Sunday, August 14, 2011

Is this what "balance" feels like?

I spent the last nine months splitting my time between the general counsel's office of a Washington newspaper and my regular law firm.  Each week I'd spend three days working at the newspaper and the other four days working at the firm.  There was a lot that was great about this arrangement:  I got a glimpse of life as an in-house lawyer (while keeping my law firm salary).  I got to work with a group of fantastic people at the newspaper, all of whom were excellent lawyers and the sort of people I would like to have as friends.  I gained insight into the newspaper business during an important transition time for the industry.  I was given a level of independence and responsibility that I never would have had at my (low) level of seniority at the law firm.  And, in addition to all of that, I was able to keep working on other interesting and challenging projects with partners I liked at the firm. 

The downside, of course, was that neither job really fit into the every-other-day model.  My work at the newspaper was capped at about 100 hours per month, which meant that there was an upper limit on what I could do there.  But the quantity of work to be done during those 100 hours was enormous, so that it often felt like the workplace equivalent of drinking out of a fire hydrant.  As for the law firm work, the firm clearly thought it had first dibs on all hours not spent at the newspaper (and, frankly, it wanted as many of those as it could get, too).  So essentially I was juggling two full-time jobs and doing everything I could to succeed at both while keeping the juggling act as invisible to my various bosses as possible.

All of that changed last week, however, when the secondment ended and I returned to the law firm full time.  I continue to work on projects for the newspaper, but I do that from my desk at the firm, and I have the flexibility to slot them into a work list of my other matters.  At first it felt strange going to the same office day after day, and I missed my friends at the newspaper.  But gradually life at the firm started to feel more normal, and I got back into the rhythm of a new routine.

And boy, the rhythm of this past week was great!  With the lessening of the newspaper load, and a surprise lull in other firm projects, the past week went something like this:  During the week I worked a roughly 40-hour work week, coming home from work early enough to get some dinner, go running, and then watch some TV before bed.  On Saturday I got up early and helped some friends move into a new apartment, got a haircut, went to choir rehearsal (Rossini's Stabat Mater, for choir 1), practiced music on my own (Forestier's Missa l'homme arme, for choir 2), organized photos, took a nap, went running, and went to a party with a bunch of friends.  Today I did all my hometeaching for the month, got groceries, attended church, took another nap, and went to stake choir practice (a bunch of Mack Wilberg stuff, for choir 3). 

It's no surprise that I feel happier and more grounded at the end of this week than I have felt in a very long time:  I haven't had a week that was this well-balanced between the professional, physical, social, musical, spiritual and personal elements of my life since, well, since I can't remember when.  Last night as I was driving home from the party (at 2am...), I was trying to figure out why I felt so good, and I realized that it was because, for a few days, I'd managed to live a balanced and well-rounded life.  It's like I was a whole different person.

The moral of this story is that I need to strike this sort of balance more often.  I probably won't -- at least, not consistently or for prolonged periods of time.  I do still work at the law firm.  Plus, as you no doubt noticed by the number of choirs I'm currently singing in, I have a knack for over-programming any free time that the firm doesn't get to first.  But this was a refreshing interlude and a good reminder that balance is good and should be a higher priority than I usually make it.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

I'm just glad you have these comments down in writing! I suggest you re-read this on a somewhat frequent basis so that on the days you're feeling overwhelmed that you have 3 choir practices, yoga, the next marathon, underwater basket weaving class, and the grand opening of the new French Cuisine cafe all planned at exactly the same time... (nope, doesn't sound like you at all. nooooooo) you'll recall you like having a life in which not every minute is planned. Dare I say.... spontaneity... ?! :)