What if this is as good as it gets?
December 13, 2011 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Would I know if this is as good as it gets? I know I've got it pretty good, better than most I bet...but I feel a little, I don't know, perhaps unsettled. But maybe that isn't even the right way to describe it - physically it's more liked stressed with a side order of tired. How do you know when you're at the top of your game and when you are in the place that is best for you and your family?

I have a good life and I'm not complaining about the hand I've been given. I'm married with two children and I have a good job. It's a very stressful job but it can be rewarding as well. I put in a lot of extra hours but I also have some flexibility when I really need it so that I can attend important events such as recitals etc. The pay is also pretty good and the benefits are exceptional i.e. health and pension are amazing. Most of the people I work with are ok, a couple are not - so this is pretty much no different than anywhere. The stress part is making me question if this is the right fit for me. I don't know that changing jobs would actually make things less stressful as I know I've been in lower paid jobs with less responsibility that have been immensely stressful due to the working conditions and bosses that I've had.

Here's my set up. I work a very easy 10km commute by car from my work. There is little traffic to get to work and free parking. I work days (Mon - Fri) and there is some flexibility around my start time as long as I am there no later than 8:30am. I usually work until at least 6pm and usually more like 7pm. I don't take breaks and usually eat lunch in front of my computer. I have multiple distractions and can count on a significant crisis needing immediate attention at least once a week (usually more often). I am expected to take call for one week in every four and I do not receive compensation for this call. I usually get called a few times during this week and sometimes it will mean going into work for a few hours - usually at unsocial times. Even when not on call I may work 16 hour+ days if something goes wrong - and around 10 hours on a normal day. I do not get paid overtime. I get along well with the people with whom I work but it's fair to say that the workload distribution is not even nor is the skill set within management.

My spouse also works days in a job and very very rarely has to stay late or work away. My kids go to school around the corner from where I work and the school is exceptional. My daughter is extremely happy here and is quite involved in a number of activities at which she excels. My son is involved in less but also happy. We have a modest house that is comfortable - we don't really need any more. If we really NEED or even really WANTED something we could find a way to afford it. We don't really care too much about THINGS like cars, fancy houses, stereo systems, adult toys, gaming systems etc. We do like to travel together and manage to take a couple of small trips a year.

I live in the north as you can probably tell by my handle. It's beautiful up here - I would like a couple more months of spring or fall or summer if I were to be perfectly honest but the other benefits here make up for the longer winters. The winters here by the way are warmer than the midwest or Canadian prairies.

Is it possible that this is "as good as it gets"? Should we just be happy in settling? We've never done that before. We've always moved around after a few years in search of something better. Have we now found "better'?
posted by YukonQuirm to Human Relations (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not to be snarky, but only you can answer this question. Is this really as good as it gets? Maybe. What do you WANT and do you know how you can achieve it? If you can answer the last question then no, maybe this is not, "as good as it gets."
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 3:31 PM on December 13, 2011

Best answer: I think you're going to have to say more about what you find unsatisfying here, even if you're not exactly sure what it is that is not sitting right with you. Aside from your work, how would you rate your social life? Your community? Your marriage? Your leisure time? Are there dreams you have that you have not realized? Do you like the type of work you do (not just the specific job)? How long have you felt dissatisfied? Was there a precipitating event?

Right now you've listed some things about your life, and they seem like pretty good things. Work seems maybe a bit more stressful than you would like, but you seem to be compensated for the inconveniences. Given your description, there are many people who would say that you have it great. But, that doesn't mean you do, it just means you haven't done a good job of describing why this doesn't feel great. People leave the kind of financial security you describe, for instance, all the time in order to pursue deeply held dreams.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you want to perform a cost/benefit analysis you have to be a bit more explicit about the costs and benefits or you're unlikely to get anything but generic responses.
posted by OmieWise at 3:41 PM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

I would agree with the above, but I wanted to say this: I don't know how long you've been in the Yukon, but I'm going on my third winter near the 60th parallel myself, and something about your question seems familiar to me-- discontent. We have 8 more days until the darkest day of the year, which is a big deal as far north as we are. Three weeks from now you'll really notice the days start to get longer, and if you're anything like me, your overall mood will shift ever so slightly. Maybe the time to address your question in earnest (for yourself) isn't right now, is what I'm saying-- maybe give it a bit, so that you're able to look at it a bit more fairly.
posted by mireille at 3:44 PM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sorry, I meant three weeks into January you'll really start to notice. I've already mentally moved into the new year.
posted by mireille at 3:52 PM on December 13, 2011

The amount of time you spend at work seems absolutely insane to me. I know that US expectations are way higher in terms of working hours but you're averaging over 10 hours a day as standard in the office plus unpaid overtime etc on a regular basis? When do you get time to just 'be'? When are you hanging out with your family? When are you reading or resting or watching the world unfold? When is your downtime? It's really stressful to be perpetually at someone else's beck and call, no wonder you feel something's missing - could it be your actual life? If you're happy to live modestly what you might need is to look at options for working less hours.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:54 PM on December 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

I came to point out your hours as well, especially that you don't have lunch/breaks. You must rarely see the sun. This week, try taking your lunch hour and leaving the building (bundle up!) and get some sun on your face. Then look into making a better work-life balance.
posted by saucysault at 4:18 PM on December 13, 2011

I know that US expectations are way higher in terms of working hours but you're averaging over 10 hours a day as standard in the office plus unpaid overtime etc on a regular basis?

