This past Friday, in one of my more reflective moods, I tweeted this:
I’ve been reading, talking, learning and sharing about work/life balance (or work/life negotiation as I’ve come to call it) for a while now. Given the number of frequent flier miles I’ve accumulated with all of these trips outside my comfort zone, learning to manage my time effectively to enjoy every new adventure without burning out has become something of a challenge.
One thing that always struck me when having these conversations, reading articles, or watching videos like this one (amazing TED talk on ‘making work-life balance work) was the very clear, almost dichotomous distinction between ‘work’ and ‘life’. It was never between ‘family’ and ‘life’ or ‘sports’ and ‘life’. Why was work being treated as this disembodied, separate entity, miles apart from the ‘rest’ of our ‘life’?
Work to me, whether as a 9-5 job or during the ‘under employed’ phases of my life, has never been separate from what I consider to be my life. My work in student affairs has influenced how I interact with friends and family just as those nearest and dearest to me have inspired me in my work with students. I have pondered work issues with friends over dinner, and have carried the excitement that comes from a successful student life event home for dinner (my poor little bro never knew what hit him those days).
When we make such a stark distinction between work and life I get worried that we’re also splitting up pieces of ourselves. For all our talk of the whole student and holistic student development, does it become inauthentic to create almost dueling personalities (the ‘work me’ and the ‘life me’)?
My current boss, who is phenomenally supportive and inspiring, once told me that she encourages her staff to ‘bring their whole selves to work’. My whole self is not just my role, my title or my contract. It is my relationships, my interests, passions and everything else that makes me who I am. If I’m encouraged to bring my whole self to work, shouldn’t I also bring my whole self to each day of my life? Creating this work/life distinction seems to be forming the very silos we in student affairs rail against. Following some great insights from @WildflowerMel perhaps a new view of balance could be:
What about you? Is work separate from life for you? Is there a separation at all?
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