Work Life Balance is Real
I get very nervous very quickly.
I don’t like it when things are unsettled. I also don’t like confrontation. And I don’t like failure.
Those are not compatible feelings.
If you don’t like things to be unsettled, the easiest way to resolve that internal anxiety is to address it. Which often times is confrontational.
However, if you also don’t like being confrontational, it doesn’t allow you to settle things, unless your anxiety over things being unsettled can outweigh the anxiety over being confrontational.
Unless, your anxieties instead feed off of one another. And then neither anxiety can win. They just grow equally strong, until you get to the final feeling: I’ve failed.
And at that point, that’s just a spiral, where your anxiety over your failure feeds your anxiety over your life being unsettled and your anxiety over being confrontational.
I have a fairly simple life when looked at from 1000 feet.
I have a wonderful and amazing wife, who is supportive, loving, caring, kind, smart as hell, and loves me very much (why, I don’t know).
I have two kids, who bring an infinite amount of joy (and frustration), and remind me of everything amazing about my wife and everything that is frustrating about myself (sorry kids).
I have a job that brings me a lot of meaning, makes me feel like I actually know something, constantly provides challenges that are weird and far reaching, and allows life to happen.
I have friends who are endlessly supportive and always are there emotionally and physically.
Pretty straight forward right?
And somehow, every day FEELS more complicated.
Life always provides a lot of opportnity. Unfortunately, with opportunity, comes opportunity cost. Which leads to decisions about what is really important.
So the questions become: How much time do I need to spend with my kids so I feel like I’m doing a good job? How much time do I need to spend with my kids for THEM to feel like I’m doing a good job? How much time do I need to spend at home to feel like I actually get to see my wife and have a meaningful relationship with her? How much time do I need to spend on work to make sure I don’t just get everything done, but do everything well? How much time do I need to spend on myself in order to make sure that I don’t completely neglect my own needs to the benefit of everyone around me?
And that’s just the first few that rattle off the top of my head.
Which leads to this: what really IS important?
I read an article the other day that was trying to dissect the meaning of the idea behind “work/life balance”. And to quickly paraphrase, the argument was that the distinction doesn’t exist and that if you really care about what you do they are the same thing.
I call bullshit on that arugment. That’s the argument of the elite who have the opportunity to persue professions that they love that can provide them with an income level that is not impactful on their lives.
In real life, there is an absolutely conflict between your professional and personal life. There is no way to completely meld them as an employee.
If tomorrow I decided, my life was really meant to be dedicated to teaching music (I was a music ed major for a semester after all), that wouldn’t mean that I could realistically persue it without there being an incredible hardship not just on myself but on my family. That might be the thing that I love the most, it might be my greatest passion in the world… but it wouldn’t be reasonable for me to pick up my things and move to that profession. It just isn’t reasonable.
Gutturally, I felt something when I read that article. But I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I do love my life. I do love my job. I do love everything that happens in my life, even when it’s hard, exhausting or exasperating.
I don’t get nervous when I think about the fact that my life is set.
But at many points, I was. And it’s depressing, hurtful, and unconscionable to insinuate that it’s just as easy as persuing what you love. “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” is a bullshit argument. Famous musicians who have a ton of fun making music and playing concerts hate parts of their jobs.
I went to a Barenaked Ladies concert in San Francisco once, and when they got to their hit song “One Week” they told us “we’re going to play this song as fast as we can, because while you love it, we are so sick of it that we are literally only playing it because you’d complain if we didn’t”.
Work is work. And sometimes that is where you want to be. And your personal life if your personal life, and sometimes that is where you want to be.
Whichever you feel, whichever is your world view, whatever ratio you feel makes sense… it is completely reasonable and valid. And it might not be something that you can act on, because you may be hourly and you need to work a certain number of hours to accomplish your financial goals. It also might be that you are acting outside of your current goals in order to achieve longer term goals. It may also be that you love the ratio you have and you are just making sure that you can maintain it.
My point is, that the anxiety that I feel is always about how everyone else will see the way that I act. It’s always about how someone else will see my actions and what they’ll think about it.
That can be a good and helpful perspective… but it’s not the ONLY perspective. And you have to be willing to look at your situation and say, “You know what, other people might not like it… but I’m kicking ass.”
I’m still anxious and nervous. I always am. But I know that my work life balance is necessary. And I know that if I say “there’s no need for balance” that will only cause worse conflicts and increasing anxiety and nerves.
Society is there to keep us in check and make sure that we maintain our social compact with one another. Don’t let that destroy your individuality or belief that what you’re doing is right and best for you and your family. You are worthy of validation and praise, even if you don’t know it.
Unless you’re Charles Manson. Then dude, just fucking quit it.