Have you ever looked at your career and thought, is this it? As someone who struggled to imagine what my life and career would look like after college graduation, I am surprised I am still getting up each day to work. The young me was overwhelmed by the idea of working until I was 65+. Thinking of what I would do with my career for over 44 years felt daunting. Honestly, sometimes it’s still a lot to think about.
I remember when I interviewed for an internship, and a woman asked me where I saw myself in 5 years; I told her it was difficult to answer that question because the plans I’d made for myself had already changed drastically. But the changes had been good for me. With my life and my career, I’ve learned to plan—but to hold my plans loosely.
In holding my plans loosely, I put a lot of effort into searching for work I enjoyed. Through trial and error, I discovered what I loved and what I didn’t. I didn’t enjoy being a case manager, but I loved kids. I didn’t enjoy being a program coordinator for an initiative I wasn’t passionate about, but I knew I would love doing program coordination for a program I was passionate about. Eventually, I saw how one “yes” led to the next, and over time a series of “yes’s”—and even “no’s”—led me to do work I believe makes a difference in communities.
I worked hard to build my career, prove myself, and ensure people knew I was an asset to any team I was on. And yet, over the years, I realized even good work can be exhausting. In doing good work, I worked longer hours than I should have and had no personal boundaries. My life was my work, and my work was my life. If work was going well, I felt like things in my life were great; if work was challenging, that impacted my personal life. There was no separation. The more successful I was in my career, the more my identity was attached to my work, especially in my single years.
My passion for community development left little room for other activities I personally enjoyed. My career had become a rat race I would never escape. How could I do work I loved and still enjoy my life too? What if one day I stopped finding fulfillment in my job? What if I didn’t work the non-profit sector until I retired? Or… what if I separated my identity from my work and found a way to have a healthier work-life balance? I asked myself all those questions before I decided to begin the journey of disconnecting my career success from my personal happiness.
It wasn’t until things imploded at one of my jobs that I realized my priorities had been misaligned. I was overworked during the pandemic, and I chose to resign from my job because I neglected my personal life and failed to address my needs, causing me to burn out even faster. From that experience, I made a promise to myself to change my relationship with my work.
I now know these things: I am not my job. I can show up and do what needs to be done, and I can close my laptop and enjoy my evening. I can say no to projects I do not have the margin to lead. I take my PTO; I don’t save it “for a rainy day.” I don’t owe anyone personal details about my life, so I only share what I feel comfortable sharing. I am not trapped in my career; I have agency, I can choose to stay, or I can go. My life is not defined by what I do for work.
I love myself and who I am becoming; my job doesn’t make me love myself any more or less. I am who I am, and the beauty that resides within me blooms regardless of what job I have. So, Sis, are you ready to let go of being defined by your career? If you are like me and want to exit the rat race and take each day as it comes, join me. We don’t have to have 5 or 10-year plans for our lives and careers. We can take each day as it comes. We can bask in the sun and lean our heads back.
Have you found yourself struggling to have work-life balance? What are you doing to show up for yourself and enjoy your personal life?Leave a Comment