Many of my conversations with friends and work colleagues over the past few months have revolved around the seemingly out-of-reach concept of work-life balance. This has become ever more so important during the pandemic, with people in some jobs working more than they normally would and with boundaries between our work and personal environments becoming almost non-existent.
I have a tendency to feel personally offended when I find people close to me overloaded with work to the point of burn out. Do line managers not realize that an employee on the edge of burn out will be significantly less productive? Where is the business sense in overloading people to that extent? Also, how much of burn out is down to the employer and how much of it is down to the employee themself? Am I overloading myself with too much work because I feel that’s the only way I can prove myself? Is it a personality thing? Is it an ambition thing? Or is it a cultural thing? I’m convinced that part of it is that we now live in an era where we’re told we need to be super successful; we have to be extra unique. Normal or average is no longer acceptable. We have to fulfil our full potentials. And so we think we have a duty to push ourselves more and more and more.
I’ve been working hard for many years to make sure I balance the work and personal aspects of my life. I think I’m successful most of the time. So I thought I’d share some of my experience with this.
For most of my life, I was certain I’d have shit figured out by the time I reached my 50s. The older generations always appeared to have their shit together in my eyes. Now I realize that they were either great actors and wanted to protect us younger folk from the realities of life, or I was just extremely naïve. It was probably both.
What am I doing in my 50s without the slightest idea about what I want to do when I grow up, who I want to be, or where I want to live? This can’t be normal. Oh, but it is, the wiser, less naïve version of myself responds.
I’ve long felt that my father, in his final years, felt disappointed with how his life turned out. There was a look in his eyes that I felt I could read. He was thinking, “This is it? This is all I will ever be? All I will ever accomplish?” I think, in many ways, he was heartbroken. My father was an academic. He was a professor of kinetic chemistry. He loved his job and he loved his students. He also loved research, something he wasn’t able to do much of once he moved to Saudi Arabia, where he spent some 30 years of his academic career. My father knew his own potential. It was thwarted and he knew it.
In some ways I find myself with similar thoughts about my own life. This is it? This is all I will ever accomplish? All I will ever be? I know I have accomplished some things in life. I realize that I have lived a rich life, full of adventure, love, loss and achievement. I know that. But there’s a weird feeling residing inside of me. I’m conflicted. I want to be more. I want to do more. At the same time, I’m tired. I just want to settle down and get out of the way of other humans. I’m tired of being rebellious and wanting to change the world. And I’m upset that I don’t have the energy anymore to be rebellious and want to change the world.
I’ve had a few jobs that I’ve absolutely loved. Have you? You know how you just love going to work, you love what you do, you enjoy it, and you wouldn’t give it up for anything? But still there are times when you thank God that the weekend has arrived. Or you can’t wait for your next holiday. Or you come home one evening completely exhausted and you wonder how you’ll manage to keep going?
This trip is becoming that job that I absolutely love but that also wears me down sometimes; except instead of getting paid for it I’m spending money left, right, and center.
I really had planned on trying to make this a budget trip. I was going to camp as much as possible to cut down the costs. But then you have many days like today where you cycle more than 100km in blazing heat and by kilometer 90 you decide, “Fuck money. Fuck, fuck, fuck money! I am not going to camp after all this. I want a room. And a bed. And space. And electricity to charge my equipment. And a decent breakfast in the morning. Fuck money!”
It has been a very long time since I’ve known what I want to do in life. I’ve been racking my head over it now for months, probably longer. And I’m getting absolutely nowhere.
Yesterday I came out of watching The Hobbit thinking that maybe what I need to do is spend the next two years learning Kung Fu. Then maybe I could go back to Egypt and use my Kung Fu superpowers to save the country from the evil dragons that have taken over the country. I really did decide this was going to be my calling. Those elves and their martial arts really got to my head.
Two days ago I decided that spending so much time on social media was not helping me figure out my calling. Perhaps if I cut back significantly I would be able to spend more time figuring it all out. I have been using social media quite heavily for several years now and it has definitely not helped me find my calling; the evidence being that it has gotten me absolutely nowhere. I did go through a phase where I felt that communicating through Facebook and Twitter had become my job. My husband once asked me to put down my phone and to focus on the moment that we were in – we were travelling somewhere. I replied, “But Colin. This is what I DO!” I have definitely been through phases where I have thought that my Twitter and Facebook followers were hanging on my every word. When did it become so important for me to communicate my every thought to a virtual world? Two days ago when I made my decision to cut down on social media, a thought came to my head and I struggled with myself for hours not to write down on Facebook. I told myself that if I still felt it was important later that evening then I could write it to the world then. I didn’t. The status would have read, “The women at my gym in the UK show hardly any emotion when they workout while I grimace and curse the whole time. I wonder what they are like during child birth.” Clearly this is a completely inconsequential thing to say. Before the Internet, that thought would go through my head and it would then die there. Now it comes into my head and I have to tell the world. What is that all about? I must admit that I am now relieved it is out there in the world through this blog post, though.
But no. I have decided that social media cannot be my calling.
I have not always been at a loss like this. (more…)
How can one strike a healthy work-life balance? Is it possible to be successful both in your professional life and your personal life? These are questions that we all ask ourselves at one or more points in our lives. The fact that you are asking yourself these questions is good. It means you have slowed down enough to evaluate where you are now and where you would like to be heading.
Defining success is a good place to start. Each one of us defines it differently. A good general definition that can apply to anyone is that success is what gives you a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. Success depends on what your objectives are. Imagine yourself after retirement looking back on the past 40 years. Do you feel you’ve accomplished something with your life? Do you feel you lived your life to the fullest? Do you feel you’ve left a positive lasting mark on society…on someone…anyone? Is your life now – at retirement – as satisfying as it was before you retired? Have you structured your life so that satisfaction lasts a lifetime?
If your answer to one or more of the above questions is no, you need to re-think your life strategy. (more…)