Saturday, February 6, 2016

Time to Shift Focus

I'm working for 18 hours today. 8:30AM to 2:30AM.

I know that my fellow Student Affairs folks can relate to this. Sometimes pulling hours like this just needs to happen. We work in a field that is focused on helping others, and sometimes that means working around the clock to meet our students' needs and to support our colleagues that are in the same boat. It's just a thing that happens in our field, and I'm sure in countless other professions that require time, care, and attention to other people this is also the case. I say all the time how great it is that I work in a field that makes me happy because these long, strange hours come easily. Being around my students and watching them grow and succeed give me more energy than any typical introvert should have. I feel truly lucky that I can say that I'm happy at work and I love my job. After all, it's what I spend the majority of my waking hours doing.


I've been thinking a lot lately of how often I've valued my own professional development and being successful in my career over pursuing my interests outside of my career and investing valuable time in my personal life. Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love working in Student Affairs. I worked so hard to get to where I am today and I couldn't be happier in my career. I really can't imagine myself working in another environment, and my students make every challenge I face as a professional so worth it. But I've seen this so often in the world of Higher Ed - once we leave the office at the end of the day, our brains don't often leave with us, and it severely impacts our ability to be present in our personal lives.

When we're with our families, how many of us are worrying about a challenge from work that's weighing on our shoulders? When we're out with friends, how many of us are stealing glances at our smart phones' email apps to just "check in to make sure we're not missing anything" - maybe sending off a message here and there that we deem urgent enough to interrupt our personal time? How often does our topic of conversation default to what happens at work? Though I take pride in my ability to stay off my work email when I'm out of the office, I'm totally guilty of letting projects or concerns from work permeate my thoughts and conversation when I'm with my loved ones instead of enjoying my time off.

I totally get why it happens. I've been conditioned for these 25 years of my life to always be thinking about my professional future. To always strive to be my absolute best in school, to get the grades to go to college, that would then lead me to graduate school, and ultimately my career. I've been taught to be way too hard on myself for not trying hard enough, not achieving high enough, and not devoting enough time to being professionally successful. After a life of feeling this way, it's so hard to turn this off, and the culture we have on who can be the busiest and who can be the most productive does not help. I feel like I'm constantly in competition with my colleagues (both on my campus and off) of who is most devoted to the field and their jobs (whether the competitiveness spoken about or not) and it's exhausting.

We're never really (like, reallytaught the importance of enjoying life - but isn't that the whole point?

I hope to change this attitude that I've created for myself. It's not a crime to want to focus on my personal life and strive to progress on that side of my life for a change. I've spent my whole life stressing out over starting a career and - especially over these last three years - I've achieved some pretty amazing professional goals. While I think it's important to always strive to develop professionally, I also think it's important to always strive to develop in my personal life and to value my personal happiness and growth for a change. I want to focus more on being present with my partner and enjoy our time together instead of always talking about and worrying about work. I want to continue to explore the things that I'm interested in outside of my field. I want to try new things and travel new places and be with my friends and family. And I think it's okay to be okay with that. 

I'm curious to know what your thoughts are on work/life balance. Do you find that you focus more on your career? Do you think work/life balance is a myth? Or do you feel like you have this work/life balance thing down to a science? Let me know in the comments or Tweet me your thoughts. I would love to know!

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