How much of your heart and soul are you placing in your professional vs. your personal life and at what cost

My first official writing gig post babies and some major bouts with post partum depression, which at the time I dared not speak of, was as a weekly columnist for a local print newspaper. I took such pride in the fact that this team of hard news journalists were willing to give me a four color half page section in each week’s newspaper, and I was hard-pressed to let them down. So I worked…through weekends, pulled all nighters, I begged off of get togethers with friends, you see because I had this column, this all important upper corner square that I knew needed to be filled with prose that would entertain and educate  and I felt such a strong conviction in delivering it.

It didn’t matter that I was getting paid about two cents a word and that my hard work was likely going unnoticed by anyone other than the direct editor of my section. I felt this strong responsibility to deliver a 900 word column each week- regardless of  whatever was happening in my personal life and much to the detriment, at times of my kids.

 And then my father got sick. But heck, the paper and time doesn’t stop for anyone. And instead of spending weekends with my dad, who became progressively more ill, I stayed home, while my kids went to visit him– because, I had to write my column. I had deadlines.  And at the time these deadlines seemed so all encompassing and important. The nominal fee I was making per column wasn’t the issue- it was my reputation that was at stake- I believed I needed to keep grinding out those columns- at all costs- even if it meant losing precious time with my family. I believed the newspaper depended on me.

And then, in what seemed like a millisecond- I get a form letter in the mail which says I have been relieved of my responsibilities as a columnist. Forget that it was a shock to the system, and being that I work a month in advance- I had a month of columns ready to go that could now, no longer be compensated – but more than that it was the fact that after literally losing time, making this column such a cornerstone and priority in my life-that I could be disposed of in such a perfunctory way. And of course I thought of my dad- and all those times he had asked me to come over, but I said, “NO daddy I can’t, I have to write my column.” 

At the time- my column, my job, my profession seemed to hold so much importance and value- and in a heartbeat- it was gone- this column I devoted the better part of four and half years to… and so is my dad. And well it’s just  forcing me to put it all into perspective, unfortunately a bit too late for me and my dad, but not too late for me and those I hold dear. Because when I think about it- when I’m nearing the end of my days, what will I want most? To be surrounded by the columns and articles I’ve written, or to be among the flesh and blood people who have shaped and influenced my life. And I’m going to have to say it’s the latter.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Such amazing timing. I’ve had a conversation about this three times today within several hours of each other.

    Being a journalist and social marketer, the news never stops. So where do you draw the line? Because, if you don’t do it they will find someone else who will. But, then as you point out, in the end, what does that byline really mean — especially when poof (!) they don’t need you tomorrow…. no matter how good of a job you do.

    It’s a tough situation.

  2. says

    It’s so hard in “modern” times because we’re expected to be on 24/7. But you’re right. We need to draw the line. I love what I do professionally, but I love my personal life even more and I need to pour more into that. Thank you for the reminder.

  3. says

    I think it’s important for us to get the wake up call you just got.

    When I got mine, it changed my outlook about my career and made me appreciate everyone still around me.

    So many times we tell someone we love .. “I can’t now..” and then we look back wishing we spent that time with them instead of what we made the priority.

    I totally believe in family first … of course I still get my work done… but the last time I checked, I’m not an emergency room doctor so my cell phone could be off after 9PM and my email didn’t need to be checked at 6AM. And after years of sleeping with my phone next to me and checking my emails all hours of the night, I now “shut down” so I can really be present with my family. Not just in the same room.

    But it has to come to you. And everyone gets that wake up call at a different time.

    :)

  4. says

    Melissa-
    This is such a thought provoking post and I am so sorry about the loss of your dad. You are absolutely right about getting sucked into professional work at the expense of your family. You are a phenomenal writer and will find an even better home for all those columns you’ve written. More importantly, go out and enjoy life with your kids and your husband – and write about the things you love. I hope to see you one of these days – it has been way to long. Much love and best wishes, Beth

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