image by wfyurasko, flickr artist

recently, i had a conversation with my career manager at work (that’s kind of like a mentor to non-booz allen people). we talked about a few different topics, one of them was “work-life balance.”

the question of “how’s your work-life balance?” is always met by me with the same answer: “i don’t really have one.” it’s not because i’m not afforded the support of my teammates or my leadership. booz allen actually doesn’t like when we work too hard, too much. our firm recognizes that happy workers are better workers, and they don’t want their best and brightest minds getting burned out. but for me, i just really enjoy what i do. i’ve got some great teammates — fantastic ones even. i’ve got a whole digital collection of coworkers from twitter, yammer, and other online realms whom i love interacting with every day. why would i want to take time away from that? but at the same time, i am also a bit fearful of taking vacations or leaving work early when i’ve met my billable hours for the month. the reason why is because of the college football paradigm.

in college football, if you’re injured or don’t perform to expectations there are always others to replace you — both on your team and on the nfl draft board. you don’t want to take yourself out of a game no matter what. you’ll play injured and take snaps on special teams because you know you need to impress. i feel much the same way being a junior member of the firm. i’m a 25 year old dude who’s still learning the ins and outs of everything. if i’m going to be in the game, i have to impress. each client presentation or internal meeting is a chance at showing what i’m capable of.

it’s not like i’m a seasoned veteran in the nfl. if tom brady gets injured, he’s going to play as soon as he’s healthy again. if drew brees has a few 200yd, 3 INT games in a row he’s still going to be starting quarterback next sunday. if i had more seniority in the firm, perhaps i could ‘get away with’ taking more paid-time-off.

of course, the hundreds of dollars i spend each month in paying back student loans really puts a damper on any vacation plans.

you know… perhaps being a college football star wouldn’t be so bad after all.