This newsletter features weekly musings about life, career, identity, and behaviour by a questioning African centennial. To get it in your inbox every week, subscribe here ⬇️
It’s been a while since I published.
Again, I’m sorry. Especially to those who have been persistent in their request for me to write again. You know how they say men plan and God laughs? That has been my story with this newsletter. Truly.
At this point, I think Arinze’s Weekly might be a misnomer, so I’m open to suggestions for a new name for this newsletter. My friends laughed when I suggested Arinze’s Periodically. I’m clearly terrible with names, so please save me.
As an update, I’m currently applying and interviewing for jobs that I’ll start after graduating from my master’s in June. In the process of filtering the different companies and roles I’m considering, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about work-life balance.
As schoolkids, we reluctantly immersed ourselves into the painful drudgery that came with our pursuit of top grades and shiny academic laurels. All our lives, we’d been taught that we need to work hard to enjoy the best things in life, so now we throw ourselves into the grind believing that it’s a price we must pay to earn the good life.
We grew up internalising the idea that suffering is a prerequisite for success. You have to work hard to play hard. A fine idea, isn’t it? I believe it is.
But there is a fine line between working hard and burning out. It is our upbringing that has robbed most of us of the ability to tell the two apart.
As young professionals, we explain away the exploitative systems and practices that pervade the corporate world we are being integrated into as we negotiate our lives away in exchange for ‘fair’ compensation for our time and effort.
As part of a future-oriented world, we justify a lot of our present circumstances, however unpleasant or uncomfortable, by highlighting its contribution to a distant, better future we are working towards.
We burn ourselves out for our employers today to enjoy tomorrow. It’s like giving out a loan on the basis of an unguaranteed payback. Will you do that with your money? So why do that with your time?
Inevitably, at some point, we find ourselves asking: “Is this all worth it?” I’ve asked myself that question several times and 9 out of 10 times, the real answer was no.
Nobody can ever pay you enough money to jeopardise your wellbeing just so that you can progress in your career. Nobody can ever pay you enough money to miss out on the opportunity to live a full life just so that your account balance can intimidate your peers.
Don’t think it’s true? Let’s do a rough thought experiment.
Imagine you’ve just been told that you have only 48 hours left to live. How will you spend those hours? An awareness of our mortality has a peculiar way of recalibrating our priorities to focus on what is truly most important.
The main purpose of having a job isn’t to make money. Rather, it is to elevate the quality of our existence. When you think about it that way, you start to make decisions differently.
You start to realise that the accrual of money is never a sound goal. Money elevates the quality of our existence because it expands the array of things and experiences we can afford. But of what use is money if we don’t have the time to even spend it?
Sacrificing your time and energy without getting the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labour is never a fair exchange. It’s high time we stopped arguing for it as such.
You work hard to enjoy your life, not to build your future. That life of yours is not your future; it’s your present. It’s your today. If you were to die today (which is always possible), your future plans will never be included in the description of the life you lived.
Memento mori. Remember that you must die. Remember that you are mortal.
In the pursuit of our goals, we can deceive ourselves into feeling invincible. We make plans weeks and years ahead, assuming ourselves immortal. That unfounded assumption is the root of our pain. It justifies our suffering and normalises the trauma we inflict on ourselves when we take on jobs that force us to choose between career success and personal wellbeing.
This all began when we started quantifying success with material possessions such as wealth, power, and status. But is that truly the measure of success for a “good life”? If all those possessions come at the cost of the actual quality of your life, are they worth it?
Life is made good not by our continued striving, but by our sustained happiness and peace.
This is not to say that we should all be lazy and docile because we don’t want any stress. Not at all. Rather, this is a call for us to find success in the balance; for us to prioritise ourselves and optimise our lives and our careers appropriately.
All my skill, knowledge, and talent being sought after by these companies will all cease when I do. So I need to take care of me, for myself and for my work.
I will only ever continue to work at a company that understands, respects, and encourages that my wellbeing is my topmost priority.
I am my topmost priority.
See you next week!
- Arinze ❤️