Work-Life Balance

Work-Life Balance

One of the ten assignments we have to complete during our time here at The Washington Center is to conduct an informational interview with a professional in a career similar to one we aspire to have one day in the future. You set up 8 to 10 questions, find a super important person with a cool job, email or call them until they can’t ignore you anymore, hope and pray they agree to tell you their life story for about 20 minutes, and then write a two-page paper about it and turn it in. Sounds terrifying, right?

Well, it’s actually not all that bad. You’d be surprised to learn that most people with jobs that many of us look forward to having are eager to help students and interns find their path by means of an informational interview. One of the people that I interviewed (the assignment only requires one, but you should do as many as you can for your own benefit) was a forensic psychologist that works for the U.S. Marshals. I asked him questions and he told me about his job, what he does, what he studied in school, the people he met that helped him get the fancy, enormous corner office that he has today... for about an hour. The last question I asked him was something along the lines of, “How do you maintain a balance between your career and your personal life?”

This is an important question to ask people who have jobs you’re interested in, and it’s also something that those of us at The Washington Center are learning here in D.C. Most of us work almost 40 hours a week and have a 3-hour class one night out of the week. You need pick up tips on how to balance your job with your schoolwork, because if you don’t, you start falling behind in one of these and the work adds up very quickly. I’m reminded of this every time I have an exam in my Forensic Psychology class for this semester. I try not to cram because I actually want to learn the material, and I try not to study at work because I have other things I need to be doing there.

You need to find a way to piece it all together; you need to find a way to compartmentalize everything you’re doing at once, but also tie it together into one meaningful part of your life. The work part. But what a lot of us forget is that the time we have off is just as important as the time we’re in the office or studying or writing these blogs. Finding leisure time to be with friends and family is just as important to your mental health as finishing that report is to your grade. These kinds of de-stressing activities are what make us functional. Having hobbies or working on skills that you can call your own is so important and so overlooked in our Westernized world. I know a couple of friends whose dads never stop working; they’re even closing business deals or planning meetings in their dreams. We eat, breathe, and sleep our work.

What I’m learning here by meeting all kinds of people who work in the Law and Criminal Justice field is that “leaving work at work” is one of the most important things to keep in mind. The psychologist at the Marshals told me that especially in this field, employees might need psychological assistance in doing just that. Therapy programs exist just for Department of Justice employees who see all kinds of gruesome, traumatizing things happen every day. I might never have known that if I had not asked this specific person, and now I’m better prepared to handle it in the future because I’m expecting this to be an issue with the line of work I want to pursue. Not being conscious of keeping that work-life balance in order could be catastrophic for yourself and your family.

While I’m not at that level of work yet, I am getting a taste of what it feels like to balance work, actual work, and my personal life. Life at school back at the University of Florida is so different from what I’m doing here in D.C.; I never had to worry about keeping that kind of balance because I live with my friends, we go out together, we do yoga together, and we study together. But out here in the real world, it may not be that easy. It’s essential to start thinking about issues such as these right now before they even have time to sneak up on you in the future.

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