I spent a September 2012 day in a medically induced coma. It was the only day since November 2009 that I have not spent working. That hospital stay was a result of an allergic reaction, not work, but it exposed some cracks in my life (besides my lack of affinity for nuts of all sorts).
Though I’m aging, they tell me I’m still young. I think highly of the mantra “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” though I average a pretty decent 8 hours of sleep per night. I paraphrase that mantra as: I know I can’t do fifteen different things at the same time forever, so let me dedicate myself now to learning, stumbling and growing, until I’m dead (i.e. old, and with even more back pain).
When I started college, I poured all of my time into growing PropertyOfZack and making it something that I was proud of. But eventually, I got the itch to try something new, which lead to something else new, which brought me to another new thing, and now I’m here with approximately twenty seven To-Do apps, a very expensive calendar app, and an Apple Watch that’s currently being manufactured somewhere in China. Sometimes (and by sometimes, I mean often) I forget that I go to school, but also that it’s important to eat, exercise, and let your brain do its thing. There needs to be a balance.
I think about all these things on a semi-regular basis, but it returned to the forefront of my mind this past weekend while listening to the third episode of the excellent Hello Internet podcast titled Four Light Bulbs. In the episode, co-hosts CGP Grey and Brady Haran have an extended conversation about work-life balance in relation to four sectors: Family, Friends, Work, and Health. That’s a lot to balance.
When I was in high school, after POZ started to take wind, I accidently invented my own catch phase — “I can’t, I have an interview.” Doing a quick check of audio files in iTunes, I have saved 412 audio interviews that equal out to exactly 4 days, 2 minutes, and 47 seconds of “on the record” time. That doesn’s even account for lost interviews, email interviews, time spent coming up with questions, research, time spent traveling to and from interviews and, most notably, the time it took to transcribe those interviews. That’s a whole lot of time, but I poured myself into it because I loved interviewing bands and having conversations.
That took a toll on my life. One which, as I mentioned above, became apparent following my run in with dumplings filled with peanuts.
As someone who wrestles with an eating disorder and bouts of depression, finding balance is hard. Ultimately, needing to balance anything at all suggests that not everything you want to attend to can be cared for with 100% efficiency. That’s okay, but sometimes it’s difficult to come to terms with not working on a Saturday, because I could be doing more for one of the bands I manage or a label I run instead of taking a mental break to take a walk or to watch The Vampire Diaries. Making sure balance doesn’t become mediocrity is important.
My largest struggle as of late has been with “hollow” victories. One of my favorite parts of management is landing the right tour, or right release rollout, for one of the bands I work with. These are crucial parts to their journeys, and being able to aid in spreading fantastic music is so amazing — and yet it never feels like enough. Success often can’t feel like success, because I need to succeed again immediately after. That’s not a complaint as much as it is a realization. Athletes who win championships usually suit up again the next season to try and repeat, but sometimes I envy the time between seasons where they get to celebrate, relax, and regroup. I’ve had two wrist surgeries, so my soccer goalkeeping days are over, but you get the point.
Ultimately, for me (and, I imagine, for many of you), consistency is important. My girlfriend and I are in a long distance relationship and have been for several years. After some time, we learned that small talk throughout the day wasn’t as effective as picking up the phone every night to really talk, listen, and participate. That consistency has made our relationship healthier and more exciting. Simple things like that — or writing a column every like this Friday, instead of just on random occasions — add freeing structure to my life. As I grow in age and in responsibilities, the balance between work and life has become more important than ever.