In conversations with young, professional women peers of mine, I hear a great deal of angst about how their career ambitions will play out alongside other things they value, namely family. Indeed, there are a lot of things to be anxious about when it comes to navigating workplaces and professions that structurally and culturally disadvantage women, while also building family. That said, I think that implicit in some of the anxiety is the idea that they will have mediocre partners. That is, less-than-partners really, who wont take on at least an equal share of the burdens (and joys) of home-making and care-giving, making career sacrifices when necessary. That makes me sad. I can’t speak for other men, and I struggle myself with social norms at the intersection of masculinity and career, but I am committed to the work and sacrifice of true partnership. I want to be involved in the messy, exhausting, beautiful work of care-giving and home-making, and of making a life with someone at least as ambitious and capable as I am.
Reflecting on the past couple years, there are a few things that I’ve learned at the intersection of the professional and the personal. I was talking recently to a bright young guy coming out of undergrad and found myself giving to him the advice that I most desperately needed a couple months ago:
- The most important skills that come out of your first years in the working world are not so much narrow and task related as they are broad and emotional. They have to do with coping with mediocrity and monotony, with recovering from miserable days and discovering fresh stores of self, with crafting new means of motivation, with developing perspective, and appreciating the comedy and richness in the absurd dramas you’ll encounter.
- If you can make it through the day, you can make it through the week. That seems obvious to the point of being a refrigerator magnet truism, but there have been a lot of days that when I woke, I couldn’t see the end of; there was only the crushing weight of the things I had to get through. But then the day ends, and the morning’s impossibility gives way to the fact that you’re still breathing and nothing is broken beyond repair. You get up and do it again, and again, and next thing you know the week is over.
- Things can change remarkably quickly, in our inner emotional lives, and in the circumstances that we construct our lives in compromise with. Develop a capacity for differentiating between momentary internal crisis and real, potentially life-shattering crisis. Don’t build your happiness around small, passing events. I think the word for that is “Equanimity”. Practice it. Play a long game and ignore the noise. Few of your mistakes are likely to condemn you and no one achievement will guarantee you comfort.
This and other things from pep talks and graduation speech babble. [edited]
This post has been moved to: http://www.tariqwest.com/2010/04/10/person-and-profession/
Sometimes I love the fluff and inanity of the internet, other days it drives me insane. Lately I’ve been thinking, if I read one more fluffy, ripped-off, popcorn-flick post titled “10 ways to ace a job interview” or “What Gen-Y Wants” or “5 reasons your business needs social media”, I think my head might explode. I’m not saying all the writing on these topics is bad, just that they are rehashed ad-nauseam and most posts I read add little to the conversation.
Making something into a list and putting a number in front of the title (i.e. X ways to do Y) may make it more accessible, but it does not make it insightful. In the case of some of the career advice, it seems like would-be experts are constantly dangling cheap-tips for better prospects in front of struggling people like a leash in front of an ugly chihuahua with a flatulence problem (have you ever seen an ugly chihuahua?). Please people, lets stop providing fodder for Andrew Keen.
Do ya feel me? Feel free to sound off.