Life is short, working life not

Now, if I’ve understood things correctly, I’m not the only mother of small children who has been somewhat irritated when told “Enjoy now, the kids are small for such a short time!” Short?!? Time is not exactly flying when you’re staying up with a crying baby or when your three-year-old wants to walk s-l-o-w-l-y to kindergarten every morning. But… now that I have come out of the darkest hole of tiredness, I notice, that it is now seven years more o’clock than before. People have grown older (for heaven’s sake, me too!), the kids are not toddlers anymore, the schoolchildren I used to know are now adults and the 90s happened 20 years ago. So ok: time flies and children grow more rapidly than I would like them to.

Children. They have their own role in me considering my working life anew. Now that I am out of the survival mode, I’ve woken up to really think, what it was again, that I wanted to teach my children about the world. Of course there are a lot of things, but at least I would like their childhood to be filled with family time, getting to know the world from many different angles, creativity and the possibility to grow into the people they really are. And what I unfortunately realized, was, that these things have been the reality of our family for maybe 30 percent of the time so far.

As we moved to Germany and I’ve had to think about the direction I want my career to take here, I’ve realized, that I really do not have the time to spend 8 – 9 hours of my day doing things that are not aligned with the things listed above. It’s wasting my time here in the world and the childhood of my own children. Now, I am not talking about being a stay-at-home mum vs. a career mum, or how much time we each spend working. No – I am talking about the fact, that I cannot teach my kids to find their own path in life if I myself am following the wrong one. There cannot be enough creativity in our home, if don’t give space for it in my own life. In general, I cannot teach them values I do not follow myself. And I don’t think that the working hours are for work and only free time is for thinking about values. (I am using the word “values” although I actually am not a fan of the word. It takes me someplace rigid and ideological. But more about that in another text, maybe.) No: everything is part of the same whole and life is happening right now, every moment. There is no special time to be spent on wrong things and another time for the right ones.

67 years and 1 month

…is the estimate of my age of retirement at the moment in Finland. So I and my fellow thirtysomethings have about as much working life ahead of us, as we have life in general behind us. That is a lot of time, you know. It might be wise to spend it on something meaningful instead of just keeping oneself busy for 30 years.

In general I think that every job is purposeful in some way, at least almost every job… Of course everything we do has some meaning and value for someone. But it can be frustrating for someone searching for purposeful work to hear: “Of course your job is purposeful! This office would not function without your reports! The parents could not work if there wasn’t someone looking out for the kids! People wouldn’t get paid if it weren’t for the finances department!”

It is purposeful for a person to feel that they’re fulfilling their purpose doing work that at the same time has purpose for someone else. The reports will have a golden border, the day at the kindergarten will have a rainbow over it and the pay slips will have a hint of magic dust in them, when they are done by someone fulfilling their own purpose.

So, you go and find your purpose then

Where does a Hausfrau who has her hands deep in a mountain of laundry go, when she is looking for the meaning of life? To YouTube of course! I’ve really been a big consumer of TED Talks and other motivational videos during the last months. While listening to them, I bumped into Laura Berman Fortgang, a former musical performer, now career coach. She is talking about how a career crisis is always a spiritual crisis too: it has to do with the very deep human wondering of why am I here in the first place. So we’re not dealing with a small detail, when we’re thinking about how to pay for the Nutella on our morning roll.

I didn’t start this blog to give any advice, but more to write about my own process and in general to think about the theme of making life changes. I also cannot yet tell how it all turned out. But I can tell, that I digged out some long lost pearls regarding my own purpose with this exercise. I‘ve actually found something like it from several different sources, one being the book Now what? 90 days to a new life direction by Berman Fortgang (Vibrance Press):

Write your own life story from birth until this day with bullet points. Mark both the technically important events (like moving, starting school etc.) and the psychologically important ones (being bullied at the kindergarten, receiving praise from a piano performance). Then on the side write what it all felt like: I was ashamed, proud etc.

The exercise, as simple as it seems, can bring surprising things into light. I myself for example noticed, that I ended up in the world of classical music because my parents very much wanted so. Music has been an enormous asset and gift in my life, but not the thing I was naturally interested in and good at. Arts management as a career was chosen by me at the mature age of 18, because I was interested in working in a creative field and saw management as a safe alternative there. When in addition to this I thought about what actually was interesting and easy for me as a child, I noticed a mismatch between that and my life today.

Suddenly I remembered how much I actually was interested in psychology and philosophy, and how easy writing was for me. I was always the one who opened her mouth in class when these subjects were discussed. This realization can be blamed for this blog. After I found writing and reflecting again, it became impossible for me not to do it. I started to lose sleep over these things, in a good way. So I should warn everyone: a little digging into one’s own history can cause extreme motivation.

I can easily see certain themes in my own children and in other people – how can it be so easy to forget my own ones?

P.S. I do lose sleep over great music as well, sometimes.

Elämä lyhyt, työelämä pitkä

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