Wednesday, June 10, 2009

back to the office...

A couple of thoughts about work/life balance…

For most of my adult life, I have been a social worker. This has been, at times, variously rewarding beyond belief, frustrating, heartbreaking, inspiring, disillusioning, mundane… and the adjectives could go on and on. Social work is a varied field, and my jobs have been equally diverse – from event management for youth music events, to one on one AoD counseling, and diverse also in their level of satisfaction. My last position for a certain national mental health organization should have been one of the most rewarding but was instead an example of the truth that management incapability and internal politics can hamstring an organization with even the best intentions.

And so it was time for a change.

For the last 9 months or so I have been working in 2 jobs – one part time social work “back to grassroots” job assisting people living with HIV with housing and accommodation issues (in which I rediscovered the satisfaction of working one to one with another human being in order to try and effect a positive change in their situation), and one which has been totally different.

I’ve never really considered myself “handy”. If there was a competition about who could be the most blokey, I’d lose. I love cooking. The kitchen is MINE. I love reading and art and acting and discussing philosophy and can’t abide football. And yet, for the last 8 months I have been wearing a tool-belt, swinging a hammer, a rake and a shovel (not all at once), building shit, planting shit, stepping in shit, and seeing dead spaces come to life and beauty.

I am a landscaper.

Well, ok, I’m not – although I am learning and there are aspects of the job that I’ve grown to feel very comfortable with – but really it’s my mate that I work with who’s the design genius).

Doing this has kept me fit, suntanned in the summer and clad in flannos in the winter. And I’ve loved being a tradie.

I now want an old Ford F-100.

But I still can’t stand footy.

However, there are new moves on the horizon. Myself and my love want to be near the ocean. I have missed the water hugely, and can’t wait to start a salt water life with the woman of my dreams. But rents are higher, and there is the possibility of new humans on the horizon, so chances are that the most economically sensible plan is to return to being a professional in my area of training.

And it leaves me asking myself what are the things I will and won’t miss about working outdoors, what are the things I need to do to keep the balance of physical and mental work that I’ve had these last months?

Well, I will not miss trimming ivy off walls in the rain on close to freezing winter mornings. But I’ll miss the sense of creativity and satisfaction of making something look like a place that people would want to sit to inspire their souls. And I’ll miss the feeling of physical exhaustion but knowing that you have been making your body stronger (but not this niggling shoulder injury I’ve picked up that’s stopped me surfing the last two months).

So in order to maintain these things, I will (after resting the shoulder until it actually heals properly) get back to the gym, surf more and run with the dog. These are all things I love, and being near the beach will provide more opportunity. I will ensure I don’t leave my camera sitting on a shelf, that I spend time with a guitar and the incredibly talented love of my life and her voice, that we take the time enjoy the water and the community of a smaller town.

That is, until the situation changes again, as I hope it will with the advent of suggested new humans, and sleep deprivation makes the thought of running intolerable. But then a whole new focus and journey, rewards and challenges, will start.

But for now, I get ahead of myself. What I’m looking forward to is sea air, exercise, a new life with my favourite person, and hopefully a social work job that provides as many of the rewarding aspects of the profession as I can hope for. I might even build a garden now that I'm all handy and know how.

And a few of those incredible winter dawn sessions down at winkipop – maybe even a couple of the rarest of the rare – being alone in the water as the sun creeps over the horizon and glassy lines of swell emerge from the fog.

Fuck, I love the reefs at Jan Juc.