"Where do you find the time?"

          Even with the Holidays coming up right around the corner, this month has been particularly bittersweet for me. This is officially my last semester as a Marist student. Even though I bid farewell to being on campus full-time back in 2013, I’ve been prolonging my Red Fox student status while pursuing a Masters Degree in Public Administration through their online program. As I write this, I'm putting the final touches on my capping paper and (if all goes well) will start looking forward to one more graduation ceremony in the Spring.

            News of this accomplishment did come as a surprise for some of my closest peers; some of them had no idea I was even in the program. Between working full-time; serving my local community as an officer in our Kiwanis Club, Drug Awareness Council, and a member of the Board of Education; launching this site; and just trying to have some semblance of a social life somewhere along the way, they never imagined I’d manage to add one more thing into the mix.

Photo credit: M. Benno,  Montville TAP .

Photo credit: M. Benno, Montville TAP.

            Sure, it’s been exhausting, but I’ve got a secret trick that’s helped me to work my way through it all without shirking any of my responsibilities. How, exactly, can you find a way to juggle so many pieces without losing your head in the process? The answer is to find commonalities.

            A quick glance at my long list of extracurriculars certainly makes it seem like I’ve got a full plate, but when you boil it all down to the bare basics there’s really just two objectives here: community and service. My roles with the Kiwanis, the DAC and the BOE all share a common link beyond my hometown itself; each of these organizations is dedicated to serving, and bettering the quality of life, of our youth. In that respect, I’ve managed to find ways to bring these various roles together into making a more significant impact for our community. Whether it’s exploring new school programs and trends among local youth to better guide the policies of the drug awareness council, or using service projects through Kiwanis to create opportunities for education and growth among local students, there’s always a way to connect the dots between organizational missions to touch the bigger picture.

            The same has proven true throughout my MPA track. As a discipline dedicated to evaluating and innovating public policy and administration, my coursework has provided me with ample opportunity to step back and reflect on my involvement with these local organizations. I approached the process as an opportunity to not only improve myself, but my community. In using some very near and dear projects as the subjects of my class projects and papers, I’ve been able to apply modern theories and research to the development of new ideas and proposals to help guide their development and strengthen their impact. When you look at it that way, it’s actually kind of fun—albeit in a nerdy way.

Say "Cheese"! An energized conference selfie while moving between sessions.

Say "Cheese"! An energized conference selfie while moving between sessions.

            The fact of the matter is that no matter how heavy or light the load your bearing, it’ll all come crashing down on you sooner or later if you dwell on it too much. The human body is a wonderful machine, capable of some truly tremendous feats; our mind, however, tends to get in the way at times. Your mental health works in a similar light, with our own minds tripping over themselves by dwelling on the negative like a tongue constantly circling over the gap left by a lost tooth. That is, if you're constantly telling yourself that you’re drowning, you’ll most certainly get swallowed up by the tide. If you can keep your sights on the shore ahead, however, the natural capabilities of this wonderful human machine will help to propel you towards your desired goal. Find the common threads motivating your work to help you put the bigger picture into perspective, and set your sights upon it with fierce devotion. Once you have it set firmly in place, ask yourself "Am I moving myself any closer to this goal?" “how does this help me meet my objective or vision?” whenever you take on a new project.

            Sometimes the pieces won’t fit, and that’s o.k. That’s when it comes time to know your limits and realize that it’s alright to let the occasional opportunity slide by. If it’s a fit, however, then you might just find a way to work it in alongside your current endeavors. Follow up by considering just how similar this new undertaking is to what you’re working on already, and see if there’s any way that one might help the other(s). Although there’s some truth to that old saying about “Jacks of all Trades”, you’d be surprised at just how often we over extend ourselves trying to do the same thing in a dozen different ways. Using these commonalities to uncover your true focus, the bigger picture, will help you to cut out this repetitive work and focus your efforts where they truly count.

So, get out there and start connecting dots!