Get a Life vs. Get a Job

In four days, I’m getting on a plane.

Moments after purchasing my airline ticket.

This plane is going to take me to London, where I will begin a five-week-long trek around Europe.

Let’s back up.

When I started this blog back in 2010, I was frustrated and angry.  I was stuck in a job that sucked the life from me, and I thought if only I could get the right job, if I could put my skills to work and feel like I was making a difference, then I would be making something of my life.  I titled this blog “The Get-a-Life Project” because I felt that at best, I was biding my time, trapped in a holding pattern until something better came along, and at worst I was wasting my life trapped in a cubicle.  Somehow I had confused “The Get-a-Life Project” with “The Get-a-Job Project.”  And those things are definitely not the same.

In the course of these two years, I’ve switched jobs three times in search of something better.  I’ve applied to grad school and been accepted.  I’ve spent significant time unemployed, and I’ve moved back into my childhood home.  I’ve followed every practical step I thought I needed to get a decent job, and therefore a good life (or one with meaning).

It’s easy to do – get a job confused with life.  We spend such a large percentage of our lives at work…where do we draw the line?  People talk about work-life balance, but what is that, exactly?  Our job is a huge part of what defines us, but it’s not everything that defines us.  While battling with this conundrum and working at jobs I feel do not even define a part of me, I’ve made some wonderful friends with my coworkers–one of whom was planning a backpacking trip through Europe.

As the time for her to leave was drawing closer and closer, I was mourning the loss of a bright presence in my otherwise dull job.  She kept saying, “Come with me!” and I would laugh and say, “Oh, if only I could.”  I had already resigned myself to a bleak summer at another dead-end job.  Until a wise person asked, “Well, why don’t you go with her?

So I called my friend and asked if she was serious about me going.

And then a week ago I bought a plane ticket.

No, it’s not necessarily “practical” in the way I thought I always had to be, and obviously I can’t backpack through Europe forever.  I have to work, too.  But for now, I have some clarity, and dang it if I’m not getting a life.

I want to hear from you...
Where do you find your work-life balance?  What do you do to get a life?


Combating Perfectionist Purgatory

Confession: I am a perfectionist.  Always have been…probably always will be.  In high school, a friend coined the phrase “HSC” which stood for “Honors Student Complex”.  It was the disorder that possessed us all–the idea that a B was considered “failing” and that you couldn’t be involved in too many after-school activities.  We took all of the hardest classes (with the exception of one friend who dropped down from honors to regular biology because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to get an A in it–a super case of HSC!), and I was in all of the top auditioned choirs, even making it all the way to All State Jazz Choir.  We graduated with GPAs over 5 points on a 4 point scale.  Give us a task, and we excelled.

That was the positive side of perfectionism–hard workers getting excellent results.  But there was another side, too.  The side that threw outrageous tantrums because I couldn’t play an etude on my cello correctly the first time.  The side that mentally beat myself up when I got the wrong answer to math problem.  It’s this side that held me back and made me ask, if I couldn’t do something right the first time, was it worth doing at all?

Nowadays it’s this dark side of perfectionism that has its hold on me.  It has me anxiety-ridden, thinking that I’m going to pick the wrong career, the wrong grad program, and I’ll be trapped in something that I hate.  And so I’m stuck in a different way–paralyzed by my fear of choosing the wrong path.  So I’m stagnant, paused in the place before I take the leap, before I get too invested.  It keeps me from taking a risk, any risk, for fear that it might not be the “right one”.

I know that sounds completely ridiculous.  My fear of ending up trapped has me trapped in a purgatory of my own making.  And I find that the side I most want to develop, the creative, artist side of me, is in direct opposition to this very demanding and ugly personality trait.  Art is all about risk.  It’s about vulnerability, and it’s the opposite of people-pleasing.  It’s practicing, and failing, and doing it anyway.  Art is an exercise of the soul, and perfectionism is a soul-killer.

I’m not sure yet how to wrap up this blog entry because I haven’t found the answer to this reconciling this dichotomy yet (what a perfectionist way of putting that).  But I thought I’d just throw this out there and see if anyone else struggles with this same thing, and if so, what do you do about it?  Is there a way these two two attributes can work together?