Before I studied in Spain I was told, “Spaniards do not live to work, but work to live.” I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot recently given what’s transpired in my life this past year. The ups and downs. The highs and lows, if you will. While I try not to dwell too much on “what if” scenarios, I do try to reason through situations that haven’t gone as I would have liked. Immediately, one situation comes to mind: applying to professional school. To make a long story short, I poured my heart into an application only to find out that deadlines essentially don’t matter in a rolling admissions process. Not receiving any interview offers for professional school was devastating. I failed at the goal I had worked toward for five years. So how do you rebound from something like that? Work harder! I realized I needed to make getting into professional school my number one priority. Nothing was going to stand in the way of my career path. It was the only thing that mattered.
Fast forward a few months. I recently got coffee with a close friend of mine who is currently in professional school. As if it isn’t obvious given that she’s in professional school, let me just say that she is the most academically driven and disciplined person I know. No exaggeration. This is someone who has truly given her all to her chosen career path. She loves learning about her career field. However, I just learned that this exceptional student is having a very rough time right now in her program and is extremely stressed. I have no doubt that she will get through this struggle and be an even more amazing professional because of it, yet during our conversation I found myself thinking, “I’m not even in a professional program yet. If she’s struggling, how will I EVER survive?!” I can feel the stress begin to build already, and I’m not even in professional school!
So here I am. Once again reflecting on this notion of working to live rather than living to work. Throughout my academic career, I’ve always been looking ahead to the next step. Where do I want to be and what must I do to get there? Now don’t get me wrong it’s essential to have goals, yet I often feel like our society places too much emphasis on the next step. I have had an academic adviser tell me to give up something I loved in the hope that something else might look better on a resume/curriculum vitae/transcript. That just doesn’t seem right to me. Giving up everything else to pursue a career we think we want is common in our culture, and it’s easy to get wrapped up planning what the next step should be. I feel like I fully understand the live to work mentality.
Now how about the work to live philosophy? As mentioned earlier, I didn’t quite understand this concept until I lived in Spain. During my month in Spain, I found it very much true that Spaniards worked to live. Their careers were only one facet of their lives. They worked so that they could afford to do other things they were passionate about. I observed that each day was centered around time with family and friends. People spent their free time strolling in the parks and conversing at street-side cafes. Everyone had a large mid-afternoon break to eat lunch and spend time with their families. I’m not saying that people didn’t find value in their work, but everything seemed so much more laid back and less career driven. I really enjoyed my time there. Everything felt slower-paced and people oriented. This ideology has prompted me to reflect on my own goals and what I want out of this adventure called life. Am I putting so much pressure on myself and my future that I’m not enjoying the simple things that make life great?
So what do you think? Is our society putting so much emphasis on getting ahead in work that we’re forgetting to invest in other important aspects of our lives? Do you think we’ve embodied a live to work or work to live culture? While I don’t know the answer, working to live seems like the more rewarding option. What are your thoughts?
“Remember, George: No man is a failure who has friends.”
It’s a Wonderful Life
“Today’s Thought.” Real Simple Home & Lifestyle Network. Time Inc. Lifestyle Group, 17 Sept. 2012. Web. 23 June 2013. <http://realsimpleblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/091712-dt.gif?w=640>.