Thursday, September 4, 2008

Put Away the Blackberry

This was a good Op-Ed in the New York Times a few days ago, but I haven't had any time to post it till now:

Basically, it's about the fact that it's not so much the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer in America, it's the kind-of rich feeling much poorer than the very-rich. That's the gap that's really expanding, with the result that the middle-class people feel like they have to work 10 times harder, including working on vacations and weekends, to be able to keep up with the very-rich. And yet they can't, and houses get more expensive, and college gets more expensive, and the middle class ends up back farther, partly only by perception, but partly by the reality of market-driven inflation of house prices and other costs.

So this is why everyone around me seems so stressed out. We're working harder to stand still. I'd like to tell myself, just stop comparing yourself to the richer people who are growing exponentially richer. Psychologically that's a very easy trap to fall into, so this is easier said than done. But it is a choice at heart. There's a secret to being content (and it has nothing to do with the book by that title!), and part of it is willful ignorance of the life of the very-rich.

But then there's the time inflation. If a deadline's coming up at work and the boss expects you to sleep in the office to make it, and everyone else is doing it, you kind of have to, right? And this is where wisdom comes in. I have to tell myself, keep an eye out for alternatives. At the bottom line, you can't buy security by working yourself to death. The tired faces and full schedules around me tell me that, at least at some level, we think we can. Sometimes you have to stop and trust that though this job isn't perfect, it's good enough, and it's more important to go home to the kids.

I don't have many answers for this, but I do think part of this problem is illusion and the other part is social dynamics, and I sense very deeply that it doesn't have to be this way. So I'll be doing my best not to bring too much work along on my upcoming Florida vacation. It can wait. (Easy for me to say, I'm a relatively independent university professor! But I feel the pressures much the same.)

So ... guess I should stop being a hypocrite and go home to the kids now. See ya.

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