You talk about work-life balance. I talk about it. Almost everyone talks about it. We all love it, yet why does it seem like some of us are just so bad at it?
We admire people who can set clear boundaries, say ‘no’ to working overtime or staying late hours, and having time for… life. But why can’t we do the same?
Jobs as a part of our identity
I know for a fact that a lot of my identity is tied to my job. I’m a writer. If I don’t write, who am I then? What else is there to me besides writing? And I know I’m not alone. A lot of us young professionals tie our sense of identity to our jobs and side-hustles and hobbies. And the commodification of art has made it nearly impossible to not turn your hobbies into some sort of side-hustle. If you’re not earning something out of it, why do you need to strive to be good at it? What happened to the good ol’ days of recreational hobbies where you did something just because you wanted to do it - for fun, for enjoyment, for yourself?
We admire those who can take regular week-long breaks and dream of the day we ourselves do the same. Or the day we stop replying to not really “urgent” emails and Slack messages past working hours. But that day never really seems to come. If not me, I know of at least some of my coworkers who I still find online way into the night, quick with their replies. I know of coworkers who prefer working at night so they’re not bombarded with emails or meetings or messages and can simply concentrate on their work without being disturbed. We’re told that hectic work schedules are “just the way it is.” We want a break - deserve one - but find it so hard to take one. Hell, we can’t even stop thinking about work. That shouldn’t be normal.
So, what’s really stopping us?
Sure, quiet quitting and working your wage is all the hype these days. We don’t break ourselves like our parents and grandparents did. But we still value success. And the pandemic, recession, layoffs, union strikes — they all seem to contribute to a sense of helplessness. That we might as well try to achieve some of our career, financial or life goals while we still can. The looming dread of ‘What if tomorrow is worse and I can’t do anything about it?’ haunts us. Even if we reject hustle culture, we can’t help ourselves but try to do everything and be everything right here and right now. It’s hard to YOLO when you need to outperform to be even remotely successful.
Here’s your sign to take. that. break.
So if reading this piece has done nothing for you except inspire you to take that much-needed break, we’ll all for it - career be damned. Your job will be right there when you return, and so will all your work. Hopefully. There must be something you’re doing right with all the dedication you’re putting into your job right?
Meanwhile, I’m going to try to log off on time and maybe even take a vacation. Or am I getting ahead of myself as I envy those who do? Let’s wait and see.
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