I am not a workaholic, so the rest will be no surprise. And yet I enjoy feeling a sense of accomplishment. In fact, I come from a generation that is largely responsible for a global drop in overall productivity. We Gen x-ers were not the first to question existing definitions of work ethic, but we certainly took it about as far as we could.
But the time comes for every generation to pass the torch of rebellion behind and fully give in to the rising tide of complacent compromise. The movements of the 60’s led to – well, the 80’s. And we, as children of the 80’s, knew that day would come for us as well. Would we follow the hippie-to-yuppie paradigm? Would we allow ourselves to be consumed by our conspicuous consumption? How much joy and freedom would we sacrifice for the right spot in the social strata of spending?
There was a time, it seemed – not unlike what happened in the 60’s – that we had found a way. The internet and advancements in technology made it possible for us to redefine what was required of us to be functioning members of society. The image of the cube inhabiting, business casual, paper pusher exploded into a pajama wearing telecommuter watched over only by some Simpson’s bobbleheads. We would not punch our fathers’ clock. We needed not adhere to his dress code.
As with most things, however, the innovation becomes the institution and we are once again defined by our role in society’s effort to perpetuate itself. Who we are is what we do, not who we are.
What is my work? What is my life? What is the difference? For there to be “balance” between the two-it is a given that they are distinct and equally deserving of our attention. After all, that’s what we’re really talking about when we say “work/life balance”: balancing what we pay attention to – our work or our “lives.” But the gen x-er asks (as do others now too) “what is work and when is it EVER more important than my life?!”
That there needs to be a balance between work and life is easy enough to grasp as a metaphor, particularly as we become parents, time with our children and time with our employers is a delicate and ever-present dance. I know I must make money to support my family – but I hate having to choose anything over them – even hate having to “balance” anything as though it could be equal in weight or value – especially work.
That is what leads me to declare that there is no such attainable goal as work life balance for me – for life is always more important.
Others from my generation – even those that have no kids – have shared they feel this way. There must be some solidarity. What that looks like, I’m not sure, except to say that the first thing that should happen is for a release of the lie that there can be such a thing as balance between work and life (family or otherwise.)
I am not making these claims to make judgment against anybody, but rather to make free those for whom the daily grind of this mythical balance has become a no-win scenario – a guilt ridden prison.
Balance your life – bring in appropriate portions of celebration and temper it with meditation – but don’t try to balance work as well – don’t give it that much clout. Simply treat it as a tolerated evil.