I wrote about learning to disconnect and then I revealed the beginning feelings of starting a life of freelance work rather than full-time, in-the-office, work-for-someone else work. And they share some common themes. It’s a new way of life and, although it’s not always easy, it’s rewarding in ways I didn’t expect.
I’ve caught myself talking about this subject a lot lately with friends. It makes me feel a bit inauthentic because I’m not the gal that shares her deep feelings, whimsical thoughts, or personal dreams. But that’s precisely part of the change I’m experiencing, even if it makes me cringe a little.
Thank God I still have leather jackets, black nail polish, combat boots, and dark lipstick to keep my edge.
You see, the last six years were spent working many, many hours a day. Whether in the office, or filling that extra time with side work, volunteer work, or anything to keep me busy. And if I’m totally honest, that goes back way farther than six years. I started assistant teaching dance at 11 and began being in the studio most (if not all) nights of the week. I taught my own classes at 15 (and a half). I got a part-time job. I was on dance team. I was German club secretary, on band council, on student council, a member of NHS, science club, chess club, and the list goes on. Through college, I carried two to three jobs at all times.
I complain about the last six years of my adult life because those 80-hour weeks I worked far too often made a dent in my personal life. I didn’t see it at the time because that’s the lifestyle I was used to. I didn’t see my constant prioritization of work over relationships slowly tearing them down. Not maliciously, but more of a silent dissolver.
The massive amount of work didn’t necessarily cause conflict. But it clouded my view of what was happening around me. I wasn’t fully assessing situations or feeding them properly. I missed cues about when things had gone on for too long without actual fulfillment. I didn’t give myself or the people around me what they needed.
So, last year when I started opening my eyes to all of this I was disturbed. Yeah, certain jobs may have fed into it, but no one was to blame but me. I was letting work stress and people define me. I had pneumonia so bad and didn’t put my foot down. I worked through it—causing some minor lung damage (at 32). Yoga no longer made it into my schedule, and when I finally did want to, I couldn’t because of those lung issues. I got out of a relationship that I had worn rose-colored glasses for almost the entire time. I looked back on another relationship and felt sad that I let it take so long to fizzle out.
I’ve never really felt fulfilled in my personal life. Maybe ever? I’m sure I had moments, but I never sunk into them.
Now? Now, I see clearly. I’ve prioritized my personal life (and trust me, I have so much more work to do). I can feed each piece—relationships, myself, growing, experiencing, setting boundaries—properly. And I feel it. I’m reaping the rewards.
Sure, the career portion of life is a bit off (for the first time). I’m working on it, but I’m glad I had this time to really take a step back and realize that my career can no longer define me or obstruct my happiness. And yes mom, I will always be a hard worker. I’m just striving for more balance in the future.
I’m happy. Like, actually happy.