My Own Balancing Act

It was just the other day that I sat down with my boyfriend to talk about money. It’s not a cute topic or even an exciting one. But, I think it is a topic that needs to be addressed in all relationships. After all, money problems are the leading cause of divorce. Now my boyfriend doesn’t quite enjoy talking about finances because he tries to live life day by day, but we both know that we can’t move forward without communicating our fears and expectations to one another. So, I started by stating what my priorities are, well what they are for the time being. After a minute I started the real conversation by saying, “I don’t care about materialistic things. I want us to try to be happy with less.” He paused for a second to ask what that looked like to me. I responded with, “I’d probably want to work thirty hours a week and you should too if that’s what you want. I’m well aware that we may not find that right away, but I think it is possible if we keep looking.” I know I sound naive, even pretentious. I know my parents have supported me for the majority of my life. But I also know that items do not make me happy. Happiness to me is having enough time to take a walk with my partner or share a good meal during the work week. Of course, we do want to splurge sometimes on experiences. Fortunately, he is like minded. We just went to Canada for two nights to see a Swedish band. We didn’t spend too much, but we also save money due to being consciously aware of our purchases. We both are okay with our Tracfones, used cars, and $13 each month netflix account.

As of right now, I’m not working. I’m taking five classes this semester, and I’m really just trying to graduate. Although, I will be starting work as a substitute preschool teacher before the semester ends. If it is a good fit, I’ll work more hours in the summer. As much as I hate the forty hour work week, I hate not working just as much. I want to be able to contribute to expenses. My boyfriend pays for every date without question and I appreciate it but would like to be able to pay sometimes too and contribute to society. But, I realized that the way I was thinking wasn’t completely accurate. I have “contributed” to society since I was 16 years when I got my first job. Over the years I’ve had several jobs, some seemingly more important than others, but regardless, I was still offering a service to the community. Yet, as soon as I went back to school and stopped working, I felt like all of the years I had spent working had been stripped from my identity. I was then labeled as “unemployed.” In all honesty, I had never really used that term before. I usually always had a job before I left one. But, here I was being 24 and unemployed. I had to remind myself that I am unemployed because I am going to school full-time.

I came to understand that the way we view work is an issue. Society has falsely led us to believe that if we are not working then we have no value. That very ideology of having to be the best is the very train of thought that has to be derailed. It is okay to require more rest than someone else. Similarly, It is also okay if you want to work more than your peers. But, our value should not be tied to what we accomplish professionally. Our careers are a part of us, but there is so much more to somebody than what they do for a living. The first question anyone ever asks you is for your name. The second is what you do for a living, as if that is the only question that is worth asking.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t go after their dream jobs, I’m saying that it is okay to look at a career as just another part of you and I know I’m not the only one in my generation that has questioned the way society runs. I would rather make less money and have to sacrifice elsewhere in my life than go to a job eight hours a day that makes me miserable. The extra money is simply not worth it if we are only content with our lives on the two days (if that) that we are off. Ryan Jenkins, author of This is Why Millenials Care so Much About Work-Life Balance says:

Millennials don’t view climbing the corporate ladder or owning tangible items (job title, house, salary, car, and the like) as success. According to the 2016 Millennial Survey by Deloitte, 16.8 percent of Millennials evaluate career opportunities by good work-life balance, followed by 13.4 percent who look for opportunities to progress and 11 percent who seek flexibility (i.e., remote working and flexible hours). For many Millennials, success is having control over how and when they work and accumulating various life experiences, both of which are enabled by a better work-life balance.

As an English major, my career path is not written in stone. I have the freedom to find a job that is suitable to my personality. I’m not sure about what I want to do. The only thing I’m sure of is that I don’t want my job to become my identity. I don’t want a job that requires me to be on standby duty or have to take work home with me on a weekly basis, which is a personal choice. Some people take work home every night and still love their jobs.

There are a lot of things I’m interested in, but I want to stay open-minded. I have an associates in Education and years of experience working with children as a preschool teacher. After taking some psychology classes, I decided I wanted to try working with autistic children as an applied behavioral paraprofessional. I realized that although I enjoyed the theoretical concept of psychology, I didn’t enjoy behavioral intervention.  In addition to working with children, I have written an article for a local magazine and managed social media for a nonprofit organization. In today’s world, you can teach yourself just about anything. Technology is at our fingertips and as a result the work life balance is more likely to be transformed as well. Jenkins explains:

Millennials are the first generation to enter the workforce with access to technology that enables them to seamlessly work remotely, which 75 percent of Millennials want more opportunities to do. Millennials are eager to capitalize on the new technological capabilities (that they are already familiar with) to create more flexibility and thus a better work-life balance.”

Depending on the field that someone is in, they may be able to work 100% from home. I don’t know that I want to work from home, but it’s nice to know that I might have the opportunity to eventually.

I don’t think anyone can fully control their work life balance. Sometimes work will need more of your attention. At times, we are required to work more in order to pay for additional expenses. We may work more or less if we have children. The fact of the matter is that nobody has a crystal ball that can tell us what our future looks like and if we will be happy in it.

It’s even harder for millennials. “According to a 2015 EY study, Millennials find it harder to achieve work-life balance because they are almost twice as likely to have a spouse or partner who works at least full time than Boomers (78 percent versus 47 percent).” (Ryan Jenkins) That means two different, probably rotating and overloaded schedules to plan around instead of just one, or even two lighter schedules.

Nonetheless, I thoroughly believe that you need strive for happiness and try to find at least somewhat of a balance in all areas of life. If not, we will end of missing out on moments that we can’t get back.

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