Is rebalancing your life a luxury?

A little while back, I read an article on the website of Catherine Blyth, where she deconstructed the notion of a career.  She points out that the concept of having a career (as opposed to a job) is a) very middle class, and b) grows in popularity at times of insecurity in employment.  You might not feel devoted to your employer, but if you view your working life through the prism of a greater aim – a career – you're likely to put up with many more demands.  The idea of having a career, I think, is there to give a wider sense of purpose to the day in front of the computer screen; striving towards a worthy end.

The idea of achieving balance between your working life and your home life is one that's gained more than a little currency, mythical though that balance may be. The people who are often pointed to as most successful are those who have been able to turn a hobby or a passion into their work; and the ones who I have been reading about are the ones who've packed up their jobs, homes and possessions, and set off to travel.  But although I envy their wanderings, I can't help wondering whether packing up and heading off actually represents a failure to achieve balance – have they given up and decided that it can't be achieved, or even aimed at?  It's been niggling away at me that there's something almost selfish about the whole approach.  Maybe because it represents something that only a tiny percentage of people could ever do – so it's not a realistic vision of work-life balance.  Not that the entire population would ever *want* to undertake such a thing.  Perhaps I'm just griping because I want to pack my bags and head off, but I'm pragmatic enough to know that if I do, I'd still be searching for whatever it is I need to find to make me feel fulfilled.  A career, or lack of one, isn't filling that gap.

And a final gripe – work/life balance is entirely, it seems to me, the preserve of middle class; having the time and the luxury of reflecting on what you'd like to change about your life.  Packing up your belongings and travelling is, too; and it bugs me in the same way as internships do.  Alan Milburn reported to Government recently on the fact that entry to many "new" professions (such as journalism) now require not only a specialist academic or vocational qualification, but also a period of low-paid, or no-paid, work as an intern.  This limits drastically the pool from which talent can be drawn: those who can, intern; those who can't, usually for financial reasons, work.  And this pushes the boundaries of the middle class, I think.  Don't get me wrong, I'm as middle class as the next man (he's my husband, and clearly he's middle class too) but internships are certainly not something I ever thought I could afford to do.

Anyway, off to eat some quiche.  I did say I was self-consciously middle class, didn't I?

One thought on “Is rebalancing your life a luxury?

  1. If one goes off to Oz for 6 months is it an oportunity to take some time out, reflect on your life/career etc or just an extended piss-up. Depends on your attitude, but they probably amount to the same thing. Ultimately, it’s just an experience, during which you’ll probably learn some stuff. probably when you least expect it.

    It’s not what you do, it’s the meaning you attach to it. Maybe that’s all that separates job from career.

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