Alumni Story by Elena Guevara, 2016-17 CivicSpark Alum, Southern California Region
The last two years — the time during my fellowship and after entering the “real world” — have taught me so much about myself (both personally and professionally) and about my career path of choice. My CivicSpark placement was my first “real job” after graduation… my first ‘9 to 5’ if you will. During that time, my goal was to 1) figure out if this career path was right for me and 2) become a working adult who successfully navigates a real job and this mysterious thing called work-life balance.
For the fellowship, I was placed with the LA Mayor’s Office of Sustainability — an incredible place to be while trying to answer my first question but a place where it’s been challenging trying to tackle the second question (but hey, all good things are worth the challenge, right??). Coming into the fellowship, I was in the mindset of work, work, work. You know the type of person that thinks they live to work rather than the other way around? Yeah, that was me. I was able to stay on with my office after the fellowship ended and got sucked even more into this ‘live to work’ mentality. After all, I thought, “How could I not?! There’s a planet that needs saving! And the mayor’s administration won’t last forever!”
I think for many of us in the sustainability field, it’s easy to fall into this mentality. We’re committed to our work because we’re mission-driven. But at the end of the day, you really do need to take care of yourself and your happiness because you can take care of others, including this precious planet. I know, it sounds cliche — but it’s been an important lesson from these past two years.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful to be working where I am, with colleagues whom I’m able to learn so much from, and in a place where I’ve been challenged and truly feel like I’m able to have an impact. It’s sometimes easier to figure out whether a field is “right for you” than it is to learn how to balance work and life.
I recently came across some words of advice that really struck me while scrolling through my Instagram feed:
Don’t live for the weekends.
For so much of the last two years I looked forward to the weekend. I’d work long hours during the week telling myself I just had to make it through a few more days but ended up being too exhausted once Friday came to actually do anything fun during the weekend. As you start off your year, go into it ready to learn. Be proactive with the various opportunities CivicSpark brings (volunteer at as many conferences as you can!), ask questions, and cultivate professional relationships. But also don’t forget to take time for yourself. Pursue a hobby, do something creative, volunteer, and cultivate friendships as well. And stop living for the weekends. It’s a hard thing to learn but all good things are worth the challenge.