I wrote the first half of this blog a couple of months ago. It sat in my drafts for a little while and then, when I went back to it, my opinion had changed. I have added to it and it is now an arc of the developing relationship between my work and myself.
After I listened to a podcast between interviewer Zane Lowe and Harry Styles, I pondered some questions which had come up for me. Styles made a comment about not knowing who he was without his career. He said this in fear, seemingly afraid of his career disappearing and being left with his sense of self in tatters. He talked about not being a musician and having an identity crisis. He saw the brand of Harry Styles as one (big) thing and he had a desire to be something other than that – something other than the majority of his life.
When I first heard this, I interpreted the fact of his work and identity being intertwined as a positive rather than negative thing. I considered that the other option would be for your work to be separate to who you are which doesn’t sit with me. (I define ‘who you are’ as a mixture of what you’re passionate about, what you believe in, etc.) I felt that it was really important to me that my work and identity have a heavy crossover because I work for 37.5 hours a week. If my heart wasn’t tied up with what I do, these would be pretty miserable hours and would, ultimately, make my life pretty miserable.
My work is fuelled by love, passion and excitement which come from my heart – there’s a big piece of me in what I do. Harry seemed to fear being lost without his career, but for me, if I stopped work tomorrow and didn’t feel lost, I would be concerned. It would show that I hadn’t 100% committed to it. And if I don’t fully commit then that’s a version of myself who isn’t truly loving what they do. And I can’t do what I do if I don’t love it. I actually want The Wellbeing Collective and Nat to be connected enough for them to be hard to disentangle. Not to the point where I would have a major breakdown if it all stopped unexpectedly, but to the point where neither one of us would be ok with losing the other. There are greater levels of both security and insecurity that come with that, so I understand Styles’ point of view, but I understand the other side of it too.
There are tons of jobs out there which people do purely because they’re paid to – because they have to: I chose to apply for my job because I cared about it on a deeper level. (I really appreciate that this was huge a privilege to have the freedom to wait until I found something that lit a spark for me.) My first thought when I read the job and company description was ‘this is me’. If I hadn’t related to it, identified with it and seen myself reflected in it, then I wouldn’t have applied. The long-term inspiration and joy that I gain from my role are crucial for the maintenance of my wellbeing.
I asked my colleagues for their takes on what Harry Styles said and, since coming back to this blog, I already understand their different takes better. They looked at it from different points of their lives and understood my instinctive, positive reaction to being tied up in your job, but they related to Styles more as they got older. Most of them had had an experience which was the turning point for them: a moment in their career when they got so caught up in their work that they had to step back from it emotionally. They agreed that there had to be fundamental values lining their work (like positively impacting others or collaborating with interesting people) but that they put more emotional energy into their personal lives nowadays.
I think I’m still at an age and point in my career where work is probably the most exciting thing going for me so it’s got most of my attention. However, hearing my colleagues’ thoughts made me wary of the tipping point between this and then disconnecting from the people and hobbies who matter to me outside of work. I’m now making more of a conscious effort to push myself in things completely unrelated to work in my free time. It’s definitely a fluctuating journey of finding balance, but one which I believe being aware of will help me to not lose my footing with.
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