Work-Life Balance: How Your Dream Job May Not Make Your Life Happy
They say do what you enjoy; do what makes you feel like you'll never work a day in your life. I'm not here to dispute that.
I think and hope that works for many people — those who can turn what they love doing the most into lucrative, sustainable careers.
But I'm here to say I don't believe that will be the case for everyone.
Take me, for example: I grew up believing in that phrase wholeheartedly. I've always loved storytelling, writing and meeting people.
The idea of sitting behind a desk made me want to squirm, and the idea of doing the same thing day-in and day-out made me want to scream.
So, I went into journalism. I became a television news reporter. It was fun and exciting, and my desk was usually a live truck.
I spent my days hanging out with a photographer; we'd joke and talk about life. I'd build these loving and trusting friendships.
There was the adrenaline rush of breaking news, the people I met, the stories I told and every day was different. I loved it, and it was fulfilling — to an extent.
I noticed it was chipping away at me. The hours were tough; I worked for the 10pm newscast, so my shift was 2pm to 11pm.
As you can imagine, that didn't allow for a social life in the evenings.
Top that off with my weekends being Tuesday and Wednesday, and I really didn't have any kind of life.
I got called in early; I stayed at work late (and wasn't paid overtime for the extra hours I put in). I was asked to work on my days off and I worked the holidays.
It'd be one thing if I were asked to do these things kindly, but it wasn't perceived as a favor by my bosses; it was an expectation.
I started coming home unhappy. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and I felt defeated. I started questioning if this was the life I wanted to lead.
The job itself was fun, but my personal life no longer was. I had become a zombie, simply going through the motions.
The breaking point for me came when my best friend's grandmother was diagnosed with leukemia.
She had just gotten engaged, and because of her grandmother's diagnosis, her and her fiancé decided to have an engagement party (in case her grandmother wouldn't make it to the wedding), and moved everything else up (the bridal shower, bachelorette party and the wedding).
At the time, I was living in Northern California, and my friend lived in Southern California. I requested a few days off to be able to attend, and explained the situation to my manager.
When she denied my request twice, I knew I needed a change.
I will say, I was eventually given the time off, but only after much legwork, and talking to various coworkers who were willing to work an extra shift in place of me.
But, I didn't feel it should be that hard to take three days off. I didn't feel like I should have to fight my manager in order to attend my best friend's engagement party.
I knew my personal life, and all major life events for that matter, would always mean more to me than any job.
I needed out, desperately. But reporting was the only thing I knew, the only thing I loved and the only thing I enjoyed doing.
I was left with many questions: What would I do instead? What other career path would I feel passionate about doing? What job will make me happy? And for months, I stayed in the industry thinking, what else will I do?
Then, it finally dawned on me: I needed to stop worrying about what job would be the perfect fit, what choice would be the right choice and what career will be everything I want it to be.
Instead, I concentrated on knowing reporting was no longer right for me, and any job or career that allowed for the life I wanted would be a positive change.
I always dreamed of becoming a professor because I'm a firm believer in higher education.
So, I started thinking about how could take the skills I developed in news and apply them to the academic world.
I started applying to media relations-type roles. They would allow me to continue writing, meeting people, telling stories and doing all the things I enjoyed most.
This type of job would also provide structure, a normal work schedule and a positive work environment.
I'm happy to say I now work as a senior public information officer at a university.
It's not perfect – no job will ever be — but I'm incredibly thankful to work with dedicated individuals and a great team.
I'm thankful for my Monday through Friday schedule, to have the holidays off, to be able to take a lunch break (and not scarf down my food while writing a story) and use the restroom when I feel like it.
The job has allowed me to concentrate on my personal growth and filling my time with things that have always meant the most to me. Things I'm passionate about on a personal level, like traveling, being able to spend quality time with friends and family and bettering myself as a human being.
So, I'm not here to say you shouldn't do what you love. I'm here to say you shouldn't feel stuck in a job or career because of your degree or major.
I'm here to say that if doing “what you love” is eating away at you, and turning you into a zombie the way it did me, it's okay to walk away.
It's okay to decide and do what works best for you. It's okay to step away from what you thought was right for you, and find something else that is right for you.
It's okay to have a career that allows you to fill your life with the things you love and appreciate the most.
At the end of the day, you don't want to feel like you've wasted your time on a career that's left you feeling empty and unsatisfied.
You only get this one life. It goes without saying you should make the most of it.
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