Life in the balance

My name is Kris, and I’m a work-a-holic.

(Oh, that’s terrible, you say.)

I’m not proud of it. I’ve battled being a work-a-holic my entire life. When I chose a career in photojournalism, I knew I was feeding my bad habit. News is a monster with a huge appetite. It’s demanding and unpredictable. I love every minute of it.

Is it REALLY that much of a problem?

(Yes, that’s a problem, you say.)

I want to live a balanced life, but I always seem to tip the scale. First, I’ll stay late on assignments to get the shot I want. Then, I’ll shoot on a day off to for a special project. Add to that the hours that I like to spend researching stories, and before I know it, I’m spending way more time with my cameras than I do with my husband.

(Her husband must be a really patient guy, you say.)

I’ve tried to figure out why I do it. I guess in part because I feel it’s expected of me—you are only as good as your last photo. And I’m not complaining. I never thought this was an 8-5 career. I’m there to cover the news no matter how inconvenient. I’m just like any other photographer, right?

(Right, you say.)

I might not love the inconvenience of a 2 a.m. phone call to cover spot news, but there is something about it that keeps me going. Adrenalin, creativity, enthusiasm, or the thrill of seeing the world first-hand.

Those are all very good reasons, but the bottom line is, we can get more wrapped up in documenting other people’s lives than we do spending time in our own worlds.

(Maybe she has a point, you say.)

That’s my real dilemma. Although I love my work, I know that my work-a-holic habits have inconvenienced the people that I love most–

–the friends I call at the last minute and can’t join for beers because of spot news.

–the family that I can’t see at Thanksgiving because I’m covering a meal for the homeless.

–my husband who gives me “the look” but never gets mad when I say I want to run in to the office for a little bit on my day off.

Those are the people that my work-a-holic habits affect. Those are the people that I need to stay balanced for.

(Geez. I’ve done those things before, you say.)

So, I’m still working all this out. Still, after 8 years, trying to figure out how to keep a balance between life and work. When I asked my husband what his opinions were on my working habits, he just smiled and shook his head. “You are always right on the edge,” he says. “But quite often you tip more one way, than the other.”

He means I tip towards work, and he’s right. He worries when I do that.

And I really want to make sure that after all those hours of work, there is still a person/place to come home to. So we’ve started having more conversations about when I’m going off the deep end. We haven’t come to any big revelations about what is the “right” balance. I’m not sure there is any concrete work-to-family ratio table we can refer to. But the conversations about the subject have helped us figure out what feels right for our lives.

So, what about you?

(My life is pretty balanced, you say.)

Maybe you aren’t like me at all. But if you want the real truth, ask your husband/wife/significant other if THEY think your life is balanced. Their answers might surprise you. The conversation will be good for you.

Because they are in this field too, aren’t they? They just aren’t having all the fun that we are.

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