The doors never fully close
On the thin line between life and work
Have you ever had a really pleasant morning where the sun was shining, your energy felt limitless, and then your phone buzzed to remind you that your first meeting was in 10 minutes and you could almost feel the downshift from off the clock to on?
We try to construct barriers between our personal lives and our work lives, but there will always be intersections. The barriers are firmest at the end of the day when we can symbolically close our laptops and ignore the part of our brain concerned with our work to-dos. Throughout the day, though, we answer texts from friends, Wordle, and think about what we’ll make for dinner. And as we get ready for bed, we might find ourselves thinking about what our calendar looks like for the day ahead.
What if we could truly separate the two? Would it benefit either side of us?
If you can’t tell, I’ve been watching Severance, and this is its sinister premise—surgically dividing work and personal memories. When you step into the office, your brain is tuned to work mode, and when you step out, your brain is tuned to personal mode, and neither persona has any awareness of what the other is doing.
It’s dystopian, to be sure, but like all good horrors, it’s not that far off from real life. There is certainly some manual severance happening when we log off for the day and probably more upon entering the office than we’d like to admit. We check a certain amount of ego and emotion at the door to fit into a team or to appease a superior, and when we finally close our laptop at the end of the day, we hope the office door stays closed behind us until we open our eyes the next day.
But the doors never fully close. We’re one person with competing interests and we don’t have the off switch of TV characters. Throughout the day, there are active intersections like folding laundry during conference calls, and there are passive intersections like when we remember an email we forgot to send this morning during evening TV time.
And that’s OK with me. When I sit down to write for an hour in the morning, I’m claiming that personal time and blocking as best I can any thought of what I’ll need to do when I sit down at my other desk. Would I be more efficient with the surgical benefit of not being able to think about my other work? As any other writer can attest, I’d surely still find ways to procrastinate.
More importantly, though, I’d be depriving myself of the fertile mind field that only operates when I’m not actively thinking about writing. I’d miss the inspiration that comes when a project is the furthest thing from my mind, and the work would suffer or maybe even dry up as a result.
We only have one body and mind, and there are only so many hours in a day. If we were to physically delineate these spaces and these memories, we wouldn’t have the salt to go with the sweet. All our habits—good and bad—would be squeezed into the 6-8 hours we weren’t working or sleeping. Our work would feel never ending, and our personal lives, rather than expand from a lifted weight, would shrink from the absence of a full experience.
There is hardship, discomfort, and downright tragedy in every facet of life, and we don’t get to fast forward, skip, or hide out from any of it. Because if we did, it wouldn’t really be worth living.