“Do what you love or what you’re good at. If you’re lucky it’ll be both.”
That’s what my dad always told my sister and I. I’m not monetarily successful yet, but since I’ve recently felt like my professional life has taken over my personal life, I’m either getting close to the lucky bit or heading for a “made for TV” downward spiral of waking up one day and wondering what happened to my life.
You can stop reading now if you’re expecting some great tale of woe that shocked me into realizing how much I’m missing. I’m not even close to the breaking point that punctuations hundreds of books, movies, and TV shows when, usually successful people, notice that they’ve missed out on life, there’s a decision made, and then there’s a feel good moment where they do the right thing and hang out on a swing set with a small child.
Basically, my personal life has started revolving around my professional life. And again, most of us do this, so this isn’t really earth shattering news. We often plan things around our commute, work schedule, and days off. It’s all quite logical, really. Why wouldn’t you choose the convenient store, vet, salon, or gas station? If you can run an errand on the way to or from work, why wouldn’t you? What’s the point of going out of your way if it doesn’t save you time or money?
But recently, just how much time I spend thinking about, planning, and actually working, has been buzzing in the back of my brain as a reminder that I need to take notice and figure out if, and where, I need to draw some lines.
The truth is, I simply live two lives, and recently, they’ve been clashing a bit more than usual. There’s my personal life, this includes The Goat, Charlie Brown The Airedale, our little urban jungle, the cycling community in which we participate (The Goat much more actively than I), our families, and a close knit group of friends. I’d throw many other peripheral people and places into this group too – the clerks at the grocery store I regularly frequent, the receptionists at the doctors’ offices, the waiter and staff at our favorite restaurant, the other students in doggie school, and even our neighbors and those we see regularly on our dog walking adventures.
My professional life consists of my business and the community in which it is located. While geographically small, this circle may be extended to include my customers, other shopkeepers and staff of other businesses in the community, a few locals who make a point of checking on their local merchants, and the neighbors who live in the surrounding buildings.
It may seem strange that these two circles overlap as they do, especially because they are physically separated by well over 15 miles. But the truth is, there are days when those miles feel like I’m traveling between two distinctly different worlds.
Part of the reason this recent revelation is creating a dilemma for me is that I try to maintain a certain level of professionalism by keeping much of my personal life out of my professional life. Let’s face it, my customers don’t need to know who my friends are, how The Goat is feeling, or if I’ve got car trouble. But in reality, the stuff that affects me personally often affects me professionally too, because I am the face of my business.
For example, when I am ill and unable to get in and open the shop, I need to share that information with my customers. I need to let them know when the shop will be closed because I’m out of town for vacation. Due to his size and the fact that not everyone likes dogs, I like to let people know when Charlie Brown’s at the shop with me. Also, in this age of internet shopping and big box stores, part of the reason people often shop at small shops like mine is because of the personal touch and individuality of the smaller shops.
However, my attempts at keeping my personal life out of my professional life has recently become more difficult and the direction of my effort seems to have reversed. I find myself working on shop samples at home and my personal fiber projects are set aside indefinitely. I am unable to find the time to work in the yard, around the house, or on other artistic endeavors because I’m teaching a class or the weather when I do have the time isn’t cooperating. My grocery bags end up being seperated into “home” and “shop” instead of “fridge” and “pantry”. Social events are considered based on the shop’s schedule. Friends and relationships get neglected.
Is this a bad thing? I haven’t yet decided, I guess it depends on the individual situation. Some of it’s easy to readjust. Some it’s a sign of success. Some of it’s a sign of over-working. Hopefully it’s all lucky.