For some of us, life revolves around a career, for others it’s family. But should life really have a sole focus? Is it wrong to lead an existence where we strive for one thing and neglect another? Benefit in one area of our life to the detriment of another?
Need we only look at the rich lonely business with money to burn on himself but no partner or child to share it with. Or the family with 5 mouths to feed who are living off of rations. A dichotomous pair, with polarizing values. Are they both wrong? Should life be less about a ‘single’ goal and more about having a ‘range’of goals? Should life even be about having goals at all?
Personally, I’m annoyed at myself for having the blinkers on, and neglecting certain areas of my life, life shouldn’t really be about one thing or the other. Truly, I believe it should be about balance.
And it has only been through experiencing mistake after mistake via bad life decisions for me to realise this unfortunately. One example for me is infact career. I don’t know exactly where my obsession with gaining certain career goals originated, whether it was from the mouths of pale and stale teachers at school or from the rosy-pink lips of the celebs interviewed on TV. But either way, my obsessive drive to become ‘X’ as a career completely overruled any other aspect of my life as far back as my early teens.
At school I remember threats were frequent – ‘if you don’t do well at this subject then you won’t be employable. If you’re not employable then you won’t get a job, so you won’t earn money. SO you’ll die!’ This general spiel was a common go to for my college careers teacher. A spiel which struck me to my very core, instilling me with a fear and a drive to seek employment, to seek approval from others.
The beginning of a bad end was soon to commence in terms of ‘dream jobs’ for me. At this stage I think it’s best to announce my age, from the number of jobs I’ve had you’d think I was immortal but infact at 25 years old immortality is exchanged for a quarter-life crisis instead. What a trade-off!
Ofcourse I can’t just blame my teacher’s threats on being the reason I’ve experienced so many mishaps on the careers ladder, but it helps so I’ll just go with it (hehe).
Although I’m 25 years of age, I’ve had 8 jobs in 4 years (this should be a pub quiz question). No, each one didn’t last 6 months and yes, there were gaps of unemployment where I found myself crying in the corner of my room, the room I was soon to be kicked out of had I not have found a job to pay my rent. At one stage I kid you not I was down to my last £30 in my account.
But I guess the question isn’t – ‘how may jobs have I had’ but instead, ‘why have I had so many’? A question I do ponder over deeply at times. A short answer of which would be to simply say that I found each one of them boring. But the truth runs much deeper than this. Really, I think the tip of the iceberg is hinted at by a statement I mentioned earlier – ‘to seek the approval of others’. In my little brain I think at some moment in my life I had a eureka moment and I found contentment in knowing that if I obtained a ‘successful’ enough career in everybody else’s eyes then I myself would be happy. And with this mantra moulded into the neurons of my mind I set foot on getting a job in the music industry. Notorious for it’s glitz and glamour or so I thought. But shock horror hit when I actually found myself number-punching into Excel spreadsheets in an office where the perk of the day was getting a free biscuit with my luke-warm cup of tea. The moral of the story was the music industry I experienced wasn’t the music industry I had envisaged myself experiencing. And from this a trend of falling in and out of a jobs list as long as your arm commenced. At one stage I thought I’ll take any job just to pay my extortionate rent as I figure out what way I want to maneuver myself within the music industry. Which sounds good on paper but when you have a 12 hour shift as a host in a restaurant where you can’t sit down and get groped every 5 minutes by one of the bussboys then you suddenly start thinking that the luke-warm tea back at the office didn’t actually taste that bad afterall. Over the last 4 years that I’ve been in London, my job titles have changed, my salary has changed, my career goals may have even changed but one thing which has not changed is my exasperating attempts to achieve some sort of career pinnacle. Some role which will make my parents proud of me, make me enough money that I won’t have to continuously set things back at the checkout, a role which will make my friends say wow, and make me feel genuinely happy. But here comes the irony. That doesn’t exist. And why not?
Because there’s an imbalance, just as I’ve been stressing over obtaining a career everyone can give a thumbs up too, other areas of my life have been neglected. It’s all well and good landing work experience with a big-name company, but as you’re stapling their meeting packs together the thought of ‘I haven’t seen my friends in a while’ might just start to sink in. Or ‘when’s the last time I’ve been to the gym, or ate correctly, or been on a trip?’.
For me a big thing is being too hard on myself, like, I would never reward myself for any wins be them large of small. It was always on to the next goal without hesitance. Whereas if I made a mistake along the way to achieving a goal it would be in the back of my head for weeks at a time. This stick over carrot mentality coupled with my blinkered attitude towards career alone meant that my dearest relationships became frayed. On ths desperate hunt for career success I no longer saw my friends, I wasn’t interested in romantic relationships, all because I had this hardcore belief that I had no time for ‘distractions’, that I needed to focus on achieving my career ambitions. Meanwhile, had I stopped for a second and realised that the areas of life such as relationships, self-love and health hold equal importance to a career if not more. I was blind-sighted by my own obsession to seek the approval of everyone else around me all while I was slowly losing any care I had for myself.
If you don’t take care of yourself this can manifest into snapping at those who you do care about the most – your family and close friends. For a while I felt so pressured to become something so specific, I put deadlines on every objective I had, most of the time unrealistic ones which meant I was always in a stressed-out mood. Consequently relationships with certain family members became strained. And this was the wake up call I needed to realise that I had gotten myself into a heightened-state of disillusionment and pressure. If trying to get a high-flying career comes with the cost of losing touch with my family then I don’t want the career. Better yet, what I’ve came to realise is that having a good career in itself isn’t the key to happiness nor is it the key to sadness, the true takeaway point is having a good balance between numerous elements in life: social life, looking after your health, hobbies and job.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t aim to become ‘X’ but what I will stress is don’t become ‘X’ at the cost of everything else in your life! Trust me, balance is more important that you may think. x