Harmonizing Hustle and Heart: My Journey of Dual Living

Finding Equilibrium: Harmonizing the Scales of Professional Pursuits and Personal Passions. Image credit: Dall-E

As I strolled through the festive streets of New York on Christmas Eve, a quote displayed in a bookstore caught my eye:

‘Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again.’ ― Eleanor Roosevelt

As the year draws to a close, this quote perfectly encapsulates my current state of mind. I find myself pondering the thirty winters that have shaped my existence on this planet. Normally, I’d scoff at making resolutions — whether for New Year’s or birthdays, as they often seem like setups for future letdowns. Unlike previous years, where resolutions felt like setups for disappointment, this time, I’m compelled to ask: Can I align my career goals with my diverse passions?

About one year ago, I earned my Ph.D. in physics and embarked on a post-doc journey, aiming for a career in academia driven by a lifelong passion for discovery. Studying and unraveling the mysteries of the universe has always fascinated me. But, and there’s always a ‘but,’ my curiosity isn’t limited to physics. It spans history, biology, psychology, geopolitics, tech — a whole spectrum of interests that defy the boundaries of my chosen profession.

This conundrum isn’t mine alone; it’s a sentiment echoed by many. Even when our careers align with our passions, the rigidity of professional life — deadlines, schedules, external goals — often stifles our innate curiosity. Despite rapid technological progress in recent decades, the average working hours have not significantly decreased. This is in contrast to Keynes and Russell’s forecast in the 1930s: that we would currently work about four hours a day due to technological progress. We are nowhere near that.

Moreover, it’s unrealistic to expect society to provide fulfilling jobs for everyone. You might work hard to establish yourself as a singer if you love to sing or as a poet if you love to write. But there has to be somebody who will sweep the streets, clean the drains, or fight fires. With no offense to any professions in particular, some professions are not that satisfying for most of us and still need to be taken by some. So, living in a world where pursuing one’s passion seems perpetually constrained by life’s practicalities, I ask: Am I destined to spend my life doing what I need to do rather than what I want to do?

The Conventional Solution: Grind now and live later. Work hard, maybe retire early, and then pursue your passions. But this path is fraught with uncertainty. The more we earn, the more we desire, trapping us in a cycle of perpetual work, with dreams postponed. Moreover, what if health or life circumstances change? Is it worth waiting for a future that may never come?

Enter my grand plan: Balancing Two Lives Together.

I propose a different approach: creating two distinct personas within myself. Persona 1 shoulders the weight of career chaos from Monday to Friday. The weekends — those are the days for Persona 2 to run my passion projects. This is when I explore new fields, indulge in hobbies, and express myself freely, without guilt or obligation.

This division doesn’t have to be rigid. It could mean dividing the week into workdays and passion days, or even splitting each day to accommodate both aspects. Alternatively, it might involve a more fluid approach without strict boundaries in time. The crucial aspect is the intentional separation of career-driven objectives from personal passions, ensuring each has the space to flourish independently. The key distinction is my firm commitment to freeing myself from the heavy expectations often associated with my profession. It’s about recognizing that a job might not provide both financial security and personal fulfillment simultaneously. As long as it provides enough to sustain myself, it’s satisfactory! Loud and clear, I declare, ‘Dear Persona 1, you’re putting bread on the table — more than enough. No need for the extra weight of securing my happiness!’ And to my other self, ‘Dear Persona 2, no obligations here. Just do what brings you joy, and revel in happiness. While you may not contribute to our financial pool, rest assured, your counterpart has got that covered!’

Admittedly, it’s not an easy feat.

It demands a constant readjustment of career goals and the conviction to acknowledge that if specific career aspirations remain unmet, perhaps they aren’t meant to be. It’s not all smooth sailing, but it is a journey worth taking. I don’t want to return with the same refrain next year: another year passed, and I’m yet to live the life I envisioned. It’s about finding that elusive sweet spot where both versions of me coexist harmoniously.

This isn’t just my story; it’s a narrative many of us share. As we approach another year, I invite you to ponder: How can you balance your own versions 1 and 2? What steps will you take to ensure you’re not just living but thriving in both your professional and personal lives? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Let’s embark on this journey of self-improvement and fulfillment together.

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A Soliloquy
A bilingual blog in Bengali and English. © A Soliloquy