Friday, July 13, 2012

I might work hard and play hard, but I don't "work hard, play hard"

Posted By on 07.13.12 at 03:33 PM

I tend to live my life in extremes. But even as an extremist, nothing has made me bolt faster from a job interview than someone describing the office as a "work hard, play hard environment." That phrase is an instant cue for me to drop the best behavior and burn out of that fluorescent hell as quickly as possible. "Work hard, play hard" is the polite way of saying, "You will work your fucking ass off trying to fill unreasonable demands and you will play never." Unless of course you define "play" as being so stressed out that you get blackout drunk on a Tuesday, end up crying at the bar, and then have to fend off some d-bag in marketing who wants to take you home so he can try (and fail) to hook up with his coke-dick.

Like a lot of people who read stuff, I also read Infinite Jest . . . Or wait, no . . . I read that lengthy article in the Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." Aside from a multitude of other points, it got me thinking about what it means to "have it all" when it comes to work and life. Do I have a work-life balance?

I'm a 35-year-old single woman and I don't have children. I don't own a house. I don't have any money. Clearly, I don't "have it all." But what I do have is a wonderful life.

I got here via the passage of time and a train of choices, some good and some not so good. I would actually like to have children. I don't have any for several reasons, one being that my "type" just so happens to be floppy-haired rock boys who don't have their shit together and still sleep on a twin mattress on the floor. Also, there's a man famine.

I had a chance at having a family once. I married young, at 22. By today's standards, I'd be considered a straight-up child bride. My then husband had goals of being a traditional breadwinner, Mad Men-style. His vision of personal success included me being a housewife and never having to work. I totally could have been a lady who lunched! I could have gotten so many pedicures! While this was a kind and lovely gesture on his part, I was raised on the feminist ideal that I, too, could be a metaphorical rock star, not just a rock star's girlfriend. By the time I was 25, I subscribed to this ideology with all of my heart, so much in fact that the mere mention of "babies" and "suburbs" had me bowing down to the gods of no-fault divorce and riding directly off into Chicago's seedy underground to further my career as a photographer.

Now that I am of an age where I want a family (and am almost past the "recommended childbearing age") I occasionally look back on the marriage years and think that maybe I could have had it all. But then I remind myself that it's just not true. At the time, I wanted action and adventure, a more complex life, an outside-the-box version of the American dream. Had I chosen the confines of my marriage over remaining true to myself, I would probably be sitting here today in a white-picket prison wondering what life was like on the other side.

And while it's nowhere near glamorous on this side of the fence, I still feel privileged. I may be 35 and single and I may or may not have recently had a conversation about freezing my eggs. I have a lot of friends who also don't have children and they're willing to drink cheap beer with me at the Rainbo. I am lucky enough to love my job, even though it can be hard, even though I do my share of complaining, and even though choosing a job in journalism often means choosing the fate of financial struggle and long hours. It's true, I have more groceries and toiletries at work than I do at home. But when I come to work in the morning, I'm excited to see my coworkers who double as my friends. I laugh really hard at least once a day. I get to go out on assignments and meet all kinds of people who let me into their homes and their lives. I get to incorporate art into my daily life, and most importantly, I get to photograph good food and then eat it.

Sure, I don't "have it all," but then again I never expected to. I do know that I have plenty. I don't exactly have a work-life balance, and while I've been known to work hard and play hard, I certainly don't "work hard, play hard." My work and my play have become so intertwined that the line between them gets a little hazy. So I guess that means I live for a living.

And, well, fuck. Look at the time. It's Friday so I'm gonna go hang out with all you lovely music dorks at Pitchfork. I am required to go. For work. But I was planning on going to Pitchfork anyway.

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