I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends (and Family)

MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svgI’m still catching up from my space conference and having family (Mom & Little Sister) in town this past weekend, so this will be a shorter entry than usual.

In this case, I’ll just take a moment to encourage any of you working on your own to make sure that you make time in your schedule to stay in contact with your family. Not knowing your personal situation, if you don’t have blood relatives around, you should at least spend time with friends–the family you make for yourself–for some of the time when your not at work. Yes, even introverts.

Some of us can get to be workaholics, spending much of our energy and getting much of our stimulation on the job. That’s not entirely bad, in my mind. I heard a gentleman as eminent as former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin say something to the effect of “I don’t know anyone who’s truly successful who lives a ‘balanced’ life.” That might be taking things to an extreme, but the point resonated with me. That said, there are times when a dedicated, solitary careerist needs something as simple as free, non-work time in the company of people who care about their welfare regardless of what they do on the job.

Both of my parents, my stepmother, and my sister, for example, have only a vague notion of what I actually do to earn a living, but they can offer advice or encouragement on things like searching for customers or paying the bills. And sometimes I’m not even seeking advice–just a sympathetic ear. They don’t need to understand anything about aerospace engineering or instructional design–they just want to help me as a person, offering what support they can.

Love and belonging are smack in the middle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, after meeting physiological and safety needs…and note that it comes before self-esteem and self-actualization needs we would most likely acquire in the course of pursuing our careers. We might obtain the latter two without some sense of belonging, but it’s more difficult. If you don’t have that sort of relationship with your actual family, it’s important to meet those needs off the job–through friends or coworkers. We don’t work in a social vacuum (some astronauts, of course, work in a physical vacuum). If we’re doing paid, productive work, there is another person on the receiving end of what we create. In the end, our work is about or for people.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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