When I left my previous job, I thought I would be able to rebalance the scale of work and life. I would no longer have the stressful and long commute on the dysfunctional DC Metro. (I follow @unsuckdcmetro and @IsMetroOnFire on Twitter) The campus where I work now is a 20 minute drive from my house during rush hour traffic, 11 minutes if there’s no traffic. I thought I would be able to use the extra time I no longer had to sit on a crowded train, cursing the Metro, to exercise and enjoy non-work related activities. But what I found was that I ended up exercising less. I no longer had to walk to and from the metro, which had been a major source of my weekly exercise. I wasn’t finding (or making) the time to go running before or after work. My exercise was still mostly limited to playing soccer on the weekends and the occasional hike.
I know I am not the only person who struggles with work-life balance. It seems to be endemic to our society. It’s hard to unplug from work when we have smart phones. There is a certain level of expectation being place on us to be available evenings and weekends, even if our jobs don’t require it. If your boss sends an email at 10:00am on a Saturday, are you supposed to respond or can it wait until Monday morning? Do you respond right away to show your dedication or is that just setting you up for receiving more and more off hour emails, because you’ve set the precedence? I tried to establish that boundary with my previous boss. I would open and read the email to see what she wanted, but unless it was an emergency, I waited until the next business day to respond. Nothing we did was a matter of life or death. Everything we did could be undone. The only emergencies were generally ones that she created due to her internal work style. My current job is different, though. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am on call 24/7 as soon as the students step foot in the country in July until they fly back home in May. Evening and weekend hours are expected. In theory, we are supposed to be able to adjust our hours during the week to make up for when we work late or on the weekend, but in reality it’s difficult to do. There are always things to do and students to meet. Last month I worked from May 2nd to May 20th with only one full day off. Thankfully, I like my job, but I do start to suffer from burn out.
That brings me to where I am now, if you haven’t guessed it–the beach! I have been coming to the Outer Banks, NC since I was a kid. We used to vacation sometimes with another family who owned a small cottage in Southern Shores. There was no AC, no telephone, no television, and not because those things hadn’t been invented. It was meant to be a true get away from real life. My friend’s dad who say, “Go to bed when you’re tired, sleep until you want to get up, and eat when you’re hungry.”
After years of renting different places, my parents decided to buy a house. It’s a small duplex in Southern Shores. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in view.
I can no longer bake myself in the sun and have been spending less and less time sitting on the beach. My favorite spot is the covered porch on the ocean side of the house. You can see the water and hear the waves. There’s often a nice breeze.I can watch the birds and look out for porpoise. Plus, the dogs can sit outside with me and keep me company. It’s my happy place.
This morning I woke up with the sunrise and had my coffee while sitting on the upper deck off of the master bedroom. It’s amazing how peaceful and calm the water was this morning. The ocean is fickle. The currents and winds can change so quickly. One moment the water is glassy and looks like Lake Wobegon and then a few hours later it can be churning like a washing machine. The ocean demands respect and reverence. It can make you feel small and insignificant, but it can also inspire. I do a lot of thinking while I’m at the beach. I am hoping to use this week to reflect and write, to relax and reenergize. I’m trying to disengage from work, although I admit that I have looked at my email. We just receive the list of our incoming students and have been given the go ahead to start contacting them next week. It will be difficult to push that off for a week until I get home. In hindsight, I wish I had scheduled this vacation for a week earlier. Of course, I didn’t know how the timing would work out. Can they wait another week? Or should I at least send them a welcome email? My guess is that I will probably do the latter. It’s so hard to tune them out when I know they are eagerly awaiting a message from me. They will have to wait a few more days, though. For now, I am going to walk the dogs and let the ocean drown out the chatter.