Balance can be defined as both a noun and a verb.
bal·ance/ˈbaləns/Noun: An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.Verb: Keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall.
Balance is something everyone deals with in their life; work, hobbies, school, fun, spouses, partners, families, and friends that all demand and deserve attention and time. Everyone has, at some point, had to struggle with maintaining a balance of things that fulfill their personal needs.
Most of us, I’m sure, have heard at one point or another of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you’ve never heard of it, or if you want to learn more about it, hit up Google for a quick search (isn’t the internet fantastic!?). It’s interesting stuff – you should do it.
I think that those of us that work in the emergency services (EMS, police, and fire) often have a more difficult time than most when it comes to this balance. The high stress level these jobs inherently carry are a combination of long hours, few and infrequent (if any) breaks, and dealing with the things that most people don’t have the natural ability to deal with.
I’ll also be the first to admit that balance in my own life has been a huge struggle; and it continues to be one. Looking back over the past I don’t know of a time where I sincerely felt like my life was completely balanced; between working more than one job at a time since I can remember, being in college and having fun full time, being in college and learning full time, relationships, friends, family, fun, hobbies… I still don’t know that I spend the right amount of time in any one place.
One of the reasons I throw myself into work is to stop myself from thinking. When I think, as I am now, I’m reminded of a lot of things. Sure, most of them are good. Great, in fact. But today I can’t seem to get past some negative things that have changed in my more recent years. I used to have a close, tight-knit group of friends. They were more than friends though. Many of them are the reason I’m in EMS (although, many are also the reason college didn’t really “work out” the first time). Most of them I’ve lost touch with – a great deal simply because of geography and eventually time. My life shifted from too much time with friends and having fun to too much time at work and school and doing nothing else.
It seems to be a constant see-saw that I can’t get balanced. Did anyone else ever do that in Elementary school? (..or even more recently, maybe?) You get on a teeter-totter with a friend and try to get it to balance. Once you do you try to see how long you can get it to stay there. That’s about the best way I can describe what I want right now and what I think more people need to do in their lives.
From experience, I know that this can be especially difficult in EMS. Most jobs as EMTs and Paramedics don’t pay well so most of us have 2, or 3, or sometimes even 4 jobs. Unless you’re romantically involved with someone who is a police officer, firefighter, or in EMS themselves it’s hard to answer the question of “how was your day?” when you get home. The same goes for family. Sure, I entertain my family with stories of odd or somewhat comical calls, but there’s a lot they don’t know about. Some things I’ve encountered are hard enough for me to deal with (in life in general, as well as work) and it’s nothing that my family needs to be concerned with. In some ways this has distanced me some from them.
On top of working, being happy in a relationship has greatly changed where I spend my time. Despite my desire to lose weight and get in shape I spend more time in my apartment than I do at the gym. That and the fact that as the newest full time Paramedic I’m at the bottom of the seniority list I now work every Friday and Saturday night has significantly changed my night life, as in I no longer have one. Working nights most of the week at one job and a couple days at the other has messed with my sleep schedule enough that I go for days without sleep and then finally crash. My closest friends are no longer so close despite the fact I want, and often need, them to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I am the person at fault. It’s my life that needs balance. But that’s really the point that I’m trying to make. We all need to control our own lives. There’s wants and needs but we need to be in control of them – they don’t just work themselves out. It is each of our responsibilities to make our own decisions and to make time for what we need.
Yes – we all need to work to pay the bills, eat, and make sure there’s a roof over our heads; but until we realize and act upon our other needs – such as those for family; for friends, for fun and relaxation; for love – and make sure we balance the time and energy spent on each, we can’t be completely happy.
With that, I encourage you all to sit for a minute, or two, or ten, or however long it takes, and think about what you have and how much time you spend on it, and, more importantly, to make the time for the things you still need that you don’t have.
Until next time… mD
I would like to dedicate this post to my friends; past, present and future, who’s fault it is that I’m in EMS, who have encouraged me along the way, have held me up when I was on my way down, and have knocked me down when I needed it. Thank you – for you, I owe everything.