Women can't have it all.
Nonstop, there are articles telling us how to divide our time. Last week, in the Atlantic, came another one -- this time, that relationships are "more important" than career. It's as if someone is trying to nail Jell-o to the wall. Nobody has life "right" (and that just doesn't exist), and I'm not sure why we don't stop trying.
Stop telling me how to divide my time and my life.
Everywhere I turn, there is another article being written about what one should do with her adult life, in stark, black and white terms. It's only two pieces, right down the middle -- "work" and "life." Unless someone knows something I don't, life doesn't work that way. Life is multifaceted; it can't be divided evenly, if at all. If it were a predictable pie chart, if there were a "correct" or "best" way to live it, or slice it, we wouldn't be humans. We would be robots, or we wouldn't have been given the chip of self-awareness that is akin to so few species.
As someone who is figuring out her own "work" slice -- as an entrepreneur, a female founder, and without a "traditional" career path -- these stories on how I should be living my life based on how I divide it are aggravating. There will always be advice columns, and there will always be readers wanting guidance. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about consistent messaging about how to balance facets of our career with our personal lives. Sometimes out "careers" and our "lives" are intertwined. Sometimes they're indistinguishable.
These articles are attention-grabbing, endlessly sharable, made for fodder and mean commenters and social media goldmines. But they don't help clarify wants, needs, or objectives. Instead they talk about timing, what we might miss out on, and rely often on scare tactics about missing out or doing things wrong.
I'm fed up with work and life "balance" pieces.
You could argue, that as a single female, I don't know shit. I don't have a husband, I don't have kids. But that doesn't mean other single, ambitious women like me aren't listening to these messages. It's discouraging. Some of us, myself included, want those former pieces of the Life Pie, like marriage, and kids. However, with each long-form article on the difficulties of work and play (I'm lucky in that I find my own work to be play, so where does my Life Pie sit?), women like me get confused and feel a loss of agency. Or at least I do.
I should be splitting my time differently! I should be getting married young. I should be waiting to get married. Most recently -- I should be choosing relationships over my company. This is just a sliver, to continue the analogy, of what we're being told.
But wants and needs change, and nothing applies universally to the workforce or to our personal lives.
Each person, and especially if you're a woman, has the right to bake her own Life Pie how she likes it. It's not so black and white. What if that "life" means lots of friends, and not a husband? What if that life means being a single parent? What if that life means marriage and no children at all? What if you decide to make your career your life? And why is career not considered part of life at all?
We're obsessed with balancing properly, and instead we don't consider the fact that all of life is a delicate balancing act.
Life is fragile. Boston, Texas, you name it. We saw that two vile brothers can harm and debilitate people exercising, literally, their right to freedom and movement. We saw that sometimes there are terrible explosions. We learn that sometimes, in the case of one man, you have to witness (and survive) both.
Each piece of life, from the most mundane to the most serious, is to be divided by each person alone. Stop telling us how to divide our time, but also stop telling us what's important.
I'll cut a slice myself.