’t set aside time for my thesis, but I was able to get thesis work and work for my job done at the same time! During training, one thing that stuck with me is the discussion of the impact of ideal worker norms and the reasons for them. This tied into my journaling that I have done and noticed that simple things such as having a “working lunch” impacts one from having a balance or should the text say integration of work and life. Another contributing factor is one’s supervisors. If one’s supervisor is constantly sending out emails and messages when staff is not working it’s easier for staff to adapt those habits and create a department that has no integration of work and life.  I am hopeful that this text can be used in my literature review as I dive deeper into each chapter.

The Continuation

I could sit here and write my final blog post with a plethora of hopes, wishes, and dreams that I have over winter break regarding my thesis journey but I also want to be realistic. This semester was not my greatest academically and personally. I encountered mental health challenges more than I expected especially being that I completed my first year of graduate school virtual and did well. Unfortunately, I did not experience the same outcome this semester and with that, I want to take the break to still focus on my thesis but also on myself. I share Hugo’s sentiments that “The constant self-degrading thinking, isolation and almost absent-presence has helped me realize what it is I might want in life after this – happiness in solitude.” This sentence touched me as this semester I realized how often I depend on others for my own happiness. There’s so much that I need to work on within myself and my confidence and I hope that winter break allows me to do so. I still work full-time and with my position, I am “off” per se from December 24, 2021, through January 1, 2021, as long as I am not on call. Thankfully, I am not. With this, I aim to take December 20, 2021, until January 2, 2021, for myself and my well-being. Whether that’s journaling, rediscovering who I am, or partaking in activities I once enjoyed I want to add it to my list. I go back into the office on January 3, 2021, and being that I will be on a nine-to-five schedule I believe this presents the perfect opportunity to pick up my thesis work. Being that this semester wasn’t the greatest, I need to put energy into my thesis before the spring semester starts. I do not want to abandon it and come back in the same position of feeling lost that I am in now. Over break, I aim to work on figuring out how to include my personal experiences regarding work-life balance into my thesis. I have encountered so many challenges and I think reflecting on what has occurred cured will not be strenuous but rather enjoyable as I also get to view what should not occur for next semester. Addiitonally, I would like to create a solidified outline for my thesis. Knowing me, things will change but I need to begin somewhere. Having numerous ideas floating around will not be helpful. I find that it will hinder me in getting started. I need a solid plan to follow until I begin the revision process during the spring semester. Lastly, with only having a few students approved to reside on campus during break, there should not be too many incidents *knocks on wood.* With this, I aim to begin thinking of interview questions and potentially conducting a few interviews. They do not have to be perfect but it’ll permit me to get a feel of things and what needs to be altered. I find that these are realistic goals and at the end of the day, I must put faith and confidence in myself and know that I can accomplish this. Winter break will not necessarily be a “break” but rather a continuation.

Not Enough Time

As Maura stated in her blog post, now that the end of the semester is here there’s so much to still do. I have two presentations next week one for this course and the second for The Language of Racial and Ethnic Identity. I am not too nervous about these presentations, yet, but following I have three papers due for The Language of Racial and Ethnic Identity. I enjoy the conversations held in that class, but not having hard deadlines for assignments increased my procrastination. Needless to say, tomorrow will consist of me eating and putting up the Christmas tree while Friday through Sunday will consist of me typing away. It is time to buckle down and I want to someway somehow knock out the three papers by Sunday. By doing this, I will be able to solely focus on my thesis for the next three weeks.

I’ve been reflecting upon what else to include in my thesis aside from my research and I have seen how others are including personal experience. I put a hold on my journal entries about my day, but now I have begun continuing to write. Before I was focusing on seeing what was taking up the majority of my day, while balancing my tasks, and most importantly, what I did right and what went wrong, which ties into work-life balance. Now that I am referencing articles with more regards to gender and work-life balance, I would like to see if there is any instances in my days that relate to what I have come across thus far.

I am aware that in the “Developing a Literature Review” it states that we are able to draw out opposing views. Will I able able to add this into my finalized thesis paper next smeester? Having sections where I am combating other’s ideas to bring out my central inquiry and highlight how my work attempts to produce new knowledge to the field of Writing Studies.

Viewing the Other Side

This week I continued to read articles while implementing a few videos. The one article that stood out to me was “Why We Need to Stop Talking About Work-Life Balance As a ‘Female’ Struggle.” I recently decided that I wanted to dive into work-life balance and gender equity how the two correlate, but this article went in the opposite direction. Perhaps I should not have spent so much time reading the article because I could easily tell that it did not pair well with my topic from the title. It was stated that women may have had more interruptions while working due to being a mother, but there was not a drastic difference regarding the work-life balance conflicts that men and women encounter. The authors did mention conducting a study that I believe will be beneficial regarding one’s blood pressure and heart rate. I find that this study would be a great starting point as the article did not provide evidence behind why there is not a correlation between work-life balance and gender. One thing that did stand out to me that I will begin to further research is that emotions may play a factor in why individuals believe gender affects work-life balance. The article states, “For example, if women feel more guilt about their work-life conflicts than men do, it could have a real emotional effect.” Perhaps, I could also begin looking into how emotion may play an effect. If women have more guilt and emotions towards the concerns, they may speak about it more. Is this promoting others to believe there is a correlation between work-life balance and gender?