As I reflected upon my occupational patterns in my everyday life for my Occupational Science class, I found that I am generally satisfied with the way I spend my time. Although I do not have the power to choose how I spend every moment of my day (e.g., how much I go to school), I feel like I am generally in control of how I use my time. Through the use of the Occupational Patterns Log, I found that most of the occupations in which I participate involve some balanced blend of productivity (focus on the outcome), pleasure (focus on the process), and restoration (focus on regaining energy), and that these often take place within enfolded occupations (e.g., eating a meal while socializing with friends). As a result of these reflections, I have taken an interest in three particular aspects of my occupational patterns: the consistency of my routine, the positive yet constricting nature of my social environments, and changes I wish I could make.
Upon analysis I found that the most consistent and meaningful occupation in my daily routine is exercise. This has not always been the case, but my husband and I recently started an at-home holistic workout program that is done seven days per week (with the seventh day being a stretch/rest day), with each workout taking anywhere from 60-90 minutes. As a former gymnast who loved doing conditioning, I have really enjoyed getting back into a consistent exercise regimen. I look forward to working out every day because it is a blend of pleasure, restoration, and productivity. I really enjoy the process of working out, and when I finish each workout, I feel energized and accomplished. The nature of the workout program allows me to match my current skill level with the challenge of the workout, and so I experience flow during my exercise time. Additionally, I have realized that, daily exercise is one of my “big rocks” that, when performed consistently, allows for many of the “smaller rocks” to fall into place. This is exemplified by the fact that, after I have been working out, I generally feel better about myself and am more motivated to make good decisions such as eating well and being positive. I have realized that the occupation of daily exercise has been a healthy addition to my daily routine.
My reflection upon the social environments in which I participate in meaningful occupations has shown me that even generally positive environments can sometimes feel constricting. Three examples come to mind. First, I live in a great co-housing community where I am able to share resources with my neighbors and engage in positive occupations such as eating community meals on a regular basis. However, even though it is a positive social environment, it can feel constricting at times because nearly all my neighbors are graduate students, so everyone always has some sort of school work to do. I sometimes feel like I am trapped, never quite able to escape the grasp of school.
The second example of a positive social environment that can become constricting was brought to my attention by my Occupational Patterns Log. It showed me that the only two social environments that I engage in are school and home. Although I really enjoy being at school and at home, I realized that I lack diversity in my daily social environments, and since I am the type of person who likes to have the scenery constantly changing – even in the course of one day – this lack of diversity can make me feel constricted. This realization reminded me that, before I moved to Los Angeles to start graduate school, my routine often involved four or five different social environments per day. Whether it was going to school, working at one of my three jobs, attending a Bible study, or watching TV shows with my neighbors, I always had a variety of social settings in which to participate. It’s no wonder that the humdrum routine of home-to-school-and-back-again can begin to make me feel like I lack the ability to escape.
The third positive social environment in which I can sometimes feel constricted is in my own apartment. My husband and I share a small one-bedroom apartment, and although I really enjoy living with him and have tried my best to make it a comfortable and homely place to live, the truth is, there’s really no place I can go to truly be alone. I am an introvert at heart, so I need space to myself on a regular basis. In our current arrangement, we carpool to and from our respective schools together, so whenever I am home, he is also home at the same time. Even as I write this post, he is sitting no more than five feet away from me, working on a paper for his own graduate program. This makes it more difficult to focus, both for me and for him. I can only truly get into academic flow if I stay up and do school work after he goes to sleep, when the apartment is completely silent. Unfortunately, this means that during weeks where I have a lot of papers to write and exams to study for, my sleep schedule takes a big hit. So while I am grateful for the fact that I get to be near my husband in our small apartment as much as I do on a daily basis, it sometimes feels like I am trapped, and it makes school work much more difficult.
Reflecting on my occupational patterns has made me wish for two specific changes in my daily routine. First, I wish I could find more space – temporal or physical – for myself. Second, I wish I could create another social environment in which I could be involved so that I do not feel so confined to simply going back and forth between home and school. While I may not be able to change the form of many of my occupations (i.e., their directly observable aspects, like who I live with), I may be able to change their function (i.e., the effect they have on my quality of life). Perhaps a simple shift in perspective will help me to make the most of my occupational patterns as I continue to pursue a happy and balanced life.