Finding balance in life is nearly as tricky as standing on one leg, whilst drunk and convincing other people that you are sober. In order to do so, you have to weigh up your commitments (work, family, basic hygiene) against your hopes and desires. I for one have chosen, on more than one occasion, to live an unbalanced life.
I was working in a school and it was hectic, but I was newly qualified, I loved it and threw every ounce of my effort into it, often to the detriment of a social life. Relationships took a back seat, some wandered off never to be seen again, yet I wasn't actually that bothered (cold, right?). I had passion and love for my work and as a result I managed to find a new position in a new school with some extra responsibility. I was actually excited to have more work to do! *cringe*
The new school was very different from the last. A shortage of staff meant longer hours, more marking, more admin, more parents to phone and a lot more wine. Any choice I, and my colleagues made, to think about a social life, was stripped away. We were people who cared about our jobs, students and the quality of learning. We worked longer, harder and fought to do our best. One by one, something snapped, and I was one of the first to go.
All I wanted was to play netball one evening a week; stay in bed until 6am; not have to work the entire weekend. My imbalance was so severe, I was dangling off a cliff, by a finger tip. It was a scary place and lonely. There were no heroic manly types to whisk me off and treat me to a spa break (time to date, pah!), my friends had either the same amount of work as me, or found other people to hang out with (Except the hardcore besties who fed me while I worked and ignored them).
A death in the family helped put things into perspective. You can't phone or write to someone who isn't there anymore. You can't visit them and natter about the funny things you have been doing (quite apart from the fact, fun was lacking). No-one should be left thinking that they wished they had shown their family how much they loved them more. It was a hard lesson learned and one never repeated.
A last minute, summer escape to Australia, was also illuminating. Teachers in Oz have balance thrust upon them. Better pay, a 40 odd hour week and less testing translates into happy and motivated teachers (and the beer fridge in the staffroom for the end of the week probably helped). After 4 weeks of witnessing teachers going to drinks, dinner, the cinema on a regular basis, DURING THE WEEK, I fully woke up.
What was I doing?
Compromising your mental and physical well-being for a job, profession or vocation is crazy. I was so stressed and frustrated most of the time, that I barely slept. My diet was terrible and my only exercise was dashing around at work in a constant state of nervous energy. Something needed to change.
One year later I had a new job, with less stress in a great school, a boyfriend, exciting holidays planned and hobbies again, which I enjoyed with my family and friends. I wasn't living the Australian dream, but my life was finally in some sort of balance. I was happier,healthier and slept better.
It's so easy to throw yourself into everything and somewhere along the way lose yourself. People can work and play hard for a time (and many need to in order to set up a business, for example). Eventually, however, there should be a point where you have to consciously change that behaviour and preferably, before you burn out. Everyone's idea of 'balance' is different. Although, you shouldn't feel like you are sacrificing anything, including your happiness for the sake of a job or your commitments. You can make a change, even small steps will help you on the way. You can find some tips on finding some 'me' time here.
Do you lead a balanced life, or are you still yearning after something? Do you have tips on how to create balance? If so, leave your ideas below and we can all use them.
You can also catch the first post of the series on aspiration here.
I will be posting every other Saturday in this series - so the next post will be here on the 5th February. Until then, catch me here every Wednesday (the next one will be crafty).