See, I'm an uber early bird. Always have been. Lately, my natural wake-up call as been 4.15am. Morning after morning. I've never used an alarm but for a while I did as a tool to tell me when it was ok to get out of bed. I've now decided to embrace the early starts. So a while back I extended my morning ritual to include not just journaling, but writing, in addition to movement and meditation. And, yes, with a hit of Frankincense.
Messages come to me upon waking and whatever comes up, I write. For some odd reason this morning it was about work.
For about 25 years of my life I worked full-time. Over-time mostly. Non-stop. With about 3 weeks annual leave. I did take a month between jobs to study Spanish through Central America and move to LA and San Francisco in my 20s. That was about it.
Maternity leave was my first time off that extended beyond 2 weeks and I naively envisioned 6 months of catching up on the best books and movies of all time and being outside at the playground all day every day with my newborn. Ever put a baby in a swing? Of course, not. You don't. I had lots to learn and needless to say I didn't read a single book or catch a film. Maternity leave was not a holiday, but it also wasn't the most intellectually stimulating of activities either. I couldn't wait to get back to work. I'm grateful for being there every moment for my son that first year and I'm grateful I went back to work.
I had several professional goals across the years: 1) to get promoted to Development Manager - tick; to inch my salary over $100k/year - tick; to work at an international NGO and at a think tank - tick; and the ultimate, and it took 25 years to achieve, to have work where I could control my schedule - tick.
Let's talk about the last one.
Since 2016, I've had my own business as a freelancer. I love it! And, the flexible schedule and flexible work venues are amazing. It makes it hard to imagine leaping back into a full-time office job, which is why I'm so grateful I did have it for all those years. The profound benefits from working full-time, day after day, aside from survival, of course, was like a practice. A yoga practice. One that needed that much time to develop. Building a girl and stretching her to become better and make the difficult stuff easier.
Work was my yoga. When you show up day in and day out over all those years something shifts inside of you and this is what I've gained:
- Time management
- Appreciation of free time
Work/life harmony is possible. When I was obligated to a 50-hour work schedule, I still managed to cycle and run every morning, volunteer, take courses, travel to over 60 countries and get quality fun time with my son. But maybe it was the demands and boundaries of working that made me even better at managing all that.
I always had a pact with myself that when I became a mother, even if we had financial security, I would keep on working. It empowered me to know I could support my family, go out on my own if I had to, be an example to my son, and pick up the pieces if everything fell apart. Working definitely ticked those boxes when needed!
If I'd always been a freelancer I could not have imagined having to be at a desk, between set hours, all day, for 60 weeks a year. But that is what I did and it has made all the difference. I wouldn't be who or where I am without that commitment.
We each must choose our own path and this has been mine and I'm grateful for it.