When I’m trying to make career and life plans, my first stop tends to be Wikipedia. I go and read through the biographies of women and men who I admire, and I try to figure out what they were doing at my age and why. Having done that, I’m feeling torn between two visions: one of constantly driving for more connections, more nameable achievements, and more commitments, and the other enthralled by the idea that I can use my time for whatever I want to and it will probably turn out just fine.
I’ve had a few days away from work to be at the always-amazing, instantly-inspiring Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and I’m trying to put thoughts to paper (you know what I mean) about how I want to structure my work-time and not-work-time.
In college, I came in with a batch of presets. I needed to spend time singing, doing Karate, talking to Matthew, studying, talking to family, writing. I have most of those presets still, though Karate has become teaching self-defense classes + exercising and studying has become practicing my Arabic on unsuspecting and defenseless tourists/using my iFlash app (shameless plug for the best App on my phone after Google Maps) to keep my vocabulary from stagnating.
But here’s the issue: Polaris has great work-life balance values, which means I am practically thrown out of the building at 6:30pm (usually more like 5:30pm). And I need to decide what I am going to do with the 6 hours between when I am done with work and go to sleep, and what I will do for the 56 hours between when I leave work Friday night and go back to work Monday morning.
I’m already singing–I was honored to get let into the Alexandria Choral Society last month. I have a gym, though I haven’t been in a few weeks because: life. I talk to Matthew, more now his project is less encompassing. I write every day for work and am getting back into writing here. I talk to family. I study Arabic.
But all of that, even with long phone calls with Matthew and a solid 3 hour comute for 2.5 hours of choir on Tuesday nights (totally worth it), I end up with 4 – 5 hours every night and 48 hours on the weekend to allocate to the life part of work-life balance. Here’s what I’d like to spend it on:
- Fandom. Watching shows, discussing them with internet friends and other friends. This is a big time sink but, short of talking with friends and family, probably the thing from which I get the most unadulterated joy.
- Feminism. I don’t know if I want to jump back into spending 6:30am – 10:30am every-other-Saturday getting screamed at by protesters outside my local Planned Parenthood, but whether it’s writing, teaching self-defense classes, volunteering for the Obama campaign or learning feminist theory from my friends, I want to keep growing as a feminist activist.
- Writing. Whether doing text analysis as part of the first 2 time allocations or writing on totally separate topics for the blog, I want to keep improving my voice as a writer and a thinker. Maybe starting a guest blog on HuffPo or Daily Kos is a way to do this, but I’m still thinking about that.
Here’s what I feel like I should be doing:
- Networking in DC. I’m living in DC because I love it here, but I haven’t hooked into that many of the social groups here. I think going to the gym more and keeping on making friends with people in choir will help, but I feel like I should be attending more talks and events. I don’t really want to because crowds of loud strangers don’t provide me with the best learning environment.
- Networking in my movement. There are so many passionate anti-trafficking people in DC, I feel like I should get to know more of them.
- Nesting. Aren’t I supposed to be married? And nesting? I guess I have a house and a cat, a grocery store and a gym, but I feel like there’s some trappings of adulthood that I’ve failed to acquire. Possibly a rug.
The big difference between the things I want to do and the things I feel like I should do is the things I want to do are a lot of fun in the short-term but don’t clearly do much to build me up in a career-way and the things I should do are more career focused (nesting excluded) but don’t sound like much fun.
I keep struggling with the feeling that I’m not doing enough but that I don’t want to do more. I think I’m doing well at work (and, importantly, my boss agrees) and I’d like to spend my not-work time digging into projects which don’t have a clear goal. Projects like:
- Writing a novel for NaNoWriMo,
- Renting weaving equipment and getting back into making my own scarves, blankets, and bags,
- Learning basic electronics design with my fashion-technology books,
I guess I feel so driven (by myself) at work that going home to un-deadlined projects feels like I’m underachieving. For now I think I’m going to go with the first list. I’ll keep singing, and exercising, and studying Arabic, and writing, and trying to save the world and fangirling. I’m committed to NaNoWriMo if for no other reason than my sister-in-law may tease me to death if I do not. And I think, if I actually follow my organizational culture and start leaving work at 5:30pm, I will finally have enough time to start playing with a loom.
In deciding how I will pace my not-work-time, I find I am more guided by a faith that doing what I love will help me do what I love better in the future than the enticing wisdom of any pre-laid track.
“Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live.”–Nicolas de Chamfort