As I return to blogging with renewed gusto and a shiny new design (though with a few adjustments pending), I wanted to nut out a few things I’ve been mulling over lately regarding balance.
This year, (beyond recently recovering from [thankfully not catastrophic] computer meltdown, getting a cold, travelling around a lot – life happening, basically) I’ve had times where I had no job whatsoever, times where I was working volunteer roles I could throw myself into with varying levels of vigour, and periods where I was either working casually or swamped by working two jobs at once.
But now, I’m settled into one good, fairly steady, part-time job at the National Library of Australia. Which is awesome. It’s my first real, kinda grown-up job. Like, I get my own desk and everything. But thankfully I’m doing a lot of stuff that isn’t just deskwork too. Anyway, both my finances and my schedule have become a whole lot more regular, so that’s good!
So now, I’ve got four days a week where, from roughly 9 to 5, I (mostly) work at this job. But for the times when I am not at work, it’s almost as if the idea of “this time is mine” has been brought into starker relief.
As I’m sure many people know, after a day of work, it’s easy to just get home, blob on the couch, eat dinner in front of the TV, fart about on the internet, collapse into bed, repeat. I used to be a bit scathing of this kind of behavior, but I totally get the impulse. The full 9-5 can drain you, and I’m only just breaking out of that lazy blob pattern.
So this brings me to what I’m pondering on. It begins with that old chestnut of ‘work/life balance’. I recently read an article by Damon Young that talked about this, and he clarified the point that really, you’ve got be mindful of this balance, and you’ve got to realise it’s kind of a question of value. It’s like “This is my time, so what do I want to do with it?” It’s not like being at Uni, where you could always be studying, preparing more for a test or whatever. It’s not a casual job where you could be called up any day. And it’s not like unemployment, where you need to spend ages seeking and applying and preparing for jobs. Now, I’ve got my practicalities of money situation pretty sorted. I like my job. I’m not overworked. I don’t really take work home with me. So like I said, this time is mine. It’s a kind of freedom, a serious privilege, and it’s a weird, new feeling. After a year or two of post-study job-seeking flux, it feels like that part of my life is sorted and balanced for now.
Then there’s the rest of my life (the parts that aren’t work) to balance. For example, I need a good night’s sleep (I really do). I need quality time with my girlfriend and time for all the domestic practicalities. I want to write and I want to read. Those parts are easy. I know I value them (or value being on top of them, when it comes to the domesticals) but the more I think, the more I realise there’s so much more that I’m trying to balance, prioritise and find the right time for. Some seems almost essential, some desirable, some a luxury, some I’m not sure. Let’s see what else there is: music, interwebbernauting, hanging with friends, TV, movies, video games, going for a walk, travelling, volunteering, baking a pie, something else, anything else. I can’t do everything. So what do I want to make part of my daily/regular practice and what do I want to reduce or cut out entirely?
In my spare hours at work, beyond the realisation that a Word document can be well-disguised as important business (rather than a wobbly blog post), I’ve realised I’m able to browse the interwebs, in the slow times, when there’s no other work waiting for me, and nobody minds.
One series of interlinked info holes I recently burrowed down into during my work hours was Samuel Cooney‘s slighty old (in internet time), but rather good bunch of guest posts on the Southerly Journal blog, including this post, which in turn links to a David Sedaris essay in the New Yorker. Here’s a quote at the core of all this that caught me. Imagine a four-burner stove:
” One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.’ The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two. “
I’d recommend checking out the links I posted for further pontification on those matters. But there’s an interesting thought here. What do I have to sacrifice for such a solitary pursuit as writing, or any work I value and pursue? Can you just turn down the other burners a little bit, rather than turning them off completely? Can you alternate? I tend to alternate in neglecting my friends and family, sometimes both. So there is a definite hermit scribe tendency there already. Still, I want to say this analogy is flawed and that you can balance everything and have it all. But really, I’m not so sure.
Anyway, on this note, I have amazed myself lately by becoming a morning person for the sake of cultivating a writing habit. My routine’s not perfect, but I am rising early, sitting down and writing most mornings, without too much distraction, for a good hour at least, before work, or longer on weekends.
I’m still trying to read more books. That’s what has really suffered lately. I read a good amount and variety of stuff online, from tweets to longform essays. But I know I need to carve out a book reading habit amongst it all too. And that the o-so-hard (and privileged) but necessary choice is: less TV and less farting around online in the evenings. I want those things too, but I value book reading more. So the next step is making my life reflect my values.
And that could get me into even broader questions of life, ethics and deep deep meanings, but I need to get ready to go to Newcastle today, so I’m going to leave it at that. But I’m pretty sure my time with TiNA will be valuable and that I’ll have plenty to write about upon my return. Imma gonna give this blog the love it’s always deserved.
PS: Just after I finished writing this, someone else’s blog post, in a similar vein, came up in my newsfeed. Nice.