Want to know what the life of a recently graduated journalism MA with staggeringly high student loans looks like? Not so much? Well, I don’t blame you. It’s not exactly the stuff memoirs are made of, but it is keeping me extremely busy. There’s been some freelance reporting for The New York Times and Fortune Small Business Magazine, a regular gig fact-checking at The New York Observer, a couple of pieces for Psychology Today, along with my normal gig writing about community events for the local newspapers.
Hustling is a prerequisite for success in this field, and as long as I get to write, you won’t hear me complaining. (You won’t hear me because I will be safely within the confines of my own home.) This is, of course, what I signed up for when I renounced my citizenship in Corporate America and went back to school to become a journalist. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the work. Heck, I even like the work. That said, I’m not without guilt. After all, my family didn’t sign up for being neglected; my friends didn’t sign up for curt phone calls informing them that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the dinner party/cocktail hour/reading after all because I was just “too damn tired.” You, dear reader, did not bookmark this page so that you could scan the same headline for two weeks. Not to mention the fact that my house is a mess, my spouse (well – okay – my boyfriend) is long suffering, and my taxes remain undone.
If I sound a little overwhelmed, I know I’m not alone. Virtually everyone I know in New York spends in excess of 50-hours a week working (conservatively) and they’re lucky to get two weeks off a year. At first, I thought this mania for work might be a symptom of living in a major metropolis. Then, the boyfriend and I went down to North Carolina to visit the purportedly “sleepy” town of Chapel Hill and found that our good friends, the Griffsbys, had adopted a 14-hour workday in order to keep up with the demands of completing dual PhDs and raising a one year old. Now – granted – the Griffsbys aren’t your stereotypical “slow and steady” Southerners. They’ve both card-carrying Type As. But I would argue that even us Type B+s are starting to prioritize work over almost everything else. And unlike previous generations, the new breed of workaholic isn’t compelled to go into the office on Saturday, or warm up the old laptop after dinner out of overzealousness or ambition, but out of desperation. There’s simply no way to get through it all during the workday.
Okay, deep breaths.
It’s possible that I’m a little over-caffeinated, a little burnt–perhaps a wee bit melodramatic by temperament. But, hand-wringing aside, I do think I have a point: The so-called work/life balance has become fundamentally unbalanced. What do you think? Am I being a big wuss? I’m open to the possibility that bemoaning my lack of leisure time may be totally – well – bourgeois of me. After all, I’m not laboring away in some mine, I’m just slightly sleep deprived and somewhat antisocial.
Still, I’m feeling stressed out enough that I opted to take this “work-life balance quiz.” I got a 9, which, according to the site, requires me “to take immediate action to make changes in [my] work and [my] life before things start crashing around [me]. ” (Seriously, it said that. Who writes this stuff?) If you too are feeling like your To-do list is beginning to eat your life, I’d be curious to hear your results. We could even compile them–do a kind of informal scientific study. You can always email Neurontic at orlivan [at] gmail.com.
I’d also be interested in hearing from those of you who have found ways of “simplifying.” This appears to be the catchword de jour, but I have yet to encounter anyone that’s done it successfully. If you’ve managed it, tell us how. What did you do: (1) Cut out T.V., (2) Limit commute time, (3) Have standing dates with family and friends?
Share the wisdom, folks.