A while ago, I was asked a very simple question: Do I work to live or live to work? At first I chuckled, thinking of course I work to live! I’ve always considered this to be true. I am in love with Minneapolis, what with all of its art, music, trails, cafes and activities. But it’s expensive to live here and enjoy all of those offerings; working full time (at least) is necessary. However, the question has been troubling me more and more over the last few weeks. Do I really work to live? At what point am I working to support my lifestyle and at what point does work become my lifestyle?
As with most people, my job often entails more than just 40 hours per week. There are expectations that just need to be met, even if it means cutting into my personal life. But it’s just this once, right? As long as I don’t make a habit of it, I’ll maintain balance, won’t I? I’m no longer so sure.
When I started getting nervous that I wasn’t maintaining a healthy balance, I thought to myself, I’ve always worked a lot. This isn’t new! Throughout high school and college, I was the one who always had shifts to coordinate around and somewhere to be every morning. It never seemed like a hindrance, but rather the thing that has allowed me to be social in the first place. So what if I work too much? So what if I really do live to work? What does it really matter?
It matters because it’s not who I ever wanted to become. When I think back to my goals in life, working a too-demanding amount was never part of my vision. Saying “no” to spontaneity, invites and events because they would take away precious hours of sleep or at-home work time wasn’t part of my plan. So more than it’s not ideal, it’s not me.
I know what you’re probably thinking. You’re 23! Get over it! You have to do things you don’t want to do, we all do! Suck it up, buckle down, and bite the bullet (don’t you love my metaphors?)
Do I though? Do you have to? No! I think that my decisions right now are going to set the pace for the rest of my life, and the expectations I have for those around me. Do I want to spend time with people who are living their lives and working to make it happen, or working because it’s their life? Do I want to surround myself with others who reinforce imbalance? No!
So what can I do to regain balance and make sure that my job is allowing me to be me? I do yoga to keep my day in focus; I remind myself that even if I worked around the clock, the tasks will just keep coming; I acknowledge the fact that keeping things balanced allow me to be effective and productive when I am at work; I focus on my hobbies: baking, cooking, painting, reading and friends, and I make sure they’re getting their fair share of my time; and I recognize that each day I should go to sleep feeling accomplished and fulfilled rather than exhausted and anxious about the next day to come.
So how about you? Do you live to work? Or will you finally decide to work to live?