Somewhere in my college career, I had the opportunity to study Plato and Aristotle. I can’t remember exactly which class, but there was one particular idea that stuck with me from that class–the principle of moderation. The concept of moderation has been reinforced and repeated over and over again in literature from the ancient Greek playwrights through the transcendentalists and in contemporary literature. Any concept that’s perpetuated through that length of time has likely resonated with a good number of people and warrants thoughtful consideration. I certainly remember really pondering this idea and whether or not it was possible to actually achieve. Somewhere along the line, I realized that it didn’t matter if you actually achieved it; it was the work toward it that really mattered. That realization has really driven my life and is represented now in how I work to find balance in my life.
Being the Interim Dean of Students is a transition for me, one similar to what many of you are experiencing this fall, whether it be the transition to college life as a first-year student, the transition back to campus after time away or the transition to a new class year with its unique challenges of perhaps declaring a major, a full schedule of upper level classes or planning for life after Wellesley. During stressful moments, I’ve found moderation a helpful tool for keeping balance in my life. First, having balanced habits prior to experiencing challenges provides a grounding that I find beneficial. I know how much happier I am overall if I get the right amount of sleep, eat certain kinds of food, spend intentional time with my family, exercise my body, take time for reflection and nourish my mind and creative spirit. Over time, I’ve also learned what’s the right amount of each of these I really need. Some of them I need daily, some weekly, some monthly, and I see the powerful effects of them all. When work is demanding and our schedule at home is demanding, it’s very tempting for me to not spend energy to make a healthy salad for lunch in the morning, hit the treadmill or get all the sleep I need. It’s also tempting with the transition to a new job to let the work take over and tip the balance.
When these moments come, I try really hard (and, honestly, I’m not always successful), to remind myself that stealing time from the things that nurture my mind, body and spirit doesn’t really gain me anything because those are the things give me energy. Don’t get me wrong, solving a complicated problem or finishing a major project at work give me a lot of energy too, but it’s not the same kind of energy. I think of it as the difference between eating carbs and proteins. The successes at work give me huge short-term bursts of energy and get me excited about tackling the next problem or project, but the energy I get from being well-fed, well-rested and personally nourished give me the kind of energy that sustains me through the challenges.
So as we begin a new year together with many transitions and new challenges for all of us, I hope we will remember the concept of moderation and give ourselves permission to keep balance in our lives with time to meet the demands of our work and time to recharge. I wish you all a wonderful fall semester, and I look forward to seeing you on campus.