The myth of work-life balance
Almost a decade into the workforce, I have come to the realization that I have wasted all those moments reciting the “work-life balance” mantra for all the times I felt guilty at having chosen anything else besides work.
Sure, most of us spend majority of our waking hours at work due to the nine-hour workday, including the extra hour for lunch break, plus give or take three hours in traffic for the commute to and from work.
It is impossible to not give priority to something that gives you sustenance, harnesses your skills and gives you the occasional ego boost for every job well done.
But remember, there shouldn’t be a balance between life and work, because they are not coequals to begin with.
A job is a task or piece of work we are paid to do. Surveys reveal that people get jobs primarily for the money. A chosen few are lucky to be working just to pass time. Others would say they do it to earn back the years and effort spent in school.
Basically, people work to improve lives — their own and their family’s, and perhaps that of the larger community.
But what happens to the life you wish to improve when you have no time to spend nourishing it, and the intangible things you need for a happy existence are ones you can’t afford with your salary?
I used to take pride in being called a workaholic, punching in longer overtime hours than the number of man days required of me, or bringing work home to impress the boss who wouldn’t even bat an eyelash if I resigned the next day.
In the process, I lost quite a lot of things — moments I could have spent with a dying family member, milestones achieved by younger siblings, friends who suddenly became strangers, potential lovers who left because I was “too busy,” and maybe the most cliché of them all — myself.
I was too busy working that I forgot to take care of my internal self. I used my job and the demands that came with it as an excuse for an unhealthy lifestyle, along with increasingly bossy behavior and lousy relationships.
The reckoning happened after I got diagnosed with a medical condition recently. I thought about what remains of my life, and how I intend to spend it prudently.
Of course, I shall remain faithful to my work ethic, as long as I can physically do so. I value the quality of work that I do, and that is never going to change.
I’ll probably just set a mental alarm every time I time out that, although work ends daily, it gets to reset the next day. Something the time in my life won’t have.
Work is just one of the many aspects of life. One of the many things we can spend our precious time on, like family, friendships, education, religion, romantic relationships, hobbies and other passions.
Since that eureka moment, I have been trying to make up for lost time by nurturing remaining relationships. I’m realizing that there are yet far too many things to learn to improve myself, and also a thousand and one ways to make other lives better, without slaving myself away.
Today, I vow to be more present where and when it matters.
Because, after all, life is but borrowed time. We never know when it will be taken away from us, so better choose how to balance it. Yes, with work, but with everything else as well.
* * *
Mariel Balitao, 28, is a corporate slave turned government employee, with a degree in communication.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.