Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Live to Work/Work to Live

The topic of “live to work vs. work to live” has been on the table in one form or another in our house for weeks now.  It’s a moving target for sure. What does it mean at 50+? How has the conversation changed now that Beth and I are living “Empty Nesters 2.0”? The inexorable, constant change that has been forced down the throats of physicians since January of 2009 has totally upended how I feel about my job. Since Beth is now intimately involved in my business she has been drawn into this part of the conversation.

Why? Well, how many folks do you know who have managed to fold together their vocation and their avocation? Their employment and their passion? How many people do you know who give the same answer to the questions “What do you do for a living?” and “What is your hobby?” Not many, eh? In the world of my day job I can name exactly two. Cleveland has been good to me, but the fact remains that I moved to Cleveland solely for the job.

Cleveland has neither ocean nor mountain.

Not every gig is like this of course. It’s quite a bit different in the CrossFit world, for example. One of my very good friends, met through CrossFit, is an attorney who openly calls his day job his dream. You guessed it…he’s CF’s corporate counsel. Work and passion, vocation and avocation all wrapped up into one whole. No real “live to work or work to live” stuff for him, or indeed for most of the 7500+ Affiliate owners like my sons. I’m not entirely sure if they, or Coach Glassman, truly appreciate how monumental this is. I know my friend Dale does.

For the rest of us, though, we must sit down and have a little chat with ourselves. Is there something that makes us truly happy? Is there a place where we have a greater likelihood of achieving that happiness, some locale where it might be more easily attained? Sure, there might be additional responsibilities we must shoulder (support a family, repay an obligation) that complicate the conversation, but that still leaves room for each of us to LIVE. Could you do whatever that is? Could you move wherever “there” is? All of the folks I’ve met in Key West or Park City or San Diego who work at however many whatevers it takes in order to fish, ride, or surf come to mind.

How about me? How am I doing with this work/live thing? Actually, I’m doing better now than at many other points in my life despite the fact that my new business reality is a somewhat lesser version of past realities. I’m really good at what I do, and I accept and fulfill the responsibility of continuing to improve; the people for whom I work, my patients, fare better now than ever before.

But more and more what I do for work is just that…work. My day job is what allows me to do the stuff that is probably a truer indication of who I am, of what makes me tick. I live as fully as I possibly can when I am at work; I’m good at what I do and it’s easier to enjoy something when you do it well. But I work to live. I’m ever at the process of figuring out just what living means.

Must it be thus? Is it somehow my destiny to not share the lives of those for whom live to work is synonymous with work to live? Meh, I dunno. It takes a certain type of courage to make that leap sometimes, whether that leap is to jump back in or jump all the way out.  I have a friend who lives in Del Mar who once asked me “when are you going to leave that dead end job and work with me?” I clearly didn’t have the courage at the time to fully explore that. Now? Who knows? The courageous decision might be just staying where I am, jumping back “in” as it were.

In the end, though, I think it’s important to sit yourself down and have that conversation with yourself. Working to live, or living to work? It’s especially important if who you are and what you do are not both found where you work.

Think of it not so much as a work in progress, but more as a life in progress.

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