40-50 hours a week salaried plus unpaid on-call is pretty standard in IT... That's the expectation where I work.
posted by empath at 4:33 PM on December 13, 2011

FWIW, your job sounds about like mine, so I guess that means we're both doing average in terms of our careers.

One question to ask yourself, if you haven't already, is whether or not you'd be spending your time the same way if you didn't have any bills to pay? If you're not, what can you do, either with your life or with your job that might get you there? Are you in or working towards a financial position to do that, whatever it might be, while maintaining your lifestyle?
posted by FreelanceBureaucrat at 6:36 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the input so far. To clarify a few of the questions. I would certainly not be doing this job if I didn't need the money to pay the bills. I work to live though as I read through my question it certainly doesn't look that way. I think people see me as reliable so I may get a few extra things sent my way. My marriage is good...I could probably try to spend more time with just my spouse between work and the child relocation program that occurs every day after school to this activity and that activity.

We've taken a few financial hits over the years with so many relocations and we do have a mortgage that will take another 12 or so years to pay off - it's not killing us but it's our biggest monthly expense.

Whooper coming...I don't sleep much and some times actually enjoy my insomnia as it is the time I take to "just be". I watch bad tv, play on the computer, stoke the fire...just hang out. Yes, I know this contributes to the tired that I've complained about but it doesn't actually stress me out.

I'm not a big planner which has been a terrific advantage and has allowed me to take advantage of many opportunities that have popped up along the way. However, if money was no object I would spend my time travelling.

In the summer I hike, bike, walk, camp and in the winter I cook and make pottery. I'm terrible at keeping the house clean but refuse to put time into doing tasks I really hate in my down time - I some times end up taking days off so that I can catch up on house work.
posted by YukonQuirm at 7:00 PM on December 13, 2011

Your life sounds good as is, but if you're posting this, you make me think that you sound bored. Like you need a new challenge or something to shake things up. Everything you post sounds very settled and unchanging.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:36 PM on December 13, 2011

Best answer: ..I don't sleep much and some times actually enjoy my insomnia as it is the time I take to "just be".

This is probably a much bigger factor than you give it credit for being. First, you're doing this because you don't feel you have adequate downtime to yourself. This becomes your 'me time,' which is needed and is certainly fine, but you're finding it a time of day that's detrimental to your well-being.

Second, the lost sleep matters. You say it doesn't add to your stress, but it likely does add to your gray feeling of low energy. Everything is much, much easier when you're well rested. Moods are better, patience is longer, simple tasks take less attention and effort, leaving you more time and energy for the kinds of thoughts and daydreams - and actions - that make life feel better. Chronic sleep deprivation has a lot of impacts that we don't necessarily connect, as outcomes, to lack of sleep, yet that is their central cause.

Then you say something about your free time like " I also have some flexibility when I really need it so that I can attend important events such as recitals etc. " What about flexibility when you need for a weekend afternoon, a morning to sleep in, a long lunch with friends, a weekend trip by yourself? That's the kind of restorative that might do wonders for you. Stealing time from yourself in the middle of the night is probably pleasant during some of the moments you're experiencing it, but it's also coming at a pretty high cost. I suggest maybe developing some ways of talking to your SO about how to restructure your daily lives and family schedules to allow you at least a few unbroken hours to yourself every week, and longer every couple months. And try to avoid postponing bedtime and aim to get a good night's sleep each night.

Some tricks for that: it sounds totally boring, but promise yourself you'll try it for just a week. It doesn't take too long to see a marked change in energy level with good sleep - just a few days. If you drink, skip drinking in the evenings, at least a few evenings a week so you can sleep with no alcohol at all in your system. You'll sleep deeper. Stay off the computer and turn off the TV a few hours before bedtime - the bright colors and flashing light trigger your brain to stay wakeful.

I dunno, it just seems like this might be a major culprit. Between sleep deprivation and not taking the time to have an inner life, just moving through your outer life of timetables and occupational and family demands, of course you're feeling blah. There's a you in there that would probably like to come out more. It needs rest and time.
posted by Miko at 7:57 PM on December 13, 2011 [8 favorites]

I'm terrible at keeping the house clean but refuse to put time into doing tasks I really hate in my down time - I some times end up taking days off so that I can catch up on house work.

Oh, here's another easy one - get a housecleaning service, every 2 weeks or so. A huge time and stress saver that can free you up to do things you'd rather be doing. No guilt - it's a good way to make an independent living, if you hire an independent cleaner and pay them well. I don't have this myself yet but will after reaching some other financial goals, and the friends I know who do use a cleaning service find this priceless. Just imagine never having it reach the level where you had to blow "a few days off" just to clean the house. What else could you do with "a few days off?"

Self-care! More of it!
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know I couldn't be happy if I worked that much unless I lived to work. But you state you work to live. So to me, your life is missing that work-life balance that I think is so important to your quality of life.

It sounds like your present life is great for your wife and kids but not so much for you, and that's not really fair. No need to make any sudden moves but I would think having a look around at job boards, etc and talking this over with your wife might be a good idea.
posted by hazyjane at 10:47 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to relate this to your children since that is something that gets a kiss and a promise here. To a child there is no such thing as quality time, there is only time. If the only time your kids see you is bed time they're missing out on all the good things you can impart to them just by being there to explain why that moose wants to eat the garden. And the more time you spend with your children early the less time you will worry about them older, because they do get older a lot faster than a 60 hour week. Look at your job, find the underlying priorities of it and give some of them away, you don't need to carry everyone in your office at the expense of your family. You will probably find you enjoy the additional hours even if they are taken up with family things rather than solo time.
posted by ptm at 12:10 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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