This past week, I found myself thinking about issues of home and hearth much more than I have in the past with an interesting evening spent at a special called Aragon City Council meeting.
Aragon’s code enforcement and building inspection officer Danny Forsyth had brought issues to the board that ended up being about one particular issue: can a family live in a residence inside a facility that is zoned as C-1, or the first level of commercial zoning under city ordinance.
Which as I sat in my house during the night hours after coming home from the meeting, it got me to thinking about the problems all of us face in a world constantly shifting the traditional boundaries of our lives through the use of technology.
And ultimately, it boiled down to one question I still don’t seem to have a good answer for: What is home?
Is it where the heart is, or it is simply a place we lie our heads at night before we go to work again in the morning?
For one business owner in Aragon, it happens to be both. I probably believe the same way that council members Tammy Mulkey and Hunter Spinks do, in that I don’t care where a person particularly lives, so long as they don’t bother their neighbors.
Yet people like Judd Fee do. Fee owns Gracie Trucking Company in the old Aragon School gym, and put forth a good question for the Aragon City Council during his defense of the zoning violation presented before members: Stores, doctors and attorneys could live in an apartment above their building, but he can’t live in converted apartments inside of his business?
The council voted to move forward with a plan to amend the zoning ordinance to allow for Fee and his family to stay in their home and benefit others who want to run businesses out of their homes not currently defined in the code. But it brings me back to my original question: What is home?
If work can follow us all everywhere we go on our smart phones via email or text or phone calls, hasn’t the line between home life and work life already been crossed? I say so. Especially in my particular business.
The better question though is how do we fix that problem?
In Fee’s particular case, he only operates from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. Stepping away from the shop and into the apartment is easy for him, but as a business owner he still has plenty to work on when he isn’t making a fix or operating one of three trucks he contracts out for road work and moving heavy equipment. There’s still bills he has to pay and paperwork to process.
Those working in positions of management will well understand the dark side of instant connectivity, in that it takes away the ability to separate the two sides of our lives and inevitably leads to more time spent in the world of our offices and less time spent in the world with our families and friends.
The obvious solution in many minds thinking about this problem would say: well, since it’s not work time then it’s an easy fix. Just shut off the phone.
Yet that isn’t so simple anymore since in our interconnected world, everyone is constantly texting or calling or sending Snapchats or Instagrams to one another in extended conversations. Not being a part of that is akin to being hidden underneath a rock.
Take any moment in time when you’ve been disconnected via no cell coverage and missed a call, or text message from a friend that contained no real important information at all but turned out to cause anxiety or aggravation. I know I have experienced that plenty of times just for work alone, not to mention missed connections between my girlfriend, friends or family.
Without a clear definition of the division between home and work, and with our technology keeping us on the hook to stay connected, maybe it’s not completely possible to disconnect from our jobs anymore.
In many lines of work after all, the division between life outside the office has never existed much since those professions were first created. Firefighters might get called upon to save lives at anytime of the night. Attorneys get dragged out of bed because a client is in jail and needs bailing out. Newspaper reporters have to cover it all with a smile and a question no matter the hour (or at least we try.)
Home might be the place we go to relax, eat our meals and watch our televisions before we pack it up and call it a night before we start again the next day, but it’s no longer just a place alone.
I think maybe we ought to all take a hard look at that particular piece of our society these days, for if we were to more clearly define the separation between our personal and professional lives we might not have as many problems as we do in contemporary society.
Making that push however will require all of us to take a hard look at our relationships with one another, with our employers and most importantly with our technology.
So next time you get an e-mail from the boss on the weekend, think twice before you send a reply. Unless your working world is coming crumbling down around your head, it could be time to consider that family is more important that getting the job done right now.