Admiring The View
I began hiking a few years ago. My hikes started as short 2-mile treks through the woods as a way to get the family out of the house on the weekend. Eventually, my wife and I began to seek out more challenging excursions, often heading to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the multitude of trails available in those mountains. This past summer, we made it to the top of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, United States at 6288 ft. It was an amazing experience that I will not soon forget.
What do I love so much about hiking? It’s the view - and I don’t mean the perspective from the top of a mountain. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery from the peak is incredible, but I was actually referring to was the viewpoint that I get when I am hiking. When I am on the mountain or trail, that is where I am. Nowhere else. For someone who admittedly has a hard time leaving work “at the office”, this is an invaluable thing.
What Do You Do In Your Spare Time?
It was just over a year ago when I was interviewing candidates for a web designer position at Envision. One of the questions I always ask in these interviews is “what do you do in your spare time?” I remember one person answering that when they are not designing websites at work that they “work on the computer at home and build websites.”
I expect that this answer was given as a way to demonstrate how dedicated this candidate was to web design. They probably thought I would be impressed with that answer, but truthfully, it made me concerned for this person.
A blurred line between work-time and personal-time is pretty common in the web industry, something I often struggle with myself. With the constant changes in this field, and all that there is to learn and re-learn, it is understandable that some personal time will need to be sacrificed to stay up-to-date. For many web professionals, however, it is an easy slide to go from spending a little time on nights or weekends learning something new or working on a side project to finding that all your personal time is now professional time.
If you are asked, “what do you do in your spare time?” and the only answer you have is “I build websites”, then you need to make a change. Dedication to your profession is an admirable quality, but too often in this field, we take passion and dedication to a level that is actually unhealthy. This is not a situation that should inspire admiration. It is one that should cause concern and hopefully spur action to get help.
I love my job. Whether I am designing a new website for a client, writing articles on the subject of web design, or teaching others new to this industry, work rarely feels a whole lot like “work” for me. This makes it easy to be a workaholic. Yes, I admit that I am a workaholic. I do not say that with any pride. I do not think working long hours is a badge of honor. It's just my reality, but it's a reality that I have worked hard to manage and be in control of. Whether you love your job or not, there is a balance that you must find between your work life and your non-work life. In my case, I really found that balance by hiking.
Article ideas that I am working through in my head, design problems that I am trying to solve for clients, and all the other day-to-day concerns of my professional life fall away as soon as I strap on that backpack and my boots hit the trail. I cannot say this about other activities. If I am reading or watching TV or doing work around the house, I find that my mind drifts to my professional obligations. I am not consumed by work during these times, but if I am honest with myself, I am not fully broken away from work either. This is not the case when I am hiking. As I said earlier, when I am on the trail, that is where I am. Nowhere else.
This is why I hike, because it changes my perspective and helps me find my balance.
Geek Mental Help
I wrote this article as part of Geek Mental Help Week, "a week-long series of articles, blog posts, conversations, podcasts and events across the web about mental health issues, how to help people who suffer, and those who care for us."
I do not suffer from depression like many others in this industry, but it is something that I know am I susceptible to with the work I do and the schedule that I keep. That scares me, but it also gives me strength and the drive I need to keep a healthy balance in my life. I have been fortunate enough to find that balance and I hope that my peers in this industry who are suffering from depression can find their balance too. Help is out there and you are not alone.
Learn more about Geek Mental Health Week at geekmentalhelp.com.