Growing up I was always a studious child. I did my homework without anyone telling me, was always on the honor roll and made sure to not get in trouble at school. That quickly translated into an ambitious working adult who got all projects completed, not just on time but early. I’m generally the first one in the office and have been the last one out on many occasions. I know that many of us experience this life in that same way. Today, I look at myself and sometimes think, “Nena put the laptop away and go to sleep!”
I want to live a glorious and stress-free work life as I sometimes see others have, but then I tell myself “nah girl, that’s not you.” But WHY NOT??? As a professional Latina, that younger honor roll student that still lives within me dominates and she takes over the decision making when it comes to work. She only knows how to continue working until things are done, regardless of how tired she’s feeling. She even wants to get some things done that are not due for some time because you never know what can happen so why leave for tomorrow what you can get done today! Sometimes I feel like that honor roll student is the one running the show and I am just the body following instructions.
As I have advanced in my career, finding a work and life balance has become one of the most important things and in all honesty, it has become one of the hardest things to maintain. I thrive on the fresh air that lies between professional success and personal joy. I don’t know if this happened because I am getting older and know that I need both to thrive in this life or if that honor roll student that lies within me wants to break the rules that she has followed her entire life. I miss that carefree mindset in my 20’s or even early 30’s. Here I am in my 40’s sometimes suffocating and looking for that fresh air that I yearn for. This is my inner battle with finding work and life balance. There are times when they are at peace and living in harmony and then there are times when there is outright war! The unfortunate ending is usually one giving in to the other, not by choice but by forceful surrender.
As I navigate this inner battle, I’m constantly telling myself what I want to do, but putting those thoughts and mantras into action is a feat I have yet to master! My friends keep reminding me life is too short to be stressing about work. I know that finding work and life balance is worth all the effort, but when work is piling up, I struggle to say “No!” My work can be demanding in peaks throughout the year and let me tell you those are the hardest days and months of my life. I suffocate myself with “doing the most” instead of just what needs to be done. I burn my candle at both ends and then I try to light it from another spot. What am I doing to myself???? I’ve trained myself to work hard, especially because I am Latina; a double whammy when it comes to setting the bar of expectations. As a brown woman in leadership, I feel that I am always trying to break the invisible glass ceiling and exceed expectations. Even if no one is nagging me about my work I feel like I still have this inner “I’ll show them” attitude. Ending on top is the only way my mind knows how to work.
The real dilemma is how do I bring that honor roll student voice to a mere whisper and speak to myself louder and clearer with the new, mature voice that I know I have inside. This voice has been developing for a long time and now in my 40’s it’s ready to be dominant. I need to compel the balance that I desperately need knowing that I am passionate about my work and will always succeed because I bring my best and CARE. My mature side knows that success does not mean that I need to be out of breath, overly exhausted and empty. That is what success should NOT look like. Why do I do this to myself and how do I stop it? I will continue to remind myself daily that I am more than my job and I ultimately work best when I have succeeded at finding work and life balance allowing myself to experience the true joy that life has to offer.