Everywhere you turn in the working world, you find people talking about balance of work and personal life. It’s an elusive concept for most of us – it certainly has been for me. My perspectives over the years seem to fall into three phases.
- First, as a young professional building a career in human services, I knew I needed to put in the time at work. My goal was to learn as much as possible, challenge myself to take on uncomfortable tasks, and network locally, statewide and nationally. But even at that time I knew I wanted to balance my commitment to people and social justice with play time – new hobbies, music, rafting, camping and travel with family and friends, and even renovating an old house (yes, it was maddening but so much fun). Balance was a constant effort and some months worked better than others.
- Second, as a parent, I needed to juggle work with family time. Every step along the way required considerable diligence to hold up my end of my professional position and a willingness to take on new responsibilities or change jobs. At the same time I was trying to do well as a parent – being there for a sick child, sports, scouts, music lessons, day care and teacher conferences, help with homework, and time to travel or play as a family. This period was a bit more of a day by day balancing act, yet I am pleased to say my children survived and we have strong relationships today.
- Third, as an empty-nester with decades of work experience, I am faced with a new challenge. Time seems more finite now and when my mother died last fall, I realized that I am “on the clock” with my own life. Some people would opt for “retirement” but I’m honestly not ready for that. I do want to work less and pursue a crazy list of interests I’ve accumulated over decades, but I still have a lot to contribute to our community. And so, as fits my style, I researched and drafted a plan to reduce work and increase leisure time.
The Next Stop In The Journey
With over 35 years in health and human services and the nonprofit sector (27 with United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County), I have stepped away from my position as the Vice President for Planning and Community Investment and moved into a part-time position as Special Projects Manager. As needed, I’ll take on those projects that our staff dream of tackling, but workloads often can’t accommodate. This gives me a way to continue to contribute to strengthening our community and affords our organization continued connection to the decades of experience I’ve accumulated. I’m also extremely pleased to see my position filled by Lance Edwards, my coworker of ten years. I know he will bring new energy and ideas to his new position and I look forward to seeing it unfold. So it is with unending gratitude that I ease into my next phase of life.
Are you entering a new phase of life and trying to figure out what it looks like?
I like to believe my approach could be a model for other professionals in the final phase of their work. It takes some introspective work to figure out what approach best suits you and a resource I found helpful is What Color is Your Parachute for Retirement by John Nelson and Richard Bolles. It also takes some thought about what would best serve your employer. Finally, it requires the persistence to see it through because it is a somewhat novel approach.
Let me know your thoughts...and maybe I'll see you in dance class!