We’ve all been there. Checking a work email on a vacation. Answering a work call on a holiday. Sacrificing a social or family event to finish a project. Or skipping doing anything social because we’re just too tired to do anything but crawl into bed. It’s what we do because we want to get ahead, impress the boss, make a difference. The term ‘work-life balance' is tossed around a lot, but I think the closest some of us get to it is pinning a few catchy quotes about it on Pinterest.
In my new book, Slammed, the heroine Dixie is work-obsessed. She’s in the first few years of her dream career and she’s hungry and ambitious. Eli is less intense but just as driven in his pursuit of making the National Hockey League. He has additional issues I won’t divulge here (no spoilers) that make him feel he has to give all or nothing to his career, and of course he picks ‘all’.
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My characters are a wee bit younger than I am (when I was their age Y2K was a thing) but I remember jumping into the work force like it was yesterday. I assumed it would be easy–that a nine-to-five would mean just that and I would have all this free time in the evenings and on weekends for girls nights, boozy brunches, and hot dates. I’d be slaying my career and my social life. I blame Sex and the City. Those girls gave me false hope.
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When I was Dixie and Eli’s age, I was starting a career in entertainment journalism eager to be the next Mary Hart. (Don’t know who Mary Hart is? See, I told you I was old). I remember the long hours editing, the late nights writing, and weekends covering events. What I don’t remember though, is those glamorous nights and weekends filled with dates and brunches and mini-vacations—because they didn’t exist. I was crushing the career part, but where was the other side? The personal happiness?
Dixie is similar—on the brink of a promotion, working constantly, with little time for more than quick visits with her family. Granted this is fiction, and it’s romance not tragedy, so although I wanted realism and drew a little on my own experiences, I left out the long nights alone in a basement apartment in Canada eating Kraft Dinner straight out of the pot standing over the stove. I had no idea what work balance was and I think we all have moments where the pendulum swings too far into the work side and if we don’t make an actual effort, it won’t swing back. And happiness, like just about everything else in life, doesn’t come from doing too much of one thing, like work. It comes from learning moderation. Balance.
Quotes like “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life” hit us in the feels hard enough that we post on social media, but sometimes not hard enough that we act on it. I know a career is important and it can be a passion like mine is now. But if we aren’t careful, no matter how much we love our career, our happiness will be one-sided—work only—and is that enough?
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Sometimes it takes a while for a person to realize that career success alone is not enough. For others, like Dixie in Slammed, something happens suddenly, like finding out the guy of your dreams is part of the team you work for and there’s a strict non-fraternization policy. Sacrificing personal happiness for professional success is easy until that personal happiness has a face … a charming, handsome face.
When characters struggle with finding happiness inside and outside of the office at the same time, it feels good because we know we’re not alone. Even the woman who has the rugged cowboy or buff billionaire, or in the case of Slammed, the sexy rookie goalie chasing her feels like us sometimes. And when she makes the changes—big or small—that it takes to find the balance and be happy in and out of the office, it gives us hope. Because if they can do it, we can too.
Victoria Denault loves long walks on the beach, cinnamon dolce lattes, and writing angst-filled romance. She lives in L.A. but grew up in Montreal, which is why she is fluent in English, French and hockey. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.
Body image of skater via Filip Mroz/Unsplash.