Last year, we had a much-anticipated group meeting with my adviser, Joe, along with six more graduate students. We all tried to come up with a mission statement for our group. What do you expect when a professor, leading bunch of graduate students in a reputed university, has asked you to have a group statement. A statement that will describe what we stand for to move this group forward in academic life? I know, almost 99% of you will guess something like “work harder”, “publish more”, or do everything that brings fame to him and group in academic market.
But Joe proved us all wrong. I cannot tell the long statement we come up with him as a leader. But let me simplified it to make it understandable, not just for those who are in academia but also who are working outside school. “Collaboration” and “balance between work and personal life” were the basis for the mission statement.
All of us can understand the power of collaboration or collective effort to maximize our output. But balance between personal and professional life was definitely unexpected in academic group where most of the professors secretly expect you to work 10-18 hours a day. Joe definitely expects us to be competitive in academic life and work harder to be better than who we are. But I admired him even more for understanding the importance of personal life for success in professional life. My strong appreciation for him did not come from his academic success, which is great in any standard. I respect him more because he did all without compromising his social life.
We sometimes draw a strong, thick line between professional and personal life. I am also guilty of separating both. The more I think about it, it is not that different. We as an individual represent the same person in both environments. Therefore, it is hard to be successful in one life suppressing the other. Our action in both lives reflects who we are. But how we can handle both lives that bring so different kind of challenges?
It is easy to complain about either under stressful conditions. But we have to love the whole package, bad and good. We cannot discriminate and complain about uncomfortable side when we enjoy the good side. Life cannot be always perfect and it should not be. Wherever we work, there will be always good and difficult times. Whether it is good or bad time, it always gives us an opportunity to redefine what we stand for.
Similarly, personal life can be very dramatic and bring lots of unwanted stress. We cannot disown the mistakes or pain brought upon by someone we love, when we enjoy the every positive side of his/her company. We have to accept who he/she is and enjoy the best of us instead of complaining about those few moments that bring unhappiness to life. And complaining always obscures the reality and moves us a step back from our goal – the goal of having a happy balanced life at work as well as home.
At least, that is what I learned having Joe as my adviser and having my best friend as my life partner. With all their weakness and strength, I am grateful for who they are – an incredible individual. Between both, I find the line between work and home getting thinner and thinner.
How thin that line is for you? Please share this post if you like it.