So there are two things I’ve figured out, in all this time I was too busy working to do much of anything else including thinking.
Whatever happens, two things, then, will have absolute precedence over my work and career: I won’t ruin my health on account of my job, and I won’t let myself become a jerk.
The first is quite straightforward. Working is supposed to help you make money, which you’re going to use to meet your basic living needs. Ruining your health over your work completely defeats the purpose (I should note that I am fortunate enough to live in a country where it is possible to make a living wage without jeopardising your health, and I don’t intend to spit in my soup, as we say in France). But there’s something else: I don’t believe that, in a just society, anyone should be asked to risk their health for their job. That’s just inhuman. And I’m not going to contribute to a system where it’s normal to expect people to go without sleep, eat crap and give up exercising until their own body gives up on them. So I’ll get my full nights of sleep, eat my veggies and pulses and if I need to take time off work to exercise, I will (I’ve got a pair of ruined knees to mend after all). And I won’t ever expect anyone to do any less for their bodies.
I would have made a long list of other priorities, like family, friends in need, and all that jazz. But then I realised that it all falls under the same banner. I don’t want to become the kind of person who stops interacting with their family on account of work, has no time to check on friends, no energy for any cause whatsoever and generally assumes that they already make enough efforts as it is and won’t lift a finger for anything not career-related. The thing is, too much work does that to people. And I do realise that sometimes people have families to support, and in some countries, working too much can be a necessity when minimum wages are treated like a joke, and I think this is tragic, because too much work is bad for you. In countries privileged enough to give you a choice, working too much means that you’re deliberately choosing to close your mind. People have varying tolerance levels to being over-worked, but there comes a point when anyone can start feeling that they’re doing their share already, and they won’t give a cent to any good cause, they’ll ignore people asking for help, they won’t lift a finger to reduce their environmental impact, because that would be asking too much of them. But really, the only ‘effort’ they are making is to advance their career–their whole lives are centred on doing things for themselves and no one else. Some people call hard work a virtue; in modern societies where you can afford to not work too hard, I thing this is nonsense. Too much work is not a good thing, it won’t make you a better person and save for some rather specific jobs, it won’t help anyone but you. And if you don’t have time for anything or anyone but yourself (and that includes treating any moment you spend with your spouse or children like a big favour you’re doing to them), then I do believe you qualify as a jerk. And I don’t want to become one.
Because let’s be honest: sometimes your job allows you to make a significant contribution, and sometimes… well, it’s not so obvious. I’m not saying what I do is useless, even though I can’t exactly say researching virtual worlds is quite the same as changing the real world order to eradicate poverty or something. It’s just not useful enough to justify sacrificing everything to it. And so far I’ve made enough sacrifices, not of myself, but of others. I’ve fucked up my environmental footprint by making three yearly return journeys over the Atlantic and giving up organic food. I give money to a couple of organisations, but I’ve done nothing myself except clicking a few buttons now and then to say that I disagree with stuff. I’ve left my family in France and asked my boyfriend to wait while I took care of my professional advancement. That’s enough of it. When I’m back in France for good, it will be high time to stop cutting myself endless slack under any pretext I can find.
So this is it. If anyone sees me ranting here about how I’m too good to pay taxes, watch my environmental impact or dedicate some of my precious time to my family and friends, feel free to send me a virtual kick in the backside.