I’ve had a lot to say about B’s work lately, but not much about my own. This is partly due to a fear of being fired – I’m wary of saying anything about work on social media. I know people who have, to their detriment.
It’s also partly because I have complex feelings about it which have been difficult to put into words.
But I think I can say a few things without risking unemployment.
The first is that my feelings about work have definitely changed a lot in the past year. I wouldn’t say that I was ever a full-on, driven career woman. I didn’t enter my profession out of a burning desire to develop financial applications. But then again, who does? It reminds me of Simon Amstell’s excellent comedy show Grandma’s House, in which his teenage nephew has a ‘dream’ to become an Independent Financial Advisor. It’s funny because it doesn’t happen.
I’ve never been under any illusion that I contribute to the greater good. Sometimes the applications I produce make the working lives of others slightly easier. That’s enough for me. My job is a pretty good one, really. Decently paid, challenging and containing the right mix of technical skill and personal interaction.
Despite that, since B’s diagnosis it has all seemed a bit… trivial, for want of a better word. I’ve never had much time for office politics and have never aspired to a management position – neither the politics or the management of people interests me. But now, I find that I regard any intra-organisational dispute as a colossal waste of time. I have zero interest in it. Nor am I moved by the unspoken expectation to put in long hours (which in my industry is far more about ‘being seen’ to work long hours than actually doing more work). I go in, I do my work, I go home.
When I went part-time I was fully aware that part-time workers are considered less dedicated to their careers than those who work full-time. I don’t even think this is unjustified. I sometimes hear women complain that having children and returning with reduced working hours halts their rise up the career ladder. Well yes, you’re putting in a fraction of the time that other people put in. Having a child is very nice for you, but how does it benefit your employer? It doesn’t. You’ve prioritised other areas of your life over work and your employer realises that. Deal with it.
Similarly, the fact that my husband has cancer is pretty awful for me, and my employer has been appropriately sympathetic, but choosing to work less shows that I consider my time with him more important than my work. That is a fact that I do not dispute.
I’ve found, though, that accepting of all of the above doesn’t mean I don’t worry about it.
Something else I’ve discovered is that life without (as much) work seems to be enough for me. I used to think that if I didn’t work, I’d miss the intellectual challenge of it. I’m no longer certain that’s true. I’m surprisingly happy pottering about, reading, talking to B, going to movies and art galleries and restaurants. In short, living the privileged life of the ‘lady who lunches’. I don’t even have a desire to fill my time with charity work. It’s only been 6 months so maybe I’ll get bored in time. But maybe not, especially in London where there’s so much to do.
I feel that I lack purpose, and that doesn’t bother me – but it bothers me that it doesn’t bother me. Should I be more ambitious, determined, productive, useful? How much purpose is necessary, given that most activities are essentially futile?
What all of the above boils down to is a vague sense of dissatisfaction and lack of motivation. I’ve been expecting it to resolve itself but so far that hasn’t happened. Perhaps it will, if I keep going through the motions?