This time last year, I left my job as a university lecturer that I’d held for almost a decade. After my liver transplant, I transitioned from full-time work to a part-time contract, so I already had one foot out the door. I had a couple of freelance clients lined up to supplement my half-time teaching salary, so when I submitted my letter of separation, I still had some income coming in.
When I quit my teaching job, I vowed that I would never work full time unless my financial situation became dire. I owed it to my health — physically and emotionally — to lead a less stressful existence and enjoy life.
Alas, I didn’t even make it a year before the workaholic in me reared her head. Also, I’m pragmatic. I hope for the best but plan for the worst. My husband, Patrick, and I are far from bankruptcy. But the lack of a steady paycheck on my part was causing some concern. And, as I’ve mentioned time and again, stress is my No. 1 IBD trigger.
I announced in a recent column that I accepted a full-time position as a digital content editor (DCE). I suppose that as an independent contractor, I’m not legally bound to work a full 40-hour week. But I’m overly ambitious and a glutton for punishment, so I set lofty goals for myself all of the time.
As I write this, I’m finishing up my first 40-hour workweek as a DCE. I probably worked closer to 50 hours when you add in meeting my deadlines for this column and another client. I’m struggling to balance an overly full workload with the life of leisure I was blessed with the past year. But I refuse to give up one for the other.
I battled through the first week. I’ve realized that my need to be perfect and thorough has led to the familiar sour stomach and intestinal rumblings. My daily deadlines are doable, but at the cost of rest and a possible IBD flare. Moreover, I feel scattered and disorganized, which is taxing because I thrive on structure.
I’m more stressed, but I’m confident that I will restore my work-life balance with time. Developing a daily routine and workflow is a process that takes time as I maximize my efficiency. Also, the eight-week project that I committed to immediately before interviewing for the DCE position will be complete at the beginning of February, cutting my extra workload by 50 percent.
Until then, I will take computer breaks, even for just five to 10 minutes so that I can walk around and stretch my legs. It helps to have a fitness tracker that reminds me to get my 250 steps per hour. As a competitive person (even though I’m competing against myself), I go above and beyond and aim for 500 steps per hour.
Unless I have a video meeting scheduled, I take a late-morning, two-hour break to attend my martial arts class. The workout is strenuous, but it gives me a chance to rejuvenate my mind for the long afternoon ahead. It also allows me to socialize face-to-face with others, which isn’t possible when my colleagues work around the world.
One of my greatest challenges, however, is yet to come. I decided to work part time so that I would have time to go to doctors’ appointments and attend to other healthcare needs. I know that because I make an hourly wage and have no paid time off or sick leave, I will be compelled to make up the time lost to appointments. I’ll have to remind myself that I have a chronic disease and that my health is priceless. Missing a couple of hours of pay is not worth sacrificing my well-being.
When work gets tough, or I become discouraged, I have to remember to take one day at a time. My various job opportunities are a blessing. I may put in a few 10-hour days per week, but the two-minute commute and ability to work in my pajamas is worth it.
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