When You Leave Work, What Do You Have?

Jul 10, 2015 by

          After finishing pole on Tuesday night, I noticed more messages on my phone than usual. I found it odd until I read the first one: “I’m bored. What’s up?” Recalling what I had posted right before heading to the studio that night, I thought my heart was going to melt out of my chest. Didn’t I tell you my life is full of beautiful people?

          That message in particular was from Gloria, a gym friend that I met earlier this year, when she noticed the improper form of my tricep dips and corrected it. (My ass was too far from the seat behind me. After Gloria pointed that out, my triceps were so well worked that I was struggling to fasten my bra the next day.) Her “I’m bored. What’s up?” was followed by these words: “I think most of us feel lonely. We live in a world that is so disconnected and focused on success, technology, and what’s next. For some reason beyond my understanding, a lot of people don’t seek meaningful friendships or relationships. Very few people even say hi to a stranger walking by or even give a smile. It’s always about the next best thing.”

          Upon reading Gloria’s text, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my university roommate Christal over dinner at Francobollo in March. At the time, I was about a week away from starting work, which led Christal and I to the topic of work-life balance. Based on the interview process with my now employer, during which I posed many questions about the company’s perspective on work-life balance and clearly relayed my expectation of having it, it seemed like I was about to join a team that understood the importance of life outside of the office. Even so, I wasn’t getting my hopes up. You never know until you actually start. (Update: Thursday will be four months since I began working there, and so far the work-life balance has been great.)

          Christal brought up something she read with an overall message that she knew I’d like. The article, the name of which she couldn’t remember, encouraged people to work hardest at their relationships.

          “I love that!” I exclaimed. “Not enough people prioritize that way.”

          She went on to tell me the writer’s argument behind it, which can be summed up by one question: When you leave work, what do you have?

          You have your relationships.

          After you’re done your job for the day, it is your relationships in which you seek fulfillment. You grab dinner with a friend, you tell your roommate about your day, or you call your boyfriend or girlfriend. Yes, of course, there are things you do individually that fulfill you as well. I am first to admit and encourage that. But there is no denying the importance of other people. If it really came down to your job or your relationships, which would you choose?

          I hope you would choose your relationships, but I’m not so sure. It comes down to your job or your relationships more often than you might realize. If you frequently bring work home or stay at the office late or carry your laptop around on weekends, when you’re supposed to be living the rest of your life, you are choosing your job. As someone who used to do all of that, I guarantee you it’s not worth it. While in the midst, I didn’t see the situation as choosing my job over my relationships, because I didn’t have any relationships. It took quitting to understand the choice I had made. It took not having a job to realize that my life sucked with or without one, because I hadn’t put enough effort into establishing friendships.

          Obviously, I have a very different perspective now, a perspective that I explained to my current employer early on. You see, when I say relationships, I don’t just mean significant others and family. Most companies get that. They get it when your husband or wife has an emergency or your kids are sick. What not every employer understands, because society as a whole doesn’t understand it very well either, is that your friendships are relationships too and just as deserving of your effort. My social life gets a lot of my attention because I know how very important my friends are, as I remember what it’s like not to have any. My friends will tell you, I’m late for absolutely everything but I come through. If I’ve committed to seeing someone, I’m there. My employer knows that too. There was a conversation soon after I started work in which I politely but firmly stated to my employer that just like my friends don’t get me during work time, work doesn’t get me during friend time. Not that I’ve ever been asked to by my awesome team, but I will not put my friendships on the line because a client has a last-minute request or the system is down or something else happens that the people in my life shouldn’t have to feel the repercussions of. My company respects that. I wouldn’t be working there otherwise.

          Regardless of which relationships in your life are important to you, they need to come above what brings you money. I understand that you may need to occasionally take one for the work team, and that’s fine – once in a while and not at the cost of your commitments to other people. Keep in mind that the non-emergencies matter: the date nights, the kids’ recitals and soccer games, and the wine your friends have chilling in the fridge matter. They matter more than your job. They also matter more than your phone and your social media updates and “what’s next.”

Happiness Tip: Work hardest at your relationships.

 
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