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08 May 2015

Friday Question from the Book of Questions Many people put great emphasis on a happy private life: why do people often put more energy into their professional lives? Is this true of you? How do you prioritize in favor of which (private or professional life) is more important to you?
~why do people often put more energy into their professional lives?
We live in a society where an individual's worth is too often defined by what they do and how much cash they earn. It's a tough bit of social conditioning to kick. There's also the very real fact that, to do just about anything in this culture requires money.

~Is this true of you?
I can't say I'm putting a huge amount of energy in my professional life because I don't really have much of a professional life anymore. I'm 57 and struggling to do freelance design, a field that I've come to not enjoy at all, but it's the only thing I have any talent for. I'm basically semi-unemployed. Unfortunately, when you aren't getting regular work, you tend to obsess over your economic situation. In my case, I'm struggling hard with the idea that I'm not providing/holding-up my end of the partnership/etc. i.e. not bringing in much more than burger money. It's especially hard as an older male, as I've had a long life immersed in the indoctrination, and I'm finding it surprisingly hard to get over it.

~How do you prioritize in favor of which (private or professional life) is more important to you?
I'm not sure I have much of a choice in that. When you're scraping for any extra dollar, everything gets jumbled together. In fact, whenever I do lean toward giving my private life priority, I start feeling very guilty because I'm not working harder to bring in some income.
posted by Thorzdad 08 May | 14:49
Perhaps I do put more energy into my professional life - I'm not really sure I'd describe it that way, but it's probably true. I think it's mostly because I have to put more effort in because there's that external pressure about whether I do or not (ie I get sacked if I don't perform) that doesn't exist in the rest of my life to the same extent.

I don't think my professional life is more important than the rest of my life (such as it is), but what I do at work is what, to a very large extent, enables the rest of my life. If I don't work, I don't have money and, if I don't have money, I pretty much don't have anything else. Not to say that I couldn't survive, but my kids wouldn't get to go to a good school, I wouldn't have a car to get to things I enjoy doing etc.

So, to a large extent, the effort I put in at work is what allows me to have a reasonable life outside work. Therefore; effort I put in at work is for my private life. I don't think you can easily separate the two like that.
posted by dg 08 May | 15:54
In my professional life I'm confident. I find it easy to engage with people and know I do a good job.

But outside work I'm shy and often feel anxious in social situations. Sometimes it's easier to come home and shut the door.
posted by Senyar 08 May | 16:56
I couldn't give a crap about my professional life. I work because I have to for food, clothing, and shelter. The job I have now is pleasant enough, but if I could quit tomorrow I'd be super happy. I'd much rather read books and watch baseball and knit things and take long walks outside and play with my typewriters.

I sort of get the concept of valuing people for having some particular job or other, but I totally don't get valuing them for how much they earn. So many really worthwhile professions don't earn much of anything, and so many "successful" people I run across are jerks.
posted by JanetLand 08 May | 20:15
Pretty much exactly what dg said.
posted by amro 08 May | 20:15
why do people often put more energy into their professional lives?

I think there are just as many answers as there are people who do this. Here in Japan many of the people around me seem to dedicate way too much of their energy to work, but my perspective is largely based on my answer to the question...

Is this true of you?

...which is not "no," but "fuck no." I mean, I work when I'm on the clock, not hard but smart, and the people who employ me are lucky. My work speaks for itself. I'm the best at what I do, and I do a lot more than I was hired for. But I don't work myself to death, and when that whistle blows, I am out the door, hasta maņana, chump!

How do you prioritize in favor of which (private or professional life) is more important to you?

There's not contest, it's not even a question to me. My professional life supplies me with money, that's all. It's nice to do something that I'm good at and that I enjoy, but if I didn't need money, I wouldn't work.

Plus, I'm of the general opinion that people who work but don't need the money are basically taking food out of someone's mouth. Also I think that every technological advance ever should have been moving us closer and closer to a utopia in which very few people are required to work, because most work pretty much does itself. Instead we have a situation where many relatively high-paying jobs are pure bullshit. It's a coin-flip whether you get paid a great deal for doing nothing at work, or don't get paid at all for doing nothing at home.

My dad worked for no such agency through the height of the cold war, doing sensitive, interesting work that gave him a sense of pride. His workday ended at 5 pm by fiat and he was bound by law not to take work home with him, even in conversation, so he would decompress on the car ride home, take a nap, and spend every evening playing with his kids, reading, listening to music, building a family. Sounds ideal, really satisfying.

