Letters To Seneca – Letter 4

Dear Seneca,

Today I want to share my thoughts on balance, specifically, my lack of balance with identity.

I stumbled across Simone Stolzoff who wrote a book called “The Good Enough Job“. The book is on my to-read list. After listening to three interviews (recommend this and this) with the author I realized that a major element of my identity is wrapped up in work. This happens in America due to cultural, historical, and political precursors.

I can see from reading your letters, this was less of the case during your era. Sure, you were a politician, but you were also a philosopher, a friend, an athlete, a hobbyist, and many other things. From what I can take from researching you and reading your letters, work was a small element of your identity, and for you relationships were weighted much heavier.

For me and I’m sure many others that were raised in the “Westernized World” it’s difficult to expand one’s identity beyond work. For one, there’s a lot that rides on the success of one’s career, such as financial independence, the ability to receive healthcare, and social acceptance. The more my mind ponders this thought of work and identity, the more I realize that most of my identity is wrapped in work.

For example, I work Monday to Friday, 9 – 10 hour days. On the evenings and weekends, I’m constantly learning new topics that in my head will set me up for future success in different career paths. Taking a step back and assessing the time and energy dedicated to work or work adjacent tasks, there’s very little room for anything else.

Running the same routine for almost a decade I’ve started to lose the sense of what interests me outside of work. As if I’m losing all other aspects of my identity. This (for me) needs to change, but there are mental barriers.

My guess is uncertainty and financial stability sit at the core of my obsessiveness with attaching my identity to work. Facing my fear of dealing with uncertainty is a colossal mental barrier. Macro uncertainty is my concern. If I spend my “extra” time on interests that won’t progress me toward more financial independence and something bad happens (I’m fired, need to support family members, health issues, etc.), I’m placing myself in an uncertain situation.

This barrier can be overcome, it’s a matter of digging deep into the fearful thoughts to uncover what they’re centered around.

Let’s bring this chaotic train of thought back to the station.

Pushing against the socially accepted wisdom that identity is work will be a difficult task, but if successful, could unlock a new path for life. A life of freedom to pursue the interests we’re able to rediscover with the time we’ve taken back.