“Don’t add more pressure to your life than you need to,” was the unsolicited advice a gentlemen in his 60s gave to a table of college students he was sitting next to at a neighborhood café. It reminded me of an iteration of my mother’s long-standing advice for when things start to move too fast for her liking, “Don’t kill yourself.” And every time I hear it, I get worked up. When a friend once advised me on the importance of having a “balanced” life, I responded, “I’m not too interested in balance, I’m interested in success.”
I equate balance with telling myself it’s okay to have a few television show addictions and it’s okay to waste weekends staying up too late and going to brunch at 1:00 in the afternoon. I equate balance with letting one day slip into the next, telling myself I’ll get to it tomorrow. I equate balance with complacency, though intellectually I know balance is meant to denote a way of living where no single part of your life weighs down the scale.
I tell myself I am temporarily compromising balance to find my niche, the place where I am immersed in an activity that it is no longer my job or my career but a way of living, the place where I move so naturally I don’t feel the need to detach from it to achieve balance. Though my imagination does not account for an oversight in my ambition, there are factors in my life I cannot control: illness, death, circumstance, and those people integrated into my life who are also seeking their own way of living. My imagination also does not account for the day-today mundane, which through no amount of immersion into a purpose greater than myself will I be removed, undermining my fantasy of effortless balance.