I don’t think it’s any secret I love conferences. I’m an aural learner, I thrive on networking and am extremely extroverted. I live to share and learn and am super excited by the energy of professional events. I’ve spent the better part of the last five years volunteering a lot of my time into formal and informal professional development activities. And I have loved it.
Which is why it’s so hard for me to let it go. After NLS5 and LibraryCamp, which were awesome but exhausting (as were Information Online and RAILS), I realised I really need to draw back from professional involvement for a while. This thought has been percolating at various levels of intensity for a number of months, but I’m getting clearer and clearer on what I need to focus on in my life. I love my work, and I am passionate about it, but I have not been balanced. I need to confine my professional involvement to my work time, where I am paid to be a professional. If I can include some professional development into that time, and I am very lucky that my workplace really supports that and has amazing opportunities, then I will. I’ve realised I currently have the work aspect sorted: now I need to focus on the life part of work/life balance. Samantha Hughes’ plenary session at NLS5 had a big impression on me, as has my practice in yoga and related reading into mindfulness and balance as related to chronic pain.
The reason I am sharing this is two-fold. Firstly, because there has been a lot of talk about wellness and work/life balance in our PLN lately, and many of us on Twitter committed to #lunchtober or #naptober, where time was taken out of the work day to take a proper break. However I know I still got caught up in working through lunch and into the night, and I know others did too. Chronic overworkers find it hard to let go – we have an addiction to some part of the work. Secondly, I want to share how I have come to realise that focussing on the life aspect is not nearly as easy as saying you will do it. You will commit to it. And then you will be tested. Here is what happened to me.
One of my wonderful PLN friends is heavily involved with VALA, and we’d spoken about potentially running a conference mentoring pilot there next year, as I did at Information Online in February 2011. We hadn’t spoken for a while so I messaged her to ask if there was any progress. I figured there wasn’t, and I was actually feeling ok about that, as I have been really struggling with my chronic pain and migraines lately, and had become clearer and clearer that my goals need to be personal rather than professional for the next stage of my life.
However VALA is running a competition for a free place to the conference. It closes today, and is for a person to do the social media aspect of the conference. It seems totally perfect for me. It’s a new project, I love conferences, I love trying out new social media and organising events and blogging and tweeting and… I could go on. So I got totally caught up in this excitement. I forgot about my goal of work/life balance, because this isn’t work, is it? It’s play! I investigated options and brainstormed what I would love to do and wrote a script hitting on the main points of why I was the perfect person to win this competition, and played with xtranormal to create the video. I paid for xtranormal credit, I sent my membership form off to VALA, and thought that $100 to enter a competition I had no guarantee of winning was pretty silly. But hey, if I win, that’s a conference for $100! It’d be insane NOT to enter. So here it is, my entry to the competition:
I’m pretty happy with it. And I was about to send it off last night, right before I attended an ALIA event (which I will blog on later, as it was excellent).
I have now decided not to enter the competition. Not because I don’t desperately want to go. Not because I’m not interested in the position of being the social media person at what I have heard is consistently the best conference we have in this country, particularly for tech savvy librarians (I’ve never been). I’m not entering because if I did win it (and again, no guarantee) I would throw myself into it. And it would be work. It may be fun, but it’s time consuming, likely to be very stressful, and it could cost me a lot more than the registration fee. I am not yet good enough at the life part of work/life balance to make it work for me, or for my employer and career.
The VALA competition is my own personal test. It is a shiny pretty object that tempts me to stray from my recently set goals. And I am sure that there will be many worthy entries – I can think of half a dozen people in my PLN off the top of my head who would be awesome at the role, and have the capacity within their lives to take it on without it becoming a problem for them, partly because they are already much better at work-life balance than I am.
And I have learned something important. I have been reminded that it’s not always easy to stick to your goals, especially when you’re trying to change something fundamental about the way you have always operated. I have also learned to use xtranormal, which I have been meaning to play with for over a year. I’m very task-focussed, so I usually only play when I have a specific task in mind, and so this was a very useful exercise for the way I work.
Finally, I have had another reminder of the truth of balance in life: I can do everything you want: I just can’t do it all at once.