A few years ago I was talking with him ad he said, "You know, Sam, I got a lot out of my work, a sense of pride and accomplishment -- I helped win the Cold War -- but you know what the best thing of all was? The one thing that really made it worth doing? I got paid."

Make money, save your energy, spend your money and your energy on yourself and the ones you love. Don't bring work home. Home is the point of it all. That's what I think.
posted by Hugh Janus 09 May | 08:07
I value my private life much more than my professional life. I work because I have to. I, too, would quit today if I won the lottery. That said, I like the day-to-day of my job well enough. As a teacher, I generally enjoy the company of my students; I enjoy our conversations and reading books together and hearing their thoughts. I'm happy for them when they get into college (one young man I taught for two years and helped with his applications just got a full scholarship to Dartmouth), and I worry about them when they struggle in their lives, though there's often not a lot I can do (I'm just their English teacher). The work is satisfying, and I'm paid adequately (is it ever enough?), with good benefits. And while I do sometimes have to work at home (there just isn't enough time during the day to get all the grading/paperwork done), at this point, after thirteen years, I'm able to minimize that, and, of course, with all the time off, I really only work about eight months a year (summer is a big, big bonus at the end of the year -- I prefer time to money anyway, and probably wouldn't do this job if it was year-round). It's not the job I don't like, per se, it's the daily drudgery of getting up and going to work, dragging my ass out of bed every morning. But that's life, no? Most of us have to work out some kind of compromise at some point, I think. I think they call that growing up.

Lately, I have been trying to reconnect with my long dormant, dare I say, "dream" of writing (one feels a bit silly speaking of dreams at my age). I'm taking an online writing class and actively working on a few projects again, including a novel, memoir, and poetry collection, and this summer I'm going to another witing conference in Taos, NM. It's the most I've done since graduating with my MFA fourteen years ago (geeze, I could've written ten books by now). It gives me a little hope for the professional life I'd really like to live. (Writing books for a living and maybe teaching part-time in an MFA program, because I do enjoy teaching, would be ideal.) Otherwise, I have thirteen more years until retirement (I'm half-way there). I'd be 62. Could be worse. I'm grateful to have a pension. I'd be satisfied working my current job if I could just get these books written, too. (I know it's unlikely, even if successful, I'd make enough money writing that I can quit my day job.)

Home life-- I thank the universe every day I have Jon in my life (even when I'm picking up his socks. ; ) And I'm grateful we're healthy. I know how fragile life can be. I know I'm not that old (almost 49), but sometimes I can feel time winding down on me.

Would I like to travel more? Would I like to weigh a hundred pounds less? Sure. It's good to have goals. And count ones blessings.

Our new apartment allows pets. Perhaps we'll get a little dog, and a kitty. Maybe a Boston Terrier (I love the one on Swamp People). Maybe this summer. Expand the family. : )
posted by Pips 09 May | 09:55
I think my energy is well split between professional and personal. I feel lucky to have a job at a workplace that is family-friendly and keeps sane hours; a lot of people don't have that luxury. I'll be curious to see if/how my new job (starts Tuesday!) feels different from my old one, since I'll be with a different department. I do think being on the NJ side of the river will erase some of the stress I felt battling bridge traffic. Any time I was stuck in traffic or waiting for the employee shuttle, I'd think, I COULD BE AT WORK OR WITH MY FAMILY RIGHT NOW, THIS IS SUCH A WAAAAAAAASTE.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 09 May | 20:40
I enjoy my job, and I'm good at it, but like others I would walk away in a heartbeat if I had the means to.

However, I do have issues with compartmentalizing my work/home life. I work from home, so when I have down time in the evening, I tend to wander in to the office to do some work. I certainly don't have to, but I like it, and it often feels like banking time for the weekdays, when I might have to go do something at Maddie's school, or have an appointment, or feel like going for a run.

I make my own hours, which is a double-edged sword.
posted by gaspode 10 May | 16:07
I put a shit-ton of energy into my professional life because I grew up working-class and really, really don't want to eat Alpo when I'm old, and honestly, it's a distinct possibility. Every day I get up and dig that trench so I can hope for a decent rest of my life.

My private life, on the other hand, is marvelously wonderful and doesn't need that kind of trench-digging. My private life is where I take refuge, love and support the folks I love and derive support from them. It's definitely more important to me. At the same time, I know how little in life you get to really enjoy if you are broke, in need, or in debt.
posted by Miko 12 May | 23:00
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