The first time I heard someone comment that they “lived to work, rather than worked to live”, I was intrigued. They were so passionate about the statement that I was left to wonder how I would answer that question. Do I live to work or do I work to live? As a new mother, the answer was a clear yes. Medical bills from all four of us being hospitalized within one year. A new mortgage and diapers were all a reminder that we had committed to raising a family and all of the financial responsibilities that accompany this decision.

Do I like my job? Most days I do. I work for a pretty unique program, individuals with lived experience. There is an incredible amount of wisdom that comes from people who have survived violence, recovered from drugs and alcohol, lived through homelessness and even incarceration. Although we have all lived through something, we as a collective group, interact with other from that lived experience. I often pause in our regular meetings to simply listen to their collective voices, often opinionated thoughtful and uncomplicated. They inspire me to do my best in all aspects of my life, which is a pretty awesome experience to have at work.

On the days I struggle, it’s often the headaches of internal politics or the demands to do more with less and less time. I am never surprised when projects change with no notice or a clear rationale. Our focus can shift in ways that cause me to question the value of my work and even my core beliefs. Being a part of management within a large system, within a large company is fairly unattractive. Seemingly benign decisions need to include the opinions, interests, and concerns of a variety of discordant voices. At the end of the day, I am challenged to recognize the small successes which is after all, a success.

When the demands of work life are few, I wake up excited about what the day will bring. It’s a fresh start and the ability to be creative is enjoyable. Who will I meet? What challenges will we encounter or perhaps new ideas to make sense of my work? It’s rather exciting and in these moments I recognize how much I truly enjoy working. So do I live to work or work to live? I can’t honestly answer definitely either way, but I continue to ask the question to ‘check in’ with how I value work in my life.

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