e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


a different lifestyle

I always try to count my blessings regarding my job. I know a lot of my colleagues don't seem to agree with me, but I maintain that being an academic is a great, great life. I can't imagine a career that would allow more agency and discretionary time. The vast majority of my hours are my own. I have (many) commitments--witness last Friday where I sat in meetings from 8:30 until 5:00--but most of them are of my own making. I write. I spend time with students. I teach. I work on projects I care about.

I've been thinking a lot about what constitutes a good life, inspired in part by the last night of Arabic class last week. My teacher spent a lot of time during the term talking about culture and lifestyle and sharing with the class stories about growing up in Lebanon. Last Thursday she described worklife in Lebanon. She said that like most workers there, she would finish the workday by 2:00 or so, come home and eat a big lunch with her family and then nap for 2-3 hours. Every day. The family would get up by 5:30-ish, have coffee or tea, do homework or housework for a little while and then socialize all evening--sit in the garage or walk along the sea, maybe grab a falafel from one of the tents set up all over the place.

She remains in awe of the long hours most U.S.Americans work. Of course life isn't perfect anywhere and certainly Lebanon--the place my teacher was describing--is a place with lots and lots of problems of its own. I'm just saying think about how many hours most people in this culture spend at the "office," commuting to work and from work and between multiple jobs, and doing work they've brought home with them. How much healthier would we be (individually and collectively) if we radically reconsidered and restructured our day-to-day life? I can be a highstrung person, but I'm "working" on it, and I have made concerted efforts to create and maintain a lifestyle that resists dominant norms about how we are allegedly supposed to live. I know that most people don't have that luxury. How can we change the culture? How can we build capacity for more resistance? Because that's what I think the current moment calls for: resistance. What if we spent more time reading, listening to music, socializing with people we care about, taking walks, lifting up others who need us, and doing other stuff that has nothing to do with making or spending money?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with this post. I've traveled to the Dominican Republic, Spain and Iraq and it seems the people there are much less stressed about their everyday work life and put more time into their family and social life. I believe the problem isn't in the country itself but different culture's idea of happiness. In most middle Eastern cultures family, friends and socializing make up one's gateway to happiness. However, