I don’t like the term work life balance. It pits work against life: as if you don’t need work to have a life. Or you don’t spend the maximum number of mind space on work, even when you’re supposedly living. It makes you want to strive for an ideal you’re not even sure is possible to reach. And the fact you can’t makes you feel inadequate.
I was studying the science of happiness and there I learnt that there was a difference between living a meaningful life and living a happy life. For example, being an activist can help you lead a meaningful life but it’s not always happy because of all the obstacles that come in your way. But if you really think about it, there is a very fine line between what makes life meaningful and what makes it happy. On some days, reading a book is only about happiness. On other days, when that same book teaches you a lesson, it turns into something meaningful. On a few days, when you’re unable to find time to read or unable to concentrate, it can turn into a frustrating activity.
And in the words of the ever-amazing Zoya Akhtar in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, work is a part of your life. They’re not apart. Then how in holy hell can you balance these two things? Some days you use life to escape work and on other days you use work to escape life. They’re essential parts of each other.
I think what happens is, we, as professionals, tend to put our happiness on hold. We wait for ‘when I finish this project, I’ll celebrate’ or ‘Saturday I’ll have a drink’ or ‘Over the weekend, I’ll give 1 hour to this new hobby I’m trying to cultivate because I need to use the weekend to also finish my chores that I didn’t finish during the week.’ And then on Sunday night, we always feel like we have wasted another weekend.
This was one of my first lessons when I started working from home – of not waiting for something to happen to justify my happiness. I stopped waiting for the weekend to meet up with my friends. I stopped waiting for the weekend to watch a movie. I stopped waiting for a Friday to be happy, to learn something, to write, or do anything that filled my day with happiness.
It’s not easy, obviously. Sometimes you have weeks when your life is filled with nothing but work and you want to run away. There’s the flip side where you have no work and you feel stupidly unproductive. Then there are the ideal days when your work day gets over earlier than usual.
On such days, sometimes I do nothing – I just lie on the bed and let myself be lazy. Sometimes, I’ll do my chores. Other times, I’ll learn something. It’s one of the reasons my boss thinks I have more hours in my day than she [she calls it my international date line]; but then she’s running a business and I’m an employee. I can afford to goof off more than she.
Once on a Thursday when dad wanted to do an impromptu party, he said, “Maybe we should wait until tomorrow – or Saturday?” and mom said, “But you want to party today. So let’s party today.”
During the pandemic, we as a family too learnt that it was okay to celebrate for the heck of it on a Monday just because one of us felt like celebrating. And we had to learn this fast because all our birthdays and anniversaries get done between November and March. How do we celebrate then in June?
Life is not what happens beyond your work. Life is happening now. How you divide it to include things that matter to you [and yes work forms a part of this, even if you’re working only to earn money and not because you’re deeply passionate about selling cars] is what ensures it’s in balance.
This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.