B is for Balancing (No, Not Your Cheque Book)

March 20, 2012

When I was living (err… taking time off) in Toronto last year, one of my biggest struggles was trying to understand how everyone balanced their work lives with their personal lives. Coming from a city where your life is basically planned out for you, should you choose to go down each path that is made available, I was lost. The next few statements may sound generalized but are all based on my life in Victoria and the people I met and spent time with in Toronto.

In Victoria, most people work a 9-5 because it pays well and helps them buy a car, house and/or vacation. If anyone is asked to work even an hour of overtime, it is not without at least an internal hissy fit. In Toronto, more people have the opportunity to work in a field they are passionate about and, as a result, work crazy hours. But, as long as they are continually fuelled by passion, they do so without complaint.

In Victoria, I can have an entire week of social (and non-social, a.k.a. freelance or homework) events planned by Monday afternoon. In Toronto, however, if I asked someone on Thursday what they were doing that weekend, the answer was usually along the lines of, “we’ll have to see when we get there!”

In Victoria, if someone says they will meet you at noon, the latest you will see them is 12:15 p.m. And they will feel horrible for showing up late. The first time I made plans with a friend in Toronto, I showed up 5 minutes late and waited another hour for her to text me and say she was just getting on the subway. (I saw her 2 hours after our original meet-up time.)

While neither of these lifestyles sounds ideal to me, you can see why I constantly felt frustrated by the lifestyle I was used to and the one Torontarians were living. Until I got it. I had my aha! moment. Victorians work to live, while Torontarians live to work. (Again, I know not everyone in each of these cities is like this, but hear me out…)

When I came back to Victoria, I was finally able to recognize some of the reasons I originally fled. I needed a (big) change. I was longing for an adventure. And I wanted to have some fun. But, more than anything else, I was sick of my routine. I was tired of going to my 9-5, living paycheque-to-paycheque and planning every night of my life a week in advance. I needed those Torontarians to turn my life upside-down.

In doing so, Toronto also showed me the things I know I want in my daily life. Friends who laugh with me (and at me) and who constantly make me smile. A job that fulfills me. Spontaneity. And the ability to celebrate anything and everything, just because I want to.

I had forgotten about most of those lessons, until a few weeks ago. While I came home inspired in May, I was back to my old routine by June. And I’ve been so caught up in work, homework and my side jobs, that I can honestly say I don’t remember huge chunks of the last few months. Seriously… what have I been doing with my time!? Blogging at home, while avoiding spending money. That’s it.

And then I started going to the gym. It would be silly for me to say that only a few weeks of going to the gym has changed me… right? Well then call me silly, because it has. It’s taking some getting used to but the extra energy that exercising gives me has changed so many things in my daily life. I procrastinate less. I cook more. I say yes to things I used to say no to (usually more exercising with friends). And I take more time for myself, when I know I need it.

It’s helping me find my balanced lifestyle. A mix of living to work and working to live. Don’t get me wrong, though… I haven’t found my balance yet! My sleep schedule is off, I often forget to check (or write on) my blog, and some days I can’t find a positive in any situation. But I’m getting there…

What does your balanced lifestyle look like?

  • Financial Confessions of a Former Brat March 20, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Guilty of living to work. I don’t know about Victoria, but having lived in the Toronto area my whole life, you’re spot on. For most people I know around here, including me, work is life.

    I don’t even want to THINK about what my balanced lifestyle would be, haha. I’m all over the place. What I’ve been doing for the past couple of months seems to work for me- I go hard with work and school the whole workweek, then I take the entire weekend and escape to my boyfriend’s house for me time because I can’t get it at home.

  • addvodka March 20, 2012 at 5:51 am

    I’m the opposite of balanced, but I know what you mean by a few weeks of going to the gym changing you; it does! Energy levels, confidence, happiness. I need to get back to it, because I only go like once a week now and I remember that good stuff fondly, ha.

    My balanced lifestyle would split my time between work, homework, blogging, reading, exercise, time with friends and time with the boyfriend. An absolutely difficult ideal!

  • carlybumstead March 20, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Having grown up in a small town west of Toronto and then moving here for school, it was a major shock to my routine. I found, even after living in the city for five years, I needed a break every couple of months– like taking a weekend off to go back home, or visiting the cottage in the summer. I know what you mean when you say Torontonians live to work. Everything is so fast-paced here, I think the city dwellers forget to enjoy the little moments. They’re just moving so fast, they don’t even notice them. But there are still many of us who don’t fit into this routine, and we manage to make it work. Which is probably why I had to move slightly north of the big city when I was looking for a place to truly call home. I enjoyed your post :) Maybe I’ll have to do a sequel from the Torontonian perspective!

