Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Balancing Act

on February 2, 2011

My job doesn’t require that I give my whole life over, unless it does.

Confused?

When I’m home, I have a 9 to 5 job.  I don’t generally arrive to work early, and I don’t generally stay late.  Of course, there are times when I’m busy or otherwise engaged at work, and in those cases, I will happily stay to complete my work or go in early to get something done.  But, I try not to make a habit of it.

I take all of my vacation days and when I’m on vacation, I am emphatically not at work. I don’t check in or check email.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m not an employee when I’m on vacation.  Ok, there were a few times, something was going on and I checked in online, called the office, and tried to sort something out.  But again, I don’t make a habit of it.

Of course, when I’m traveling abroad, I’m working 24 hours a day.

I owe my organization and my colleagues (both at home and abroad) diligent and thorough work.  I take every opportunity to take every meeting (I visited a jail last year to meet with inmates), to speak to as many people as possible, attend as many events as possible.  I stay up late or get up early for conference calls.  I work over breakfast, over lunch and during dinner.

That’s not to say that I’m logged in, communicating with my bosses or even necessarily thinking about my job every minute of every day. But I am representing my organization, my colleagues, my field and my country every second.  And I do keep that in mind with everything I do.  When I talk to taxi drivers, order food, check into my hotel room, meet with colleagues, or get a drink at a bar at the end of the day, I am aware that what I do, what I say, and how I act sends a message to everyone around me.  It can be exhausting, but I am a guest in someone else’s country, and I owe them my thoughtfulness, positive attitude and no small amount of grace.  I try all the food put in front of me (ate turtle last year in Cambodia), I remember my pleases and thank yous (all down to mom and dad), and I start every interaction with a smile (especially helpful at customs and passport checks).

So many people who work in my field tend to forget this: As a visitor in another country, you’re not just working when you’re working.

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