What do I stand for?
We talk, write and read very often about how to we cope with this post-post-industrial fatigue of creating a right balance between our personal lives, on one side, and social and professional ambitions, on the other side. The volume of discussion does not signify that the issue has reached its limits. Rather the opposite: the diversity of experiences and the difficulty of finding universal recipes are creating infinite opportunities for reassessment.
The debate goes beyond social or gender categories. We all should work, and earn money, but we still want to have families and normal social lives. We want to have more; we need to work more; and some of us are getting indebted for a longer period of time – if not for the rest of our lives.
The premises of the discussion were set a couple of decades ago, in the tormented 70s. Since then, we have the Internet and our more or less privately public online lives. We are nurturing the illusion that with the help of 2.0 tools, our lives are getting easier and we are close to living the logical impossibility of “having our cake and eating it too.” For example, we can check our BlackBerries and answer our professional e-mails during a walk with our kids. In fact, at that time, we are nowhere – so lost in our professional thoughts that we can’t focus on answering our child’s questions properly. I offered this example because it’s one of the most frequent situations I encounter these days. The nicer weather allows children and parents to spend hours outside: the child is diplomatically advised to enjoy the company of other children, while the busy mother or father spends minutes or hour long sessions having professional conversations. When the child is back, the most frequent answers are a monosyllabic “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.”
I don’t have the solution and I don’t want to. Very often I practice this juggling with the illusion of perfection: of course, we can be perfect parents and perfect professionals and perfect writers and the sky is the only limit on our wishes and accomplishments. Instead, I have various questions I’m asking myself at various stages of my professional career or when I feel that my personal life is on an unsatisfactory track.
For example, I ask myself what’s at stake in a project: what can I change by my involvement, other than the current financial status? Is it worth the effort and the time for my long term personal and professional plans? Is it me who wishes to do this or is it rather the social pressure that’s pushing me into this? Or, is it only the desire to prove that I can do it, only for the sake of the challenge and the following taste of victory? From time to time we should get used to the idea that we can’t be perfect in everything we do and that failure should be part of our lives.
Ana Dinescu is a regular contributor to University of Venus and a PhD candidate in history at the Faculty of History, University of Bucharest, with a background in Political Science. She has been a journalist for ten years for Romanian daily newspapers and is currently a communications consultant, living in Berlin.