    • Cait March 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      Despite living to work, most of the people I know in Toronto do soak up the little moments… but they’re all from my hometown. ;)

  • Michelle March 20, 2012 at 6:47 am

    I’m horrible with balancing my life. I need a good sleep schedule, a work and blog routine and so on.

  • belowhermeans March 20, 2012 at 7:48 am

    One of my favorite posts from you thus far. I don’t know Canada very well and ate up this insight!

    • Cait March 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      Aww, thanks! Happy you liked it.

  • Amy March 20, 2012 at 8:45 am

    I’m guilty of a pseudo-balance.. what I feel is balanced for me (which if I’m being honest.. isn’t), is insane to others. On the east coast you work to live, so the girl that works 50+ hour weeks, is getting a second degree, and a social life – is an odd ball.

  • Jordann March 20, 2012 at 10:26 am

    What a great post. For me a balanced lifestyle is having the time to do the things that you want, and to be doing mostly, the things that you want. Whenever a new opportunity comes up I try and look at it critically while thinking “Will this add joy to my life”? If the answer is no, I try to say no, but it doesn’t always work.

    • Cait March 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      Good one! I need to remember to do that sometimes, as well.

  • hithatsmybike March 20, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I feel permanently unbalanced = haha I haven’t yet found what’s “right” for me.

    I know I need a 9-5 job and that I’m most productive in the mornings. I know I need a break from people — and big breaks, often. I probably need to be alone at least 3 hours per day in order to function (I work with people and it gets exhausting so eating dinner alone is basically a must for me).

    I need to find some sort of balance with exercise though. I want to make it a bigger priority, but I thrive on routine and I’ve had trouble making it a routine. And going out with friends. My aforementioned need for alone time can make me a recluse, but I find I get bored if I don’t go do something at least twice per week.

  • Saving My Toonies March 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    I’m also one that struggles to find balance. I try to do a million things at once. I do know, if I really don’t want to do it, I won’t. I work for a non profit so I don’t bring home a huge paycheque but I really enjoy the work I do and the people I work with. I don’t want to be one to work away my life without being happy at the same time. You spend so much time at work, it’s really important to me that I enjoy being there!

  • Simple Rich Living March 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Work currently consumes me. This is definitely not the lifestyle I want. I am hoping work transfer to Ontario this summer and hope for more balance in life once I get there.

  • BrokeElizabeth March 21, 2012 at 2:19 am

    I’m so bad at this! I swing back and forth between the extremes of working too much and playing too much, and haven’t found a schedule that works for me yet.

  • shopping2saving March 21, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I’m so with you on this one Cait. I truly believe just one DAY at the gym can change your whole perspective and mood. Your energy improves tenfold and you feel happy! Those are the endorphins taking control of you :)

    I can’t wait for the day where I’ll be able to make my own schedule and escape the 9 to 5, 5 days a week schedule.

    • Cait March 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Me too! Although I’d also be happy at a 9-5 that I love to be at.

  • fabulouslyfrugirl March 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I live in Toronto and I, too, struggle with balance. When I first started working, I swung too far in the direction of throwing myself in work, and now I question what I want in a balanced life.

    I would love to be able to have more flexibility with my schedule, maybe work 4 days a week, or something, even if it’s with less pay.

  • SheBloggs March 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    I’ve been struggling with balance for a very, very long time. In the last few months, I’ve just accepted that for the next little while, I will not likely have balance. I do live to work instead of work to live, but I figure that if I just do it for a little bit longer, I’ll end up happier in the long run.

    I agree that Toronto is insane when it comes to balance. I don’t think I know a single person who can really say they’re balanced.

  • Melissa March 26, 2012 at 5:43 am

    The late thing in Toronto drives me CRAZY. Like, it absolutely blows my mind. Sometimes I even avoid hanging out with people that are so cavalier with my time. Like, I get that if you need to meet someone at noon, and you leave on time, but the subway is delayed, or something comes up five minutes before you meant to leave and that holds you up, that that’s just life, but there seem to be so many people that just hear “lunch at noon” and actually plan to leave after noon. I just find it so disrespectful. Like my time is so not valuable that I can wait around for an hour doing nothing. Drives me nuts!

    Thankfully, most of my friends don’t do this (or, if they do get held up, will send me like, a text every five or ten minutes until they’re able to leave), but the ones that do? Well, I just don’t hang out with them as much.