During our recent Peer Educator Welcome session, a simple statement was made along the lines of “students can find it very stressful when they try to lead separate lives at school and at home”. At that moment something clicked.
That was me! All of my adult life I have been very careful not to allow my “lives” to intersect and in the past it has caused me great stress when they did. Suddenly I felt like I was not in a position to help students manage this transition in their own lives.
I can’t say when the separation between my personal and professional life occurred. It must have been long ago since my family, until only recently, thought I was an accountant. I still don’t think they have a true understanding of what I do.
The idea of separating professional from personal life was passed to me as a student with the emergence of social media. I was always warned, with good reason, that what I post online will live forever and may come back to haunt me. Instead of being taught how to take ownership of my presence on social media, I was warned to exclude professional life from it, essentially creating the great divide between my lives as family, friend, and colleague.
But what was I hiding? Why did I feel it necessary to lead separate lives? In the end the biggest question was, who am I? I know I am a mother, a friend, a professional, but what exactly does that mean?
As a mother, I like to think of myself as nurturing, reliable, organized, and helpful. My goal is to lovingly prepare my children to achieve their goals and get from life everything they want. I am the tactical household planner, I organize our day to day lives, our finances, and even our meals. As a mother, my role is to take care of the details of day to day life so that my family can concentrate on learning and growing. I try to lead by example, teaching my children respect, good work ethic, and manners. Also, I provide a lot of unsolicited advice and direction.
I have a small circle of friends, most of whom I’ve known since my early secondary school days. We have watched each other grow into adults and start families. To them, I am the person that they always go to for advice. Whether it be related to personal relationships, or simply when the next bus will arrive; I am the person they can depend on to provide reliable, accurate direction. I enjoy entertaining my friends with good food and drinks. I am often the leader in my circle, the first person to try something new and will persuade others to follow me.
In my professional life I hope that others see me as a hard worker with adjectives such as reliable, responsible, and loyal. I am an active learner, and am always looking for ways to improve myself and my work. I find it exciting to find new ways to increase my efficiency and accuracy at work.
I thought more about who I am in all of these roles and how I could possibly define them in one person. In the end, I discovered that I am not as different as I thought. I do carry the same qualities from one role to another, I am one person!
Since I have realized that I carry the same qualities from one role to the next I realize that I don’t need to keep them under separate labels. Allowing my roles to cross paths would probably benefit me, and on that note the thought of integrating my personal and professional life became less scary. So I took the plunge. My next steps will be to integrate my friends and family into my professional life. I am proud of who I am and the challenges I have overcome to achieve what I have. Maybe I can be an inspiration to others who have faced similar challenges.