Monday, 25 May 2009

The work vs love dilemma

"I was told Indian women don't think like that about equality. But I would like to argue that if they don't think like that they should be given a real opportunity to think like that." Amartya Sen
A friend recently wrote about meaningful living using the box analogy. I suppose that idea can be applied beyond the concepts of travel. One of the other places where growth and meaning so often come from is the workplace. In this day and age, there is generally plenty of space for those who wish to live creative and challenging lives to find work that fills that gap. It's generally damned hard work. Someone I know was recently complaining about 15-hour days. She isn't the kind who is seeking meaning and challenge from work, so it's a huge effort for her. It used to be second nature to me. Working for a week without ever really stopping - off-site so that there was no nine-to-five or going home after the working day - was par for the course. And I enjoyed it. I enjoy it. Work is a crucial part of who I am and I like it that way.

I do wish, however, that I could live in a society where the everyday scripts, that govern our interaction with one another, slightly more strongly supported passionate work. Because the truth is, they don't. I'm particularly frustrated and upset at the moment. I've suffered disappointments and been jilted on various fronts. I've had my heart broken and my dreams stolen. If any of this was because of a failed relationship, the world would be ready with chocolate and tissues and sympathy. And possibly alcohol, but that my just be my friends. There is little so sure as that everyone will rally around you and be helpful in a situation of lost love. Consoling those who are broken-hearted is a central part of the scripts we all grow up with. It is only the most hard-hearted who would refuse to be sypathetic or to care about a damsel-in-distress who has been hurt by the careless word or deed of the object of her affections. And the reverse - no woman is allowed to be really miserable if she has love because love is supposed to over come all. In spite of all the generations of liberation and struggle, there is still a subtle, insidious expection that a woman (and perhaps these days also a man) will put up with whatever troubles life throws at her, provided she has love.

Because love, of course, is supposed to be the most important thing on anyone's mind. As if love were the ultimate end of all search for meaning and everything else was merely incidental. Which is so frustratingly, annoyingly stupid. I am often very tired of being expected to act and think like a simpleton. I am frustrated and disappointed and, frankly, miserable. There is so much in my life that I find intolerable and I go through most days in a kind of haze of unhappiness. It fills me with rage that my disappointment and frustration is treated lightly because it's not about a boy, because it's only about work. One of the reasons I never want to live a suburban, ordinary, 'normal' life is because I refuse to reinforce and normalise this lie - that love is more important than anything and women will (should?) always value that far more than work. If I were ever to have children, I would resist with all my strength raising them in this myth. Some days it would be great to find someone to laugh at the world with, but love is incidental. Work with always be the real challenge and meaning of life, perhaps with travel, when work becomes monotonous. And that disappointment and frustration and pain is just as valid and just as real as that of the broken-hearted girl crying of some guy.

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