Some say that times have changed: Today the 40s are the new 30s, and the 30s are the new 20s. My friend Tom, 43, a successful partner at Big Law, never married, is unconcerned: "I haven't found the right woman yet. But I'll have a family when I am 50." He once told me why his last girlfriend left him: "She said that she always had the feeling she was dating a single. Work was always more important than she." - "And? Was she right? " I quizzed. "Of course, she was right," Tom replied. "Work is very important to me. I worked long and hard to get where I am today."
To work, for most of us means something different today than it did for our parents or even grandparents decades ago, who for the most part had a job and a life, and they were separate. At the end of a work day, they tended to their private lives. Today, our private lives have become inseparable from our work. Thanks to the smart phone, we carry our office in our pockets and can respond to clients' emails at Disneyland. A job is more than a job, a career is a calling. Work has become a form of self-expression: Of our personalities, our hopes and wishes, and our dreams. We cultivate our passions, and continuously shape our working life towards the lifestyle that resonates with us. Landing our dream job gives our lives meaning, and we pin all our aspirations and ambitions to reaching that ultimate platform of perfection.
The center of our lives has become what we do. But, our biggest project is "Project Me," work is just detail. Self-centered, we become our own brand, we selfie ourselves on facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We model and profile our lives for befriended contacts, followers, linkedins, and at the work place. We work on our career, our figure, and finding our soul mate. We frame and arrange our lives, the correct, updated version, and every detail is a statement of who we are: What we wear, what music we like, what cities we live in, what we eat - and consequently, what people we surround ourselves with. We live in an instant, ever present status of self-optimization. We know that everything can get better. Until it is perfect. The problem with perfection, however, is that one can never quite attain it.
In our never-ending quest to complete our Self, we search for another human being that fits into the empty frame we have already built for them. We cannot have distraction from "Project Me" and no compromises or restrictions. A few months ago, one of my running buddies broke with up with his girlfriend, telling her: "My career is taking off, and you are not the right woman, you don't fit in." As brutal as the self-serving observation sounds, it is not uncommon. When the Ego expands in such a way it blends out our partner, we tend to forget that relationships are about forming a picture together - that you and I become "We." In a relationship, we learn about ourselves. We see ourselves from a different perspective. Through the eyes of our partner. Our partner is our mirror, and relationships provide opportunities for us to improve ourselves. This process naturally leads to conflicts, and many of us are less inclined to have them. Breaking up seems much more feasible than a compromise that - God forbid! - may hamper our Me development. But self-focus also blurs everything else.
As I placed down my fork and pushed away my plate, I wondered if I should tell my cousin that I am single again. She studied my face, and taking my place, she said: "You are in law school, and you cannot have any distractions. Besides, you wouldn't have time to fit in a relationship with all that you do. You need to focus on yourself right now." I nod hesitantly, maybe she is right. But deep down, I know if the right person already walked into my life, then I want him to stay, and figure out everything else together. Life is about progress, not perfection.
© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved. 2016.