When The Full-Time Commute is Over—Now What? An Open Conversation with Myself—Part 2 — The Balance of Time — by Steve Harding


The Balance of Time

It was a balancing act. A tug of war if you will.  It was the continuum of competing interests for the most valuable commodity of all; time.   In reality, it’s always been that way. The demands we put on ourselves. The expectations from others. Organizational skillsYou know, the one with the giant time commitment of work on one side and all the other commitments on the other side? Think of the pans on a scale but you’re not at Sutter’s Mill and you are not weighing gold. You’re measuring a more valuable commodity, “Time.” What seemed to be the heavier than life work filled nugget is gone. Now you’re going to have to add new weights, subtract old ones, and level life’s new commitments. You need to reprioritize. Reset the clock.

For some it’s just doesn’t seem that complicated. Downsize, upsize, move to the coast, whatever.  To the casual observer of others, it just seamlessly happens. Grandchildren, golf, tennis, travel, becoming a master chef, training for a marathon and playing in a retro rock band all vie for a sliver of someone’s time. But for you, now let’s see. You do have two adult children, one married one not. One lives on the other side of the country. No grandchildren to be seen on either coast. Last time you played golf, it played you. Between lousy eyesight and slow reflexes the tennis ball bounces off the back fence by the time you finish your forehand. On the plus side, you are learning your way around the stove top and you do travel. (Bless Trader Joe’s cookbooks and Road Scholars travel guides.) As far as running and grey haired rock bands go, you were a high school and college sprinter with a few records and the medals to prove it. But at the same time you were leading a double life; singing and drumin in a rock “n” roll band.   With your  musicians union card in hand, you even spent some time in recording studios. Posting no better than a “B+” average in either endeavor, those urges have come and gone. You really should have stuck with the trumpet.

So now that you are chronologically an adult, what else? Take greater advantage of that nature preserve in your backyard. Use those new hiking poles and that spiffy hybrid street bike. Get outside and don’t watch the news. (You WILL go blind) Split the care of the three dogs, yard work, the laundry, and house cleaning. Post more of the mundane wifely duties on your side of the ledger. However, make sure you take the time to rest and reflect. You did make it a point to play a part in raising your children and taking care of aging parents. As a dad you drove the kids to school and made it to most of their events. As a son you made sure you talked loud so  mom could hear. But on the overall home front, you really didn’t do the heavy lifting. That was done by the woman with the multiple titles. For more than eleven years, she was the multi-tasker, the partner, the mom, the sandwich generation caregiver. She put her own career on hold to do so. On the other hand you told yourself you just didn’t have enough time. The demands at work had to be the priority. It didn’t matter if the one way commute took 10 minutes or 90, you were still gone 14 hours a day. Rationalize it anyway you want, you saw yourself as the responsible, totally work committed, bread winner.  She was the manager of home life. The duties were split. Yet when needed,  you were the off the bench, go to, pinch hitter. Time withstanding, a new schedule is now in order.

P.S. Don’t ever forget, your kids really do like you!! You must have done something right.

Steve Harding finished his full-time working world in 2014. During his 40 year career, his professional travels cut across higher education, the public, non-profit, and private sectors. Traversing over two-thirds of the state of California, he has served as a city manager, department director, corporate vice president, and president of a publicly held non-profit. Fifty-two courses and over a 1,000 students later, he continues to travel along his fifteen year path as a student as well as a teacher.

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