In the past year, we have all been struggling to maintain some measure of work/life balance. Blame it on Covid19, if you like, but even in the good old so-called “normal times,” workers have had to juggle competing demands from work, family, friends, service, and that all too rare commodity known as “me time.”
It being Black History Month, we would like to share some wisdom from one of our greatest African-American writers, the novelist and Nobel prize winner, Toni Morrison. Toni published a brief essay in The New Yorker magazine back in 2017 called “The Work You Do, The Person You Are.” The essay recalls an early job she had as a child in the 1940’s, cleaning the house of a presumably white, wealthier lady, for two dollars a day. Toni would give half her wages to her parents. “The pleasure of being necessary to my parents was profound,” she writes. Morrison took pride in the job, but also became frustrated as more duties were asked of her. When she complained about it to her family, Toni’s father gave her some sage advice: “Listen. You don’t live there. You live here. With your people. Go to work. Get your money. And come on home.”
Toni derived four lessons from that quote, which for those of us trying to navigate the turbulent waters of work pressures and responsibilities and home, serve as helpful reminders of what really matters.
1. Whatever the work is, do it well—not for the boss but for yourself.
2. You make the job; it doesn’t make you.
3. Your real life is with us, your family.
4. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.
Morrison concludes, “…I have never considered the level of labor to be the measure of myself, and I have never placed the security of a job above the value of home.”
To read the full essay, check out https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/06/05/the-work-you-do-the-person-you-are