“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’.”
― Maya Angelou
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I remember being asked that question in pre-school.
In our society, it seems people are defined by job titles — what they do rather than who they are.
On average, an adult, full-time professional spends eight hours a day and 40 hours a week at work. That’s roughly 2,000 hours per year. In the many hours, days, weeks, and months dedicated to sending emails and meeting pressing deadlines, assuming career to mean your identity can become second nature.
I’m guilty of it, too. In my eight months as a working professional, I’ve been learning that it’s important not to confuse who I am as a human being for the career badge worn in a 9-5 role. My business and my work will always be what I do, but they are not who I am.
I am a daughter, a girlfriend, a sister, and a woman full of talents, dreams, and goals. My job might fill a few empty puzzle pieces that make me into a whole picture, but the pieces are only a small fraction of what makes me uniquely Laurie.
Let’s forget about 9-5 p.m. for a minute. We spend lots of energy making sure that we are efficient and productive during the workday, but what about afterward?
Most days, I stroll out of the office feeling totally wiped. Sometimes, depressing thoughts take over and I find myself stuck in a loop of wake up, go to work, sleep. And again and again. The quarter-life crisis sneaks itself in: Is this actually what I want to do? Could we do this for another 50 years? What truly makes me happy? Is life just a mind-numbing routine?
My solution was to change my perspective. Instead of trudging through my front door and plopping in front of the television for hours, I had to remind myself that my evening hours are a decent chunk of time.
Let’s say you get home from work at 5 p.m. and go to bed at 10. That leaves five whole hours to focus on hobbies and activities. Keep in mind that those weekday hours make up 25 hours of your week!
You don’t even have to spend the extra time doing something particularly productive – just something different. Work in 30 minutes of exercise, an hour to read a good book, 20 minutes for a relaxing walk through the park, or 45 minutes to sit down with loved ones and catch up over a real dinner.
Resist the temptation to head home and hide out alone in your living room. Instead, get out there, socialize, and have some fun! Grab an appetizer and a drink with a friend. Catch that movie you’ve been meaning to see. Go soak up some sunshine at the local park. Head to that yoga class you’ve been wanting to try. Turn off your cell phone.
Designate a space and time that you can use to rediscover your hobby. Set up a room where you can paint or practice music. Begin training for that marathon. Head out and snap some photos.
And my favorite trick: schedule plans, fun outings, and activities for the future so you have something to look forward to. Whether that be a concert, weekend camping trip, or a manicure, set a date for something exciting.
Whatever you want to do is totally up to you. The key is to truly enjoy your time out of the office. That way, your job becomes an obligation that just takes up a simple chunk of time during your day and not like it’s a time-sucking inconvenience that prevents you from ever doing anything you want.
Even if you love your job, I’m sure that you still have at least one or two interests outside of the confines of your office. If your goal is to have a life outside of work, then it’s important to dedicate some time to yourself. There’s no denying that work takes up a big chunk of your life, but it doesn’t need to be all-consuming.