“Your answer supports my theory that what everyone wants is simply control over their own schedule,” she said.
In the months since she made her proclamation I have tried to disprove her theory but I can’t do it. Because I do think that that is what we all want. We want to cook meals and garden and read. We want to spend time with our kids and our parents and our friends. We want to work hard, too, but not at the expense of the things and people we love. We want to sit outside in the evening, every evening if we want to, and watch the sun sink below the horizon. We want dusk back and we want the evening stars. –Kim, blogger & adventurer at somanyplaces.com. Read her post “To Be Outdoors” here.
When I quit my last job, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I knew I wanted to live a life closer to the one I was living in Japan. And though I worked 40 hours a week in Japan, one big difference between there and my life in Los Angeles was that I had loads and loads of free time – mainly because I was one of very few foreigners living in a tiny town. Because I was mostly isolated, there was time to read, to cook, to dance in the kitchen, to go on walks, to re-learn how to ride a bike (though I did crash and sprain my finger in the process).
What I was craving some months ago was the return of that time – to watch a sunset or linger over coffee in the morning. To get wholly lost in a book anywhere. And because of that, I thought I needed to be a freelancer and work from home.
All my life, I thought I was an introvert. And now I know that while I do cherish solitude, I absolutely need to interact with other people. You see, the part of the puzzle I was missing was that when I got really lonely in Japan, I went to work where I was part of a tightly-knit, caring staff. On weekends, I met up with groups of friends who were all going through the same thing, living the life I was.
When I took six weeks off recently, it took the first four weeks for me to recover from the stressful hell that had been my life. Week 5, I began to get itchy for activity. Week 6, I was stir-crazy and desperate to talk to someone – anyone. Exhausted of spending time alone, I couldn’t even find solace in writing. My man would come home ready to rest, only I was anxious and desperate for him to entertain me.
Sounds like being a freelancer is the wrong life for me.
When I look back at the jobs in which I’ve been happiest, there has always been a team element. I worked at a bookstore with 30+ employees, and met some of the friends who remain dearest to me. I worked for a non-profit fundraising company alongside a group of super-talented individuals. My most miserable work experiences have always consisted of me sitting at a desk by myself.
Once, I thought I wanted my own company. I thought working from home would be brilliant – time to start my morning whenever I wanted, long lunches with friends, tons of opportunities to walk my dog.
I was miserable. I left the company to my business partner in less than a year.
Yin & yang. You need both.
Catching a sunset a few times a week is a joy. Watching the sun go down everyday because you have nothing to do is a chore.
When we’re stretched beyond our limits, part of us yearns for total annihilation of the problem at hand. I’d argue that what you’re really longing for is a break and some re-calibration. If you start working from home (like so many of us wish we could), you may eventually experience incredible boredom and stir-craziness, unless you manage your routine like clockwork. If you work 60 hours a week at a corporation, you’ll likely pull your hair out and feel desperate for a sunny afternoon of freedom.
Work/life balance is hard to achieve, but it’s possible. Look back on your work history and remember where you were happiest. And if you were never happy, maybe you need to try the opposite of what you think you want.
Fair warning – you may have to take a pay cut to earn more happiness. (It’ll be worth it.) I did.
These days, I work no more than thirty hours a week. I get to write and read and play in my time off. I’ve gone to the beach two weeks in a row. This morning, I took a spin class and followed it with a long, leisurely lunch. I’ll work until 10pm tonight, but having these kinds of mornings is worth it. My life is feeling more and more like what I’ve been craving for so long.
What would your ideal work life look like?