When I moved to the Upper Valley three years ago, I was moving solely for a job. I didn’t know much at all about what it would be like to live here, and outside of my soon-to-be colleagues in my new office, I didn’t know anyone in the area. All I did know was that the position I had been offered at Dartmouth College was an excellent career opportunity, and fresh out of grad school, I wasn’t about to turn it down. I accepted the job offer in early April 2014, and in late May I arrived.
My story is a common one among young people today: the willingness to move anywhere for the right job. It’s also a potentially hazardous one: When you move for career-fueled reasons, it’s easy to allow your career to become the primary thing that fuels you. I was especially cognizant of this danger when I moved — so much so that I began training for my first full marathon only weeks after settling in the Upper Valley, in part so that I’d have a big, non-career goal to pursue alongside my goals at work. It ended up being a good call. In addition to focusing some of my attention away from my job, lengthy runs also proved to be a great way to explore my new surroundings, and marathon training gave me something interesting to talk about as I began to make friends.
I’m not new here anymore, and I’ve built what I like to consider a full life outside of work. My reasons for living here are no longer solely focused on my career. Despite that, I still see fitness as an essential pursuit to balance the time and energy I’m pouring into my work. For those of us in the early stages of our careers, these may be some of the most intense years of our working lives. We’re eager to prove ourselves and set a strong course for our futures; we’re working as hard as we can and as much as we can to do it. If we’ve relocated for work, the stakes are that much higher. It’s easy to convince ourselves that anything and everything can be sacrificed for career success. When I find myself falling victim to that type of thinking, though, I’m quick to remind myself that exercise isn’t time away from work — it’s a way to improve work.
The benefits of working out have been well-documented by people with far more expertise than me. Healthier bodies, lower stress levels, sharper thinking, increased happiness, better sleep — those of us who prioritize fitness in our lives know these rewards well. If our workouts happen in the company of others, even better. Joining a Masters swim team, playing in a recreational sports league, taking a group fitness class — these are all great ways to meet new people, build a sense of community, and get additional benefits out of exercise.
Reminding myself of these benefits help me to wake up with the sun for a pre-work run, wrap up my work day in time for a strength training class, and carve out plenty of time for lap swim. When I maintain my commitment to fitness, I bring the best version of myself to the office, and my work is at its strongest: efficient, focused, disciplined, creative. To my fellow young professionals struggling to strike a balance between career aspirations and life outside of work, I hope you’ll consider exercise as both an outlet and an investment. Unplug from the office, have fun being active, and return to your work energized. And if you need a workout buddy, you can find me and plenty of others at UVAC!
By Caitlin Birch — UVAC member; Wilder, VT resident; Digital Collections and Oral History Archivist at Dartmouth College