(broad)ject self #4: Self-Care When...You're Ambitious

I was sitting in a hotel dining room this week, all by myself, giant wine glass in hand and my iPad with a book in the other. The hotel was in Mississauga, but the timing of two days of offsite meetings meant that my work put me up for the night. This was a rare treat for me, so I was enjoying my wine and carbonara, but I noticed I was surrounded by other solo diners, each keeping themselves busy. One woman had her laptop and piles of documents, another an iPad, and several men were sitting at the bar watching sportsball of some variety. I sat back and wondered to myself whether this was a life I could get used to?

The reason for our offsite meeting was a major corporate strategy change that had been, until the moment it was announced, top-secret. At the end of the announcement, the VP thanked all the people involved, but most especially a female director who had been the key point person on the project. She was given kudos for all the long hours she spent on the project, often away from the office, on top of her normal responsibilities. This frisson of excitement passed through me and I thought, “I want to do that.”

I have no need to travel for work in my current position. My days are pretty 8-4, unless I have a meeting that keeps me a little bit later. I don’t get emails at all hours, I don’t have a work phone, and there’s no expectation that I open my laptop outside of the office. And yet…I came home from that meeting on my last summer Friday and booted up my computer to do several hours more work. Then on Saturday morning, I was back at it, writing a standard operating procedure for a new account I’m trying to wrap my head around. It hit me at that meeting that I can absolutely do my job in 40 hours a week, but if I want to take it to the next level, it will require a deeper level of commitment.

But what does that look like? And what sacrifices am I willing to make to get there? Can I give up daily yoga? Sudoku time? Socializing? Sleep? I’m lucky now, all I need to do is tell David I need to do work, either on (broad)ject inc. or my regular job, and he tells me to go hole up as long as needed and I won’t be disturbed. Will he be willing to do that forever? What about when we have kids?

So I'm thinking a lot about all those questions these days, and I don’t have many answers yet. I know as long as we’re childless, my sleep needs to be protected above all else, because I'm a wretched heap of misery if I’m tired. Yoga and exercise are important, but getting to bed on time will always come first. I'm going to have to become more creative with my “fringe hours”, particularly time spent on the GO train, as that is two hours a day that could be spent more usefully than playing games on my phone.

I know not everyone gets a chance to ease into potential success and responsibility. Lawyer friends started their careers practically living at work, whereas if I stayed past 5pm my boss in publishing would ask me why I was still there. I won’t waste this opportunity, either to get ahead in my work and life or to try and grasp that success on my own terms, while taking care of myself and my family.

I conceived this newsletter as a result of an initial desire to become a resource for ambitious Canadian women in their late 20s to 40s. Women who weren’t just starting their careers, but had put in some time and were now looking to really lean in and make a move. But in the back of my mind, I knew I didn’t want to make my own move at the complete sacrifice of myself. I’m not willing to martyr myself at the altar of work or family, but is that just a pipe dream? Those are the questions I want to ponder both here and on the blog.

This is where I want to hear from you! How are you balancing your ambition in work and life with self-care? Are you in a good place? Do you need to stop the world for a little while to catch up and re-evaluate? Have you already made sacrifices? Were they worth it? How can I help? Send me an email to broadjectinc@gmail.com.

Self-caringly yours,
Sian