Thoughts, stories, and ideas about living in positive imbalance.

Balancing Act

Perhaps instead of striving for the capitalist ideal of work/life balance, we should aim for a positive imbalance that emphasizes our overall well-being.

This post was originally published on the GCSW Austin Legislative Internship Program Blog.

Throughout our lives, we are encouraged to find balance. However, achieving this balance can prove challenging in various contexts and stages of our existence. In the UH Graduate College of Social Work’s Austin Legislative Internship Program, it can often feel impossible.

In this setting, we are frequently exposed to an excessive amount of negativity that can throw us off balance. As such, I intend to shift our focus towards positivity today, to counteract this imbalance. However, I also recognize the importance of staying grounded in reality and therefore, I aim to strike a balance between acknowledging the positive aspects while remaining mindful of the challenges that we face.

“The positive vibes only’ mantra can be particularly grating during times of intense personal distress. When people are coping with situations such as financial troubles, job loss, illness, or the loss of a loved one, being told that they need to look on the bright side can seem downright cruel.”
Very Well Mind

Balance of Politics and Social Work

In our dual roles as policy analysts for the TX Legislative Study Group and social work interns, maintaining balance is a challenge. Throughout the application and preparation process, we were cautioned that our boundaries and ethical principles would be tested. To help cope with this struggle, I find it helpful to break down the issue into different areas and analyze each aspect individually.

Work/Life Balance

Achieving a balance between work and personal life is a well-known topic that people discuss worldwide. It’s something that I have personally focused on before I returned to graduate school. I worked on this for several years and realized that the term “work/life balance” is too focused on work, which may be by design to promote capitalism.

While working with a friend on the Drifter Life project, we brainstormed and came up with the idea of changing the phrase to just “life balance” since many aspects of life need balance, and work should not always be the top priority. He also introduced the concept of “positive imbalance,” which I found intriguing. Perhaps instead of striving for the capitalist ideal of work/life balance, we should aim for a positive imbalance that emphasizes our overall well-being.

Achieving this balance can be especially challenging in a place like the capitol, where inefficiencies and scheduling demands can be disruptive. We are at the whims of the Speaker of the House, committee chairs, and the Calendars Committee. During the legislative period, hearings can last until or past midnight, which can affect our health and well-being.

As a result, our personal lives may take a back seat, which is not ideal. Pulling it back into balance is a daily practice, effort, and struggle.

Balancing Experiences and Activities

Whether you tend to be more introverted or extroverted, or somewhere in between like me, it’s crucial to find a balance when it comes to extracurricular activities. The legislative environment presents numerous social events, and Austin itself is a vibrant city with plenty to do.

It’s essential to balance these activities and not overdo it. It’s also important to create time for ourselves to decompress and take advantage of the opportunities for personal growth and exploration. This is a chance to learn more about ourselves and discover new experiences.

Balancing Conforming to and Changing the System

As social work interns, the biggest challenge we are facing is the clash of our professional values and the culture of the capitol. We often must conform to the system while also striving to change it for the betterment of all Texans. It’s a delicate balance between advocating for social justice and being mindful of the political climate.

We are managing to strike a good balance in our work. I’m thankful for my colleagues who help me keep things in perspective every day. It’s also inspiring to meet people who are making small but meaningful efforts to change the system.

Seeing small moments of progress and change gives me hope and helps me get through the tough days where I feel like I’m just conforming to the system. Finding this balance is a challenge, but it’s worth it.

Balancing Relationships

Making new friends, building professional connections, and expanding my network is one of the main goals of this program. But it’s not easy to balance the time it takes to develop new relationships while maintaining existing ones.

I’m struggling to keep up with old friends and colleagues, while also committing time to my partner and family. Some of my teammates haven’t seen their loved ones since we came to Austin. It’s a difficult challenge, but it can also make us better at communicating and more appreciative of the time we have with the people we care about.

Balancing School and Work and…and…and…

We are not only interns in the Legislative Study Group. We’re also students with a lot on our plates. Some of us still have part-time jobs, run companies, or have other responsibilities outside of the program. I’m several days late in submitting this blog post assignment because this week has been out of balance. We’ve had coursework, assignments, and readings to complete after having already spent long weeks working.

The good thing is, we are managing it. We’re learning. We’re adjusting. And, we’re better for this. We are expressing ourselves and we are, somehow, juggling all the things.

Speaking of Balance…

This post may be incomplete or off balance, but I think that’s kind of the point and it needs to be finished. I must go do other things now, as it is budget week! Thanks for reading.

I hope you can bring a balance of peace and love to something you’re working on today.

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Jamie Larson