Yesterday, I was having a conversation with two of my good friends on the importance of slowing down, taking breaks and work/life balance. It seems to be a conversation we have quite frequently, which I greatly appreciate as someone who has always been terrible with work/life balance. As we were talking, I was reminded of a quote I had heard back in February.
Now, don’t laugh at me. I have to admit that this quote comes from Grey’s Anatomy which is one of my major guilty-pleasure shows. However, I gotta say – the writers can write some pretty impressive and thought-provoking lines. Quotes that stick with you for months, or maybe even years.
As we were talking about work/life balance, this quote from one of the main characters, Miranda Bailey, came to my mind:
“On your death bed, no one wishes they’d worked more. That’s the trite little phrase people tried out when they want to play hookie, or spend too much money when they go on vacation, or shame parents when they miss their kid’s soccer game for a board meeting. On your death bed, no one wishes they’d worked more. Tell that to the people who love their work.”
I remember hearing this quote when I was still in the classroom. I almost posted it to social media because I felt like it really hit home with me.
I have always had the pleasure of loving what I do. Not everyone can say that.
I have spent the last twelve years working in education and, even though there have been ups and down, I have truly loved this career and the many different roles I have been able to have within it. Since I love what I do, it doesn’t feel like work. It’s something I enjoy – every second of it. I tend to work many hours, not because I have to or feel required to, but because I want to. Because I love what I do. I love education.
As all of these thoughts went through my mind, it also had me reflecting on many of the conversations I have had with other educators over the years. Many of them, unfortunately, were quite judgemental due to the number of hours I worked or the time I would put into the classroom or on-campus programs that I was running. Not judgmental in the sense of whether or not I was doing a good job – but that it wasn’t something I would want to do forever. That I was only doing it because I was young, or didn’t have children, or any other number of reasons.
I found this to be extremely discouraging as a classroom teacher. Why judge me because I work extra hours or run multiple on-campus programs? Why tell me that I won’t be able to do it forever? Why tell me that eventually, I will lose that drive? It used to bother me a lot but, over time, I found that I was able to ignore the voices that I heard around me. I was able to ignore the criticism. I was able to ignore the comments that I would never work this hard when I had a family.
Because…guess what? It really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
Which reminds me of another quote from the same Grey’s Anatomy episode:
“It’s not about whether you spend your life in a boardroom, your bedroom, or on a beach with a Mai Tai in Maui. When you look back on your life, the only thing that matters is: Did you spend it doing what you love? With the people you love? Were you happy? Did you make the most of this beautiful, terrifying, messed-up life? Did you let go of all the things that held you back? So you can hold on to what matters most?”
That’s it. That’s all that matters.
Are you doing what you love? Are you spending time with the people you love? Are you truly happy? If you are, then hold tight to it and don’t let go.
If you enjoy working late, creating extra lesson plans, teaching summer school, or volunteering at events on your campus – go for it! However, on the flip side, if you want to go home, take a break, or spend time with family – then that’s what you should do! As long as in the end we are doing what is best for students, as well as ourselves, then it’s just choices.
Sometimes, I think we spend more time thinking about what everyone else is doing and not spending enough time determining if we are doing what is best for ourselves, our family, and our students. Life is just a series of choices – they are not always right or wrong. They are just choices.
So, at the end of the day, I challenge you to think about the life you are living and if it is the one that truly makes you happy. Forget everyone else, forget their choices, and focus on your own. And finally…and this is a very important part. Support those around you as they make their choices.
Remember, it’s just a series of choices – they are not always right or wrong – but do they make you happy?