Are you on the fast track or nap track?
I recently stumbled across David Robert's great, five-month-old article on Grist, "The Medium Chill." If it's new to you too, you should go give it a read, like, stat. Go ahead, I'll wait.
This article touches upon something I've been realizing over the past few months (maybe longer?) that would surprise my younger self: I no longer want to climb the career ladder. In fact, I think I'm pretty happy at the level I'm at. I'm thrilled to know that others are thinking along these lines and want to have these discussions, not just for the sake of our planet, but also for the sake of our sanity.
In my college days I used to daydream of being so busy and important, that I too would need to have my cell phone glued to my ear as I drove (my expensive luxury sedan) into the office. There would be important notes from my secretary that couldn't wait, and vital decisions that only I could make, NOW! I know, major eye roll, right? I mean, who dreams of being a yuppie? Me, apparently.
Ah the folly of youth. Now those long-lost dreams make me laugh and give thanks that they never came true. The stress of a job that required me to be constantly connected would be agony. While I wouldn't turn down more money if my bosses decided to give it to me (I'm no dummy), I've realized that moving up would almost undoubtedly require more stress than the requisite bump in pay would be worth. I want to spend more time away from work, not less. And supervising others? Total pain in the tookus.
A year or so ago I had a networking lunch with a friend of a friend who is doing extremely well in his career. A long-time VP of a large organization, this guy is about as close to the top as someone in my industry gets. I was sweating this lunch big time. First, I'm not great with meeting people in general. I get nervous, freeze up and can't think of anything to say. Plus, this was someone almost twice my age, definitely twice (and then some) my income bracket, who was levels above me careerwise, and who's favor I wanted to earn.
I need not have worried. This very successful man is the nicest, most-down-to-earth guy you'll ever meet. He was a pleasure to chat with. At the time I was having some career angst. I was debating the need for a change and wasn't sure how, or if, to go about it. This gentleman was a great listener who provided great advice and went out of his way to offer his assistance. I was at that point in my career, he advised, where moving up gets more challenging. Among some of the less-personal advice he gave me was to pursue a master's (since I was thinking about it), join a professional organization in our field, and volunteer in a capacity that was resume-worthy. But what I remember most about our conversation, is what happened after he finished telling me about his action-packed summer, which was full of meetings, work travel and major projects.
"Isn't it hard to have a work-life balance with all the responsibilities you have?" I asked, mostly because I was struggling with the same issue, with a schedule that was less than 25% as full as his.
He laughed, oh how he laughed. There is no work-life balance in this job, he said, it's all work, no life.
Umm, I want to have a life outside the office. In fact, I want more of a life outside the office, not less.
In the days that followed that meeting, it hit me. I didn't want to invest even more of my time to a career, that while it can be creatively rewarding, can also sometimes feel like the bane of my existence. I didn't want the extra hours of my life energy drained, and certainly not the extra stress involved with climbing the career ladder.
Sometimes I feel out of place for thinking these things. I have many co-workers who are always worrying about getting ahead, bettering themselves, and getting the next promotion. I have a friend who made disparaging remarks about a neighbor who retired young and "wasted his time" not working or achieving. I want to argue with these people, to tell them I admire anyone who has managed to retire young, or thrive on less, but I generally take the easy way out and keep my mouth shut.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about being stagnate. I still want to learn new skills, I still want to grow, to be challenged. But moving up and dealing with the politics, meetings, stress, demands, etc. that come with it? No thanks.
I think the view from here is just fine.
What about you? Is downshifting more your speed? If so, do you openly discuss this with friends and family, or do you keep your quest for less to yourself?