In my first post here, I spoke of a balance between our jobs and our personal lives. If my absence on the blog this week has demonstrated anything, it’s that the term “balance” is at best inaccurate. I cannot tell you the number of work-life-balance seminars I have attended over the years. When your institutions and employers consistently hold meetings on having a life, you begin to realize that your career is not exactly life-friendly. On any given day, as I juggle all parts of my life, the question is never “Will I drop something?” It is always “Which one will I drop today?”
What strikes me as odd, however, is our need to pretend that such a balance exists. Too often, the strategy to “have it all” has been to “do it all.” Surely, if we try hard enough, we can all wake up every morning, exercise at the gym, go to work, succeed at work, go above and beyond and advance at work, go to the grocery store, make dinner, do the dishes, keep your house clean, return your phone calls, answer your emails, finish up that little bit more of work, all preferably before we collapse into bed. Notice that I have not even mentioned meeting up with your friends, spending time with your spouse, etc. Nor have I accounted for the unexpected events that will surely come up - doctor’s appointment, sickness, etc. I don't even have children yet. I hold the utmost respect for those who shoulder that responsibility as well.
But seriously, we need to drop the cover on our perfect lives, along with all this balance bullshit :-). Stop telling each other that we can "do it all.” The more we hear it, the more we believe it, and the more we feel as though we are the only one in the world that fails at it. The truth is, my friends, if you came over this week and my apartment looked clean, know that I had picked up everything and stuffed it in the closet right before I opened the door. And if I shared recipes that involved hours of work, it was probably the only thing I made that weekend. And when I sounded overly confident when teaching a class, a part of me secretly hoped that I had managed to read everything right before I fell asleep with the highlighter in my hair. And if I managed to bring lunch to work, I probably skipped the gym that day.
And strangely, I am OK with that. Perhaps life was never meant to be a balance, with perfect proportions in every aspect. It’s a challenge, for many of us, in our own ways. I hope we can share those real stories with each other, without reservation or fear of judgment. After all, the acceptance of failure as a normal part of life is precisely what enables us to continuously aim higher than our reach.