We had the good fortune of connecting with Jonah McDonald and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jonah, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Though balance is something I have always wished for, I have not always been in a position to balance my work and home life. Especially when starting a business, my need to generate an income forced me to funnel almost all of my time into work. Though I was passionate about my industry, much of the work of running the business caused anxiety, stress, and frustration. As a result, I ask myself questions and constantly make adjustments. What work causes less stress while producing more income? What stressful work is worth sticking with despite the pain? Are there things I love doing so much that I’ll keep no matter the financial result? Should my work shift to more closely match my passion? If I am so passionate about a project that I do it no matter the monetary reward, is it really work? If my paid work is so closely tied to my identity that my work feels a hobby, is balance even necessary? Today, my work and life are interconnected, rather than two separate things that must be balanced. And my profession is different from what I originally imagined it becoming when I first took the leap into self-employment a dozen years ago. Instead of running a wilderness guide service, my passion for outdoors education has led me to a government job as a Park Ranger. My excitement about urban greenspaces has led me to publish two books about Atlanta’s hidden trails and secret places: Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests: Intown and Out [note book titles should be in italics] and Secret Atlanta: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure. And my belief in working with children led to co-founding a summer camp called Peacebuilders Camp. The ironic thing is that I work more hours than ever before, but I’m happier than ever with my work life balance.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I hope that my passion for my city is infectious and inspires others to explore the city and connect with new places and communities. I am so proud of the two books I’ve written and believe that both can change Atlanta for the better. Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests [italics] helps us find connection to nature by providing information about the many places in our neighborhoods where we can go on an honest-to-goodness hike in the forest. Instead of spending hours in the car driving to the mountains, Atlanta has trails hidden throughout our city that are just as peaceful and beautiful. Secret Atlanta [italics] gives us a new lens through which to see our city. Instead of just thinking of Atlanta as the city of Coca-Cola, Civil Rights, and the Olympics, learning Atlanta’s “secret” places and stories can help us redefine our relationship with our home. And maybe these secrets will help us step outside of our bubble and connect with people we might never have met. Both books tell memorable stories, reveal hidden destinations, and provide a fun scavenger hunt for readers. Each book took me over a year to research, write, and edit, but there is not much money in being an author. Though I haven’t gotten rich, I feel like the result is something even more important. I hope my books have made Atlanta a better place.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
As you can tell from what I’ve said before, I love to introduce people to Atlanta’s secrets. Instead of eating at the Varsity, I’m going to recommend R. Thomas Deluxe Grill. Instead of visiting fancy Buckhead shops, try out Plaza Fiesta. And how about a trip to one of Atlanta’s unusual grocery stores like Your Dekalb Farmers Market or the Buford Highway Farmers Market? And instead of buying tickets to the World of Coca-Cola or Six Flags, what about a quirkier attraction like storytelling at the Wren’s Nest or the Miniature Chair Gallery in Stone Mountain Village?
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My grandparents Charles and Lois taught me a passion for service, my parents Susan and Ron helped me define my passions, and my wife Dana has helped me seek balance in my work. I hope my daughter, Annie Mae, someday finds the same joy and balance in her work.