Time to reset the balance

“I don’t know how you do it?”

I get this question a lot. I balance a full-time job, my family and grad school. I’ve been in grad school part time since I started my Master’s program in 2018 and I’ve become pretty good at carefully planning out and scheduling my time.

In 2022, I never really had a chance to achieve a balance. At work, there was a lot of change. My boss resigned in January and I assumed some of his responsibilities. I took over managing photography and videography staff again. We rolled out a new logo, which was — and still is — a lot of work. All of these things were positive developments, but required increasingly more of my time and attention.

At home, things were challenging. My wife tore her bicep in January and then had to have surgery in the summer, right as she was moving to a different school. My oldest started her senior year of high school and is trying to figure out where she wants to go to college, but then tore her ACL in a lacrosse tournament and also had to have surgery. My two youngest each started a new school, which changed our morning routine significantly. Everyone is doing great, but there is always a lot going on.

And grad school has been fine. I’ve done well. I’ve written lots of papers that I am proud of and had research accepted to a conference. I’m trying to get my papers edited and submitted to journals. Classes have been good, but honestly, I haven’t enjoyed grad school for the last year. And that has been weighing on me.

The balance is off.

I’ve been in grad school part-time for 4.5 years straight at this point — 3 for the Master’s and 1.5 for the Ph.D. With all the changes in my job and life, I wasn’t getting the most out of my Ph.D. studies.1  So I’ve decided to take the spring semester off. It’s a tough decision — I’ve been steadily working on my degrees one or two classes at a time — but it’s the right decision. I need to pause and reset the balance between work, home and school. I’m not quitting, just taking a break. I know I’ll start back up in the summer or fall, fully recharged and ready to continue to the finish.

  1. One of my professors told me that by working on my Ph.D. part time, I had the “gift of time.” Most people have to sprint through their program so they can get a teaching job. By not rushing through my program, I could get the most out of it and enjoy it.

Bob Wertz is a creative director, type designer, Ph.D. student and researcher living in Columbia, South Carolina.