Work/Life Balance What?

2012 has brought with it, in addition to a gross lack of winter, an abrupt change and new challenge for me–one I have never had to worry about. When I began a new job in late January (one of the Top 5 Most Stressful Life Events), I was ill prepared for the toll on my body and psyche that an additional five hours of work per week would have.

Zoe: Career Gal

Essentially, I went from singing, “9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’,” to crying, “8 to 5…..how am I ever going to do this?”

Most people would shrug at getting to work at 8am, but as I have previously–and emphatically–stated, I am not a “be someplace at 8am” type of person.

I went from an extremely sedate workplace, where I was fighting to stay awake during the day, to being on the go for nine hours straight. So let’s add this up: I’m actually awake and getting ready for work before dawn, I’m in an extremely busy work environment for 45+ hours a week, I’m fighting all of my night owl urges and/or passing out by 10:30pm from sheer exhaustion, and I’ve gone from being an internet diva to, “I really hope I have time to update my Facebook status once a day and blog twice a month.”

(You knew it was coming:)

Me trying to balance it all.

Up until this point, I never had to struggle with the age-old juggle of work and life balance, primarily because I became accustomed to multi-tasking and taking some time out of each day to browse the internet at work for personal use. (I know–first world problems, right?) Internetting/personal computer time is now reserved for nights and weekends, or scrolling through my phone at lunch time while I try to decompress and replenish nutrients in my body. Most of the time, I haven’t had the inclination to come home and turn on the computer. My brain and body just don’t have it in me.

On the one hand, I come home feeling fulfilled and that I have made a contribution–relatively novel concepts for me in my work history. On the other, that means I’m feeling what people with careers feel on a day-to-day basis: tired!

In my new life, I have a handful of hours to myself when I get home, and I have been hoarding them for time with my dude, time with my dog, and staying on top of the few shows I like to keep up on. (Now that Downton Abbey won’t be back for another 9-12 months, Mad Men will have to fill the hole come March.)

Then, for Valentine’s Day, I gave my other half a Kindle, which has been an immense help to him with his enormous reading list for school each week. It took only an hour or two to realize I would have to have one of these for myself, so I decided to go for it and get one, also.

Talk about life changing.

I own lots of books but have rarely, if ever, pulled out the enormous hardbacks of compilations to read, like my Jane Austen collection. As Pride & Prejudice is one of the free classics Amazon offers, I downloaded it and plowed through it this past week, a feat I never thought I’d accomplish, since my brain at younger ages couldn’t comprehend the archaic language, and bookshelf space has been scant for a few years now, rendering large tomes to storage boxes in the attic.

So now what free time I have is divvied up much more conservatively; I’ve actually been getting back to one of my favorite pastimes and reading things not just on the internet, thanks to the weightlessness of e-books. I’m even poring over the daily paper, a habit I never generated in any of the other cities in which I’ve resided. I’ve had to admit to myself that I’m really starting to put down some roots.

My beloved blog is no longer checked nearly as frequently and writing posts is all the more difficult (but still just as special and important to me). Here’s another kicker: I don’t even have children, so I can only speculate how full-time moms and dads who have schedules like or busier than mine manage it all. I’m assuming that’s why sleep becomes a thing of the past.

All this is to say I’m going through a life adjustment and I hope the readers who keep coming back will continue to do so when I am able to publish new musings. If any of you out there have advice on work/life balance, throw it at me! Or even just relay a funny comment or story. I have missed being on here these last few weeks.

I’ll end this with a few things I’m looking forward to, since I won’t be able to devote a blog post to them:

1. The Oscars (I have seen maybe ONE film, by accident, that is nominated.)

2. My official Thin Mints arriving so I can freeze and then devour them.

3. Spring arriving and staying, since Winter has really half-assed it this year.

4. Traveling and seeing old friends–I have one confirmed trip so far, and I hope to have another booked soon.

5. Re-populating playlists to CDs, since some asshat stole my CD case from my car with many years’ worth of burned discs in it. You better be enjoying them, whoever you are.

My 8 is your 6.

I can’t fight it any longer. I thought I could conform. But I’m relenting and just letting it be the way it is.

I, Zoe, am here to announce that not only am I a night owl, but I am not an early morning person. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy being awake in the morning. It’s not like if I wake up at 11am, I’m pissed off. But I’ve come to the conclusion that pretty much anything before 8am is awful and unnecessary. For me. You could be bright and chipper at 5am and if that works for you, that is fantastic. I don’t understand it but I will still applaud anyone who is able to follow their own body’s natural rhythms.

I like to stay up late – I always have. In high school, when classes started at dawn (8am sharp), I still went to bed at midnight to get up at 6 or 6:30. I remember standing in the shower, freezing cold as I had been wrenched from my warm bed and trying to get the water super hot, while at the same time also doing everything in my power to not give in and sit down on the shower floor and doze. (I gave in to this temptation on occasion, not gonna lie.)

I’m pretty sure I am a third generation night owl. Both of my parents have never been early-to-bed people. My dad is much less a night owl now than my mom, but my mom and her sisters are definitely late night people, where going to bed early is 1am.

For whatever reason, I “come alive” after 10pm. If I start doing something that absorbs my attention and energy (like editing photos, for example), I can do this for hours and not look up at the clock until it’s well after 12:30. The opposite happens for me if I’m up before 7:30 or 8am – I am completely dead and lethargic and I have to use every fiber of my being to stay awake and not be angry that I’m awake.

My problem is, is that even though my better judgment tells me to pack up and go to sleep, my inner night owl is shrieking at me. It’s throwing a temper tantrum at the thought of going to bed before 12am. And honestly, going to bed at midnight and getting up at 8 is totally reasonable for me. That feels natural. But for modern day society where a decent work hour begins at 8 or 8:30am, this becomes an issue. I have lost count how many times I’ve tried setting the alarm for 6:45 or even 7:15, vowing that tomorrow is going to be THE DAY I start my new waking-up-early routine. It never lasts.

Waking up early is like going on the South Beach Diet. You can stay strict for about a week or two before you totally lose your mind and binge on carbs. (You know what I mean.) I just can’t keep at it.

Those who have no problem waking up at 6am or earlier? That’s great – really. (Baffling! But great.) Essentially, your 6 is my 8. Eight o’clock is still a totally reasonable time to be up and get productive before it’s lunchtime. However, we’re strapped in by society’s demands that we all show up at an unreasonably early hour to get our day started. If I had my own business, I’d have the official work day start at 9:30 or 10. 9:30 is pushing it, though. My first job out of college, the work day started at 10am. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. People actually thought you were strange if you showed up before 10. I’m serious.

The only way this “natural body rhythm plan” of mine can work is if my dearest other half doesn’t mind if I start doing a bed-at-midnight-rise-at-8am schedule. I haven’t exactly consulted him about it yet. But I suppose he’ll read this post and then we’ll have a little chat. (Did I mention he likes to go to bed and get up early? He could sleep from 7pm-7am, though. He’s a sleeper.)

For the time being, I can bask in the knowledge that getting up at 8 still affords me to get to work by 9 since I don’t live in a city with tons of congestion during rush hour. I refuse to feel guilty or shunned about this any longer. I am freeing myself of the bonds of waking-up-earlydom. Eight is early enough, dammit.

So yeah, that’s pretty much it. Let freedom ring. Thank you and enjoy your weekend.

P.S. What’s up with early bird vs. night owl? Why has the bird become THE animal symbol on this topic?

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