Thoughts Late On a Tuesday Night

I started typing this in response to an email from someone and felt the need to make it into a blog post, since 1) it was getting far too preachy and 2) it was getting far too long and 3) thought it was too good not to share with everyone…

In December of 2004, I left a job at Garelick Farms that I had been in for almost four years to pursue an opportunity with an entrepreneurial company in Providence.  I worked very long, hard hours at Garelick, as I was in charge of not only our entire event marketing program, but the majority of work involved with implementing our marketing plan.  I once went a period of 21 days without a day off, then had two days off and worked another 14 days straight.  It was ugly.  And in the end, I had to leave the company to get a promotion, and when I came back to the parent company, Dean Foods, I was where I should have been before.

But, the story that lead to my returning is what really drove home the work/life balance issue.  The company I went to work for was the 13th or 14th entrepreneurial venture for the founder of the company.  He was 52, very successful in all aspects: financially secure, a good wife, three healthy kids, well-respected in the business world and in the community, charitable, well-traveled, and had beaten cancer twice and had even given a kidney to his brother.  Then last Easter weekend he was killed in a plane crash that took his life as well as his wife and youngest son, and another family of three from RI. 

That was wake up-call #1… that life is truly fragile and something like that can take away even the best lived life.  There were 2500 people at his funeral, and the Monday after the plane crash was the worst day I’ve ever had at work, and hopefully will ever have.

Wake-up call #2 came a month later when I got laid off along with over half the company.  The dream was essentially over. Unlike some others within the company, I wasn’t panicking since I had some warnings and have a solid network of people to rely on, both professionally and personally.  However, it is still a nerve-wracking experience: what will I do, where will I go, how will I pay my bills, etc.  Well, I picked some freelance work, did some interviews, and enjoyed May, June, and July on a basically extended vacation.  People told me when I got laid off that it will be the best thing that would ever happen to me and of course I thought they were nuts.  They were right, I was wrong – it was.  I didn’t lose my house or my car… in fact, I’m in better financial shape than I was a year ago. I rebounded quickly, got a chance to do things during those three months I would normally not have a chance to do (I went to the movies in the middle of the day for the first time ever!), and realized that my life does NOT equal my work.

Since then I’ve been doing more stuff like these classes at the Learning Connection (which were great, BTW), reading more, being more impulsive, and not working too late.  Enough to be noticed and get the job done, but at the end of the day, I just want to make progress, that’s all.  I won’t do everything that needs to get done, and it usually doesn’t matter whether I do it that day or the next morning. 

I heard a speaker say something a few months ago that really struck me: that the famous "work-life balance" is complete myth.  It doesn’t exist and never will.  It will ALWAYS be out of balance, since most people have to spend at least 8 hours working.  You also have commuting time and time for eating and sleeping.  The only way to achieve "balance" time-wise is to either stop sleeping, eating or working, and that’s probably not gong to happen.  So the best you can hope to do is to do more of what you want to do, and the only person who can do that is yourself.  Maybe I could have stayed later tonight at work instead of going to two classes tonight, but I’m confident that the two classes gained me far more than staying late at work.

When it comes down to it, I want to control my life and my work, not let my work control my life.  I let it slip away for a little too long under the guise of "paying my dues" and "working hard."  I got a nice resume item out of it and some good experience, so its not for naught, but I can’t honestly say I would do it again just as I did.