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July 2011

It's Not About "Balance"

Jean asked if we miss the traveling when we're home for an extended stretch.

 "I'm good for about six weeks," I said.  "And then I start getting eager to go somewhere again."

 It's been an exceptionally busy spring.  Since mid-April I have been home exactly two weekends.  It hasn't all been work -- last weekend was Salt Lake City for MEY's retirement, and the weekend before was band camp in Memphis.  And I've followed my usual practice of building in an extra day on most of my work trips so that I've got a day to play and feed my head.  (Which gave me the opportunity, in one remarkable 5 week period, to get to the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, along with several other notable museums.  And some fine dive bars.)

 I still enjoy the travel experience and despite the complaints & horror stories that one hears so often about air travel, I'm rarely inconvenienced too much -- or maybe it's just that I don't spend much time dwelling on the inconveniences.

In the front of my travel journal I list the cities that I've been to while using that particular volume.  The current one starts on February 23 of this year and the list is fourteen cities long.

 I've been able to do some of those journeys bringing only the iPad and leaving the laptop at home.  Depends on how much, and what kind of work I'm planning on getting done while I'm on the road.  If it's just email (and there is always email) the iPad has turned out to be completely sufficient.  It typically takes about an hour a day for me to get email handled and I can just about always squeeze that time out of the day, no matter how hectic the schedule is.

 If I'm working on a document or a presentation, however, I'll take the laptop.  In any case, I'm always in touch.  I very rarely bother with an out-of-office message.  I can't imagine maintaining this kind of schedule if I wasn't able to keep connected in that way.

 I saw a blog post recently where someone was trying to work out the work/life balance thing.  I rejected that notion years ago.  There was a point, probably a couple of years after I moved to Birmingham, that I realized the distinction between my "work day" and the rest of my day had evaporated.  It's not that "my life is my work" or anything like that -- it's that the time that I spend doing the things that I get paid for is seamlessly interwoven with the time that I spend doing other things.  As I've said before, I'm a library director 24 hours a day, but I'm also a doting grandfather 24 hours a day, and an amateur musician and a husband and all of those other roles that I partake of -- 24 hours a day.  I don't need to balance a duality -- I need to manage my time so that all of those roles get the time that they deserve. 

Still, as much as I enjoy the traveling and am able to interweave my responsibilities and pleasures, it does get tiring, so I'm very happy to be home for a stretch now.  As luck would have it, my next flight is five weeks from tomorrow.