Once upon a time I started a blog called Pursuing Passion (Spoiler alert: you are reading it). I was 21 and had turned down a legal internship to spend my last summer of college in south eastern Africa. After graduating, instead of pursuing law school, I moved there. Later, I moved back to the states to work for a different non-profit, this time based in east Africa. After that, my life became a ping pong game of looking for a job that paid enough, a job my skillset was actively being used, and – most of all – a job I felt passionate about.
I could find a job that hit two of those requirements – but never one that landed perfectly in the middle of that Venn diagram.
There were seasons I was making next to nothing, but I enjoyed work. There were seasons I was making too much money and was miserable on my daily drive to and from the office (and, at the office). In every season, I would start off being okay with the two desires being met, but as time went on I’d grow uneasy. I need more money! I guess I don’t need to love my job. and I would switch. Money is not worth this! Can’t put a price tag on liking work. and I would switch again.
I spent so long looking for this magical solution that was going to balance it all. My need to pay rent, my desire to actually like what I spent 40 hours a week (plus a commute) doing – and who I was doing it with, my hope of making a difference. Looking for balance, but ending up falling over time and time again.
A few weeks ago, I decided to give Peloton a try. The app has a 30 day free trial, there’s tons of different workouts, the gym in my building has spin bikes – why not? And then I found myself taking my already very full life and trying to shove intense workout classes into it. Don’t get me wrong, I now understand the great feeling of sweating your face off on a stationary bike and the endorphins afterward that create the cult following. But do I have an extra 45 minutes a day for this? No. Full stop.
But did I try to convince myself I did? Of course.
I just have to balance it in, I told myself. A workout schedule with a full time job, an ever increasing commute, a side construction project, and making sure I have clean underwear for the week (Why is this sometimes the hardest part??). Sure. I have to balance taking care of myself – except that taking care of myself means I stop taking care of other things. Where’s the balance in picking up 1 thing but putting down 5?
I’m a person who craves routine, so I’ve also been trying to balance in a some new healthy rhythms. Waking up earlier, for some quiet journaling. Eating healthier, prepping food for the week. Going to bed at the same time every night. Minimizing clutter, for peace of mind. It’s all a balance, right? Extra work of cleaning up before bed, for the payoff of waking up to a fresh kitchen. Give this, take that.
Except it doesn’t feel like a balance. It feels like extra work.
I’m starting to believe we’ve been fed a lie that there’s a mysterious balance we’re all missing. A job that looks impressive and you feel great about doing. A paycheck that takes care of all your needs and wants, but also a job you love so much you aren’t in it for the paycheck. Eating food you love that’s easy to prepare, fits in your budget, and makes you lose weight! A workout routine that’s easy, fun, and fits seamlessly into your life. It’s not a magic trick – it’s b a l a n c e.
I view life as the scales we balanced colored blocks on in first grade. One red block might need three blue ones to balance out the weight – but you need the same weight on each side. It needs to be balanced, otherwise it falls over. So I am careful to only add in things that balance out. I am careful to do one un-fun thing for every fun thing. I try to read a fiction book for every non fiction. Every night I eat ice cream for dinner means a salad for lunch. Right?
But when you keep adding, adding, adding – even the same weight! even on both sides! – the issue isn’t balance. The issue is the ropes are going to snap. My focus on balance made me miss the bigger point: I am a person and not a scale.
I’m working on ignoring the balance of life, and instead focusing on the choices. I choose a job, and realize there will be certain perks over others. I choose to read a book or do a workout, and both have their benefits. I choose to take a break or take on another task. They won’t balance each other out – this is life. It is messy and unpredictable and not an algebra equation to be solved. It is choices to be made, and there is freedom in the choosing.