It’s funny that this came up as a prompt the other day. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to accomplish my goals both professionally and personally, and as much as we all laud the concept of balance I’m starting to think it’s a joke.
When I think about balancing, I picture someone on a tightrope. Arms extended, eyes locked on the horizon, physically committed to a ludicrous, massively dangerous task for other people’s entertainment.
I did just write a novel about a tightrope walker, so yes it’s a strong echo in my mind but that also means I know what the metaphor means. And I don’t know if it should be a goal.
For one thing, it’s fucking impossible. You can do well, giving yourself more or less equally to all your wants and responsibilities. And maybe that’s a neurotypical thing, to be able to plot your life carefully then follow it through, but that’s not in my wheelhouse, to employ boardroom language. I can’t actualize that paradigm.
I’m losing interest in the idea of balance. It’s really difficult to relax while balancing. Balance is a state of tension, of holding in place. It requires hyperawareness of the body and the ability to ignore everything around you. If you find a place of stillness, you cannot move from it or you will collapse. That sounds–that is–exhausting.
That sounds like capitalism: find one thing and do it till you die, never quitting or questioning, while faithfully replicating your DNA to provide capital with more human resources and supporting the rentier system of the 1% that holds the rest of us hostage by giving them back in the form of household spending and debt all the money they loaned you as wages.
The ideal work/life balance is No Work, All Life. I don’t mean, let’s all be unemployed.* I mean, why is work not life? Why are jobs so shit? Why have we bought into this massive system of pitting our economic needs against our human rights? Who the fuck wants to be an actuary? I would expect a single digit percent of actuaries chose that career because of some deep inner calling. For everyone else it was because they weren’t pretty or clever or rich enough to get to do what they want with their lives, and so they put on a suit and sit in traffic and eat a packed lunch and try not to jump out the office window. If that’s your life why even be alive? So you can give your children the very same future?
TL:DR Modernity is delusional. Baked into the core of our culture is the idea that *this world as it is right now* is the best we can do. That Starbucks and Exxon Mobil are natural and inevitable, that the only improvement possible is making the whole world like America. Delusion, delusion, delusion.
Fuck the work/life balance. It’s a joke, it’s a yoke, it’s a rationalization for letting capital skim the cream of labor’s efforts. For our collective good we need to seek a way of life where our work is worth living for.
An ideal work life balance? The least work possible at a job that won’t cost me my life.
*We can talk about health care and education as necessary jobs as long as you want to discuss why we underpay and understaff both these professions.