Working on balance

Posted on 2 May 2011


I blog for a recruitment consultancy and recently I drafted a post about work–life balance. I’ve been getting told for years that it’s a priority, that I should be aiming for it, that I should want it.

I struggle with the idea because I love most of what I call my work. Actually, it’s more that I have an issue with other people telling me I work too much, which is really just a way of telling me I’m doing my life wrong. ‘Work’ for me includes some of my favourite activities: blogging here and elsewhere; writing grant applications and sponsorship proposals; coordinating tender responses for engineering firms; writing copy for corporate websites and marketing collateral; working with web developers and graphic designers; building brands and creating online communities through social media channels; reading about social media; talking to people and networking; finding out stuff.

Because I enjoy doing what I do, I do it a lot and this is OK with me. There are some less-than-perfect side-effects: I haven’t been able to wear contacts for a year because my eyes are tired from staring at the same short distance for up to 18 hours a day, I’m chronically sleep deprived (also contributes to the eye thing), I get tension headaches, I was pretty unfit for a while which gave me some back trouble, and relationships can be tricky.

Now that I’m freelancing full-time and I work more to my own schedule, some of these health things are getting better. I can take longer breaks and rest my eyes. I’m much better at sitting up straight while I work than I used to be. I’ve been exercising regularly. I’m more energetic because I can listen to my body more. But I’m not working less and I don’t really want to. Besides, I know lots of people who work crazier than me.

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a series of posts by another Sarah on her blog Escaping Mediocrity. The series was a post a day for the month of February by different guest posters and was called 28 Days to Getting Your Shit Together. One of the first posts was Start Your Journey by Clearly Defining What Your Shit Is by Les McKeown. To help readers figure out what their shit is, he asked:

…with what would you fill the empty vacuum of an unimagined, and unimaginable, loss?

That, says Les, is the only to find out what you are truly meant to be doing with yourself.

Doing something I love for a living has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember. It’s probably a goal for a lot of people, only for most it ends up getting filed under the same heading as winning the lottery or ‘things to do when I retire’. I am determined not to wait for retirement or holidays to live the dream.

Years ago, when I experienced my unimagined, unimaginable loss, I realised I needed to spend my life on something I loved and believed in. I couldn’t keep working solely in corporate communications, which, while I liked it fine, wasn’t enough. I wanted a vocation, a calling.

It was then I got involved with Vibewire, SOOB, and TINA, and went freelance the first time. It was awesome. After a few years of juggling full-time jobs and side projects, now I’m freelancing again and loving it. I feel like I’m doing what I’m meant for.

So I’m going to stop letting myself get guilted about my lifestyle and remember something else from Les’s post that resonated:

What I do isn’t rocket science (quite), and it isn’t heart surgery (nobody will die on the operating table if I get something wrong), but I love it. Every minute of it. I often forget about birthdays and anniversaries, I’m recklessly cavalier about my health and well-being, and I can’t be trusted with even the simplest of domestic arrangements, but I know what my shit is, and I’m not only good at it, I’m compelled to be good at it.

I was so excited when I read this because I’d never had someone explain how I have approached my career so perfectly before. As these things often do in hindsight, it seems like there was only ever one way for me to decide what to do with my time here. It’s best summed up with another quote, this time from Rumi:

Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love. It will not lead you astray.

I dare you.

Image credits
Top: I Heart Balancing Stones by James Jordan under a Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives licence
Other: me
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