Editorial note: I have more to say about this topic, so I’ll be revisiting it soon—with research and quotations even. I haven’t done a series on this blog before, so this will be a test to see how it works.
Over the last several weeks I’ve returned to a number of things:
- to San Luis Obispo, a town I lived in for more than 10 years and where both of my kids were born
- to Cal Poly, where I got both my bachelor’s and master’s in English (and my minor in Philosophy!)
- to surfing and bouldering and being outside every day worshipping the sun and the natural world
- to a regular gym routine where I can already feel the results of sustained pushing and pulling of large weights (large to me, at least)
- to friends I’d left 5 years ago and with whom I’ve picked up as though I’d never left
And, perhaps most importantly for me and my family, I’ve returned to a role with a size and a scope that’s manageable. Dare I say “normal?” This is precisely why I can do all those things on the list above. Normal. What does that mean, exactly? Not abnormal is descriptive. Natural is even better. This means that I could say the amount of work I was doing at my last job was not natural, which sounds about right. It was my primary motivation for considering another job.
The work was meaningful, challenging, important, and simply too much. For the more than 5 years that I worked with the organization I kept telling myself, “It will ease up soon. Just another six months. Next year will be more manageable.”
Little lies to keep me going.
Small imputations of hope.
What kept me going for more than 5 years? The mission of the organization, many of the people I worked with, the financial security, and my own ego. Definitely my ego. Because sometimes it felt good to be so busy, to feel so needed, and to be recognized through promotion for my successes.
But my promotions at work resulted in the demotion of the time and attention I had for my family and for myself. The higher up I went the more trade offs I was making.
No, that’s not right. There were no trade offs. Work came first, and I was at work in some capacity (physically, emotionally, mentally) most of my waking hours.
Now I’m at a job that is also meaningful, challenging, and important, but at a scale that is, frankly, human-sized. And I’m in a position to maintain that normalcy. Or not. Because I was partly responsible for the overwork at my former gig. (Technology also shares blame—I’m more skeptical of it’s supposed usefulness every day—as does the general culture of reward and recognition for overwork or “busyness”).
In this new role I have even more opportunity to create the natural work environment I want to see, and I’m also aware that I have a window of opportunity to do it, so I plan on using this time very, very wisely. Because now that I’ve returned to normal I’m sure as hell not going back.