Unwinding the daily grind
When you spend two weeks above the arctic circle, cooking meals over camp stoves, sleeping in the same room as four others, and busting your ass up and down mountains every day, the return to reality is a shocker. If three days of travel back from Norway wasn’t a punch to the nuts, the return to the “daily grind” certainly was. The whole trip, I tried to soak up life without work, without conference calls and without email. I actually got to a point where I’d made such a point to get away that I feared the return to reality. But as the days went on and my irrational fear subsided, I realized that my work/life balance at home simply needed adjustments. It’s not even a revolutionary life lesson, is it? It’s common sense… common sense that I needed kicked into my brain with a steel-toed boot. A wise friend in nonprofits once told me, “Mollie. There will be days—lots of days—when you need to stay up till 3am to get stuff done—and you need to be OK with that.” While I still believe that to be true, I’ve learned that work—however small your startup or however large your workload—needs to be balanced with personal projects, fitness goals and friends and family. If you continue unbalanced for too long, something in your life will suffer. After that blew my mind, I remembered how hard I’ve worked to find a “daily grind” that fits our lifestyle.
In my short five years of post-college workforce labor, I learned I’m not cut out for the typical nine-to-five grind. In my second job at a small-but-wonderful startup, my co-workers and I convinced our boss to regularly stock a chocolate jar and to allow (me, specifically) mid-day naptime. I also found a way to work in “flex time” after I met Sean. I was able to travel from Wisconsin to Utah, California—wherever love took me… in return, my work just “had to get done, and get done well.” That was OK for a few months, until my absence made it obvious that my heart was being pulled in a different direction. I left that wonderful job and a handful of coworkers who had become my family and forged on my own. I won’t go into detail on my short stint at another desk job—all I will say is without flexibility and unwavering trust from my superiors, my creativity was stifled and I absorbed negativity and self-doubt from my bosses at an alarming rate.
Since leaving that position, my life has been a string of positive, self-starting roles all focused on what I learned I needed: Flexibility to travel, enough financial resources to travel, and support to eventually get to the place where Sean and I want to raise a family. I tutored, wrote freelance, blogged, and administered SATs, ACTs and AP exams. And then, my most substantial role spurred from what was once the tiniest role at our startup nonprofit that has evolved into my lead role with our international nonprofit that is being recognized and cultivated by one of the most respected charitable trusts in the world. While I’ll admit that I’ve lived a charmed life relatively speaking, I will give myself credit for working hard and being persistant at maintaining a lifestyle that works for me—not the other way around.
There’s a quote from Margaret Young that really hits home on that struggle between living to work and working to live:
Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. They way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.
And so, in my post-Norwegian-ski-trip-high, I am carefully making adjustments to keep my world balanced. Here of a few favorite shots Andy Meehan took of me—at my happiest!—on the trip:
This is T, the family dog at the place we stayed. Given the fact that Sean and I have been without our dogs for over 6 months now, we can’t help but get riled up when we meet one. This gal was particularly funny to photograph because of her long, dread-like locks.