I know you don’t hear much from me these days. In fact, that’s quite an understatement. And the thing is, I do have time to get the work done, I’m not overwhelmed by work, I’m actually having a comparatively tranquil phase with room for experimentation and ideas. It’s just the blogging side of it all that’s coming up short.
For many years, blogging was my absolute top priority. I wrote every day, or else I edited pictures and invested all the love I had. This discipline took me quite far in the blogging world, at some points to the very top, but it also taught me a simple truth: the internet is too fast-lived to yield any kind of sustainable success. With time I had to witness how fewer and fewer people, companies etc. were interested in blogs, and in a moment of tearful clarity I had to admit to myself that the effort no longer stood in healthy relation to the success. In the time I need to prepare a blog post I can publish several Instagram posts, stories, podcasts – all that while ending up with more private time for myself on my hand. Here’s another painful lesson I learned: some moments with friends or family are irretrievably lost when one does not choose to experience them.
I needed to free myself. It was the only way if I wanted to be happy. But free from what? The answer is: of the self-imposed rules that had regulated the course of my life.
Letting go was the most difficult part.
You know, blogging is the first thing I found myself to be good at. Before discovering this special medium for myself I was feeling pretty mediocre in life: I was an average student without hobbies or ambition. I didn’t consider myself particularly beautiful, talented or clever. All that gradually changed with the blog. This platform gave me the feeling – for the first time in my life – that I was standing out. Yes, it took me more than 20 years to feel special, and it took me a bit longer still to be proud of myself. But there was also a problem: the more I defined myself through this blog, the more I started to cling to it The fear that I’d slide back into mediocrity, the fear of feeling boring, of dropping into obscurity was just too big. So I increased my pace. Every day anew. Faster and faster. My private life played second fiddle in all this. I lived and breathed for my work, my blog, my status. Was I happy? Maybe. But if I take stock of the really happy moments in my life, few of them fall into this period of boundless hustle. I was content in my private life, but not what you could call extraordinarily happy. I was captive in my own prison.
I sacrificed my private life for what I took to be my calling, and phrases like “no, sorry, I can’t come, need to finish a post” were among the most worn in my standard repertoire. Until at some point people just stopped asking if I’d like to join them for dinner, for a birthday get-together, or wherever. They already knew my answer. I had arrived at a paradoxical situation. The more I felt I had arrived in the community, the lonelier I felt in the “real” world. I needed to rethink my priorities and break out of this prison I had ended up in if I wanted to be happy again. That, in turn, also meant I’d need to sacrifice a part of the identity I had clung to. I believe that when we speak of work-life balance we often forget that the perfect equilibrium between extraordinary private happiness and outstanding professional success does not exist. You can’t be all things to all people at all times. Sure, on channels like Instagram (especially there) it often looks like successful people tend to be blessed with happier private lives as well, but I have barely ever met anyone who actually struck a healthy balance in that respect. In the end, there are always sacrifices to be made.
The only equilibrium one can reach is that between sacrifice and benefit, the balance between pain and gain.
Let me give you an example: to this day I feel pangs of guilty conscience because I’m not posting on the blog frequently enough. It feels like I owe you, my readers, something. But this guilty conscience is far outweighed by the private happiness I have been blessed with for some time now, in the form of a new relationship and new hobbies. My ambition took me a long way in my professional life, but it ultimately did not point the way to happiness. Finding the right work-life balance, day by day, is like an inner conflict we are challenged to resolve over and over again. And we should not frame this conflict in purely negative terms either. I have found a much more conscious approach to using my time, which also means I experience it much more intensely. I work so much more efficiently than I used to. And when I take the time to live my private life, I do that much more consciously as well. I try to create real memories.
I have become so much better at distinguishing between the private and the professional spheres, and I know where to draw the lines. Indirectly, this is actually starting to benefit the blog again. I HAVE TO write much less than I used to, but I find that I WANT TO that much more often. Curiously, the result is that I am more relaxed about it all, more capable of taking life and work as it comes, without need for this desperate struggle for success. And that’s the real irony in all this: now that I stopped fighting, now that I freed myself of the shackles of my own rules, now that I do a much better job of being conscious about when and how long to work, I am not only happier but also more successful than ever before. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Maybe this is the work-life balance everyone’s talking about?