Three things I’ve always known about myself, but have struggled to come to terms with:
1) I’m a long-term optimist (i.e. I believe big positive changes can happen over the long haul), but a short-term pessimist. This leads me to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right in my daily life, and lights a fire under me to keep working on improving myself and my situation. The consequence of this? I’m usually miserable about whatever is sitting right in front of me, and I rarely take time to stop and smell the roses.
2) I’m an obsessively hard worker, because that’s my natural state of being. But guilt around how I should be carving out more time and mental space for non-work stuff creates friction for me constantly, as does the feeling of needing to “make enough progress” in my work so that I can take guilt-free time off. This disposition is not something I have ever been able to change, and so I need to mitigate its negative effects through coping mechanisms, habits, and compromises in my non-work relationships.
3) I believe most people who give or seek advice on work/life balance are straddling the line between two different worlds and this is what causes their suffering. Either you accept the bargain of being someone else’s employee and then try to make life as comfortable as you can, or you go out and cut your own path through life and accept the inevitable discomfort that comes along with that.
I tend to judge people who complain about their work, or set expectations for me on how I ought to live based on their own preferences. Hard work is underrated and people don’t count their blessings often enough. I can’t relate to complainers, and I’m tired of pretending like I’m someone who can.
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This isn’t advice for how others ought to live their lives. If I could be comfortable working a 9-5 job in some useful but sleepy position somewhere, and have perfect work/life balance, I’d definitely take that bargain. But that’s just not how I’m wired, and so I need to play the career game by my own rules.
The flipside of this is that although I can accept that I’m a square peg in a round hole, I need to remember that a lot of people I care about aren’t. And so figuring out how to navigate the space between me and the many loved ones in my life who do not have these same driving forces is something I care about and will keep working at over the years. But I’m tired of pretending I’m something I’m not, and apologizing for what I am.
So no more apologies.