Does work-life balance only work as a lump sum?

The past few months, I have been nothing but swamped with work. Particularly since my return to Jakarta following my one-month vacation in May. My life has been revolving around my job and that only. And it has been a roller coaster of various moods and emotions, from tired to proud to drained to elated too. I did get a lot of things done and achieved, thankfully, but at what expense?

I have not talked properly to my closest friends in weeks – even months for some. My sibling is working on his undergraduate thesis, in a field that is somewhat close to my career, yet I could only pop in to check on his progress and help him polish his presentation or thesis draft every once in a while. Working from Jakarta again after two years of living in my hometown also means much less time to be with my four-legged furry kids, i.e., adorable pet cats. Things are also loosening with some of the people I met during and had kind of regularly talked to following my UK vacation, since the time zone difference itself has even been a challenge from the start.

Even little, seemingly-overlooked privileges such as going to bed when you feel that your body needs to rest without the crippling anxiety about not finishing your to-do list for the day yet, taking the time to scroll aimlessly on your Grab/Gojek/Shopee app to choose which food for lunch and supper today without guilt, enjoying a long shower with your favourite fragrance of body wash without worrying about having to immediately jump onto the next things on your calendar, or watching a couple of episodes of silly, wacky TV series just for the sake of it have become luxuries I am not always able to afford.

There were times I really just wanted to go to bed because my eyes were no longer cooperating and it was already midnight, but I was still in the middle of making a 40-slide PPT that I need to present in the afternoon. I feel rushed when choosing which menu to order for meals today, or when taking a morning shower because there are hundreds of things I need to do afterwards. And I have completely lost track of all the TV series I used to look forward to.

I also have not had a chance to polish a few drafts about things I wanted to write following my almost life-altering solo trip earlier this year, that I am almost starting to forget the tiny details that mattered when it happened. I have not sorted my thousands of pictures from that trip for my other portfolio blog. I collected a bunch of footage, thinking I would create one Instagram reel for every city I visited, but I don’t know if I ever will anymore.

My boyfriend and I have also been deferring our proper dinner date for months. It was initially just for a couple of awards he got in his previous office, but is now with the addition of him moving to a better role in another company, and a few things I also accomplished at my workplace in the past few months – just to illustrate the duration of how long we’ve been postponing this simple plan of a celebratory dinner.

On the other hand, my career has been in a good place this year, alhamdulillah. All the hard work was thankfully, truly not for nothing. But I do not want to turn this blog post into a typical bragging post on LinkedIn, therefore I will only say that things are looking up and I have been feeling confident about the trajectory I am currently in. It may need a completely separate post about my recent pondering about my career, but all in all, I am grateful for where I am at – even despite the expenses.

But we’re back to the initial question – are they worth the sacrifices?

I sure did take quite a few off days earlier this year, but is that the kind of work-life balance I truly need?

Working so hard for eleven months with only occasional social life and minimum life pleasures, and then cramping all the effort to “live life to its fullest” into a one-month vacation per annum, and that’s it?

Because my friends, significant other, and family need my presence for the entire year. I cannot only be available for a month and then just disappear for the rest of the year. And what comprises life’s true happiness if it’s not the social connection we build and maintain? (Science backed this up, BTW.)

So, how shall I change things and introduce more little joys into the mundanity of my daily life without losing the grip on a career I’ve been working hard to build?

I have been wanting to regularly hang out with a different group of friends every week, whether it’s mine, my boyfriend’s, or our mutuals. I want to sign up for a sports club membership, not only to be more physically fit (because I truly, desperately need this one) but also to get introduced to new people. I had this idea to invite my boyfriend to get a taste of being in a Couchsurfing community by hanging out with any traveller to Jakarta, the two of us and them. And I do think I would benefit from volunteering in a subject I truly am passionate about, to meet like-minded people who might as well be my next lifelong friends.

All the wants and to-dos that I barely have the chance to make time for or to realize them.

Why do I have to wait until it’s one of those twenty-five days where I get to be off work to truly be immersed in what life has to offer? (Okay – it’s actually thirty-five this year since I brought an extra ten from last year. Much appreciated, company!)

Does work-life balance only work as a lump-sum, instead of being spread into smaller installments of an everyday, or at least a weekly, thing?

How do you reinforce the balance in the daily when you can’t even afford to leave your desk at five o’clock?

I am leaving this post with zero conclusions because I, too, have no clue. I am only here to dump my thoughts and hopefully gather similar hustlers with same old issues. (Let’s put that FGD talent to a better use that actually matters, people.)

How do I function as a human being that is a lot more than her job – especially when the job does not even feel like the true destiny I’m meant to pursue forever? (And more on this perhaps in my next post.)

Until then, let me know if you’ve found your ways around it, will you?

13 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Hope you will find your balance soon. I know the feeling when swamped with deadlines and feel like you can’t breathe.

    I am lucky to work in a country where they champion work-life balance. “Can’t make it? Well, we didn’t have enough time to do it properly”. However, I do work overtime (very rare occasion indeed when I go over my 37-hour weekly work hours) when nearing a deadline.

    1. It does start with the culture, doesn’t it? People in my company are great minds but many of them seem to normalize working after hours since not only that we do have that much of workload – it also seems that they’re so passionate about what they’re doing that the excessive hours do not seem to matter to them. But for me it’s a different story ahha. Btw, 37 hours sound like an awesome deal!

  2. Work-life balance juga sesuatu yg skrg jg lagi alamin. Abis nikah, resign, pindah rumah, pindah kerja.. berjuang di tempat baru. Tapi sepertinya mungkin adaptasi km lebih di atas itu ya… tapi paling gak hidup itu berprogres ya ga?

    1. Waa aku malah gak kebayang kalo di posisi Mba yang rentetan perubahannya banyak banget. Moga dipermudah ya Mba.. Iya bersyukur banget banget buat progressnya, tapi emang manusia selalu merasa ada yang kurang ideal, apalagi beberapa hal yang menurut kita paling penting dalam hidup biasanya susah didapet dari kerjaan..

  3. Wah, wah, wah. Buat orang yg baru banget nyebur di karir yg serius. Ini jadi insight baru untuk menghadapi kenyataan nih, mbak hehe.

    Baru ngeh ternyata definisi work-life balance sesungguhnya tuh yg kayak gini. Soalnya selama ini yg aku bayangkan itu di mana kerjaan dan kehidupan beneran bisa seimbang dengan sempurna. Eh ternyata banyak strugglenya yaaa ๐Ÿ˜€

    Nice article btw! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hihi kayaknya tiap orang punya definisi berbeda tergantung nature & culture dari kerjaan dan kehidupan pribadi mereka ya, tapi sepertinya kalau aku lihat seenggaknya dari orang-orang sekitarku, yang common (unfortunately) memang begini ๐Ÿคฃ Kerja keras sekian ratus hari dalam setahun, hepi-hepi dirapel dalam sebulan or less… Btw maafkan for the long delay in replying, aku baru sempet log in lagi ke WP huhu.

  4. I thought the same recently, and then questioning my purpose of life. Eventhough working in a country that is so “work-life balance”, but still, living far away from your family is another struggle of loneliness. Sometimes thinking to quit and choose another career, but I don’t think I can live without security. Never think that being adult is this hard.

    1. Hey! Yes, sure, adulthood is always a series of sacrificing one thing for another – maybe for now security is more important for you (and me), but who knows what would happen in the future, no? Kudos to us for managing to hang on thus far. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I used to think that too. But i come to a realization that i dont think there is a work life balance. Someone told me if you view your work as a calling, it is a labour of love rather than laborious. And the calling can be a life calling engagement.

    1. I think I get what you mean. At some point the work itself will truly integrate into your life that it’s basically almost impossible to separate it from the latter – otherwise life isn’t even going to be whole, I guess. Thus, how lucky are those who get to make their life calling as their job, aren’t they? (Btw, sorry for the long delay in reply – just got back to WP a couple days back!!)

  6. Aku baru kemaren mikir klo orang Jakarta ga tau cara bikin hidupnya ada work-life balance. Aku email inquiry kerjaan ke beberapa perusahaan translation hari sabtu malem trus ada yg langsung bales emailnya dong beberapa jam kemudian. Cuma buat kasih tau klo mereka ga ada servis yg gw tanyain. Gw yg kayakโ€ฆ wow life for work banget ini orang Jakarta?

    1. Hahha aku jujur malu ngakunya tapi kayaknya I can understand kenapa mereka begitu deh ๐Ÿคฃ kadang kayak gatel aja pengen beresin sekarang meski paham sih masih ada besok… Mungkin not necessarily kultur Jakarta tapi memang populasinya banyak aja yang begitu di Jakarta hahha. Btw maaf banget baru sempet buka blog lagi Kakkk!

  7. Very interesting post! After working full time for around 15 years, I find myself don’t want to be tied to 1 company and value my freedom more than before. In Jakarta I always feel guilty if I don’t work or busy doing something, meanwhile here in Bali it’s normal to see people not working or work a little. But for working I think Jakarta is still the best, Indonesia, although sometimes I can’t have work-life balance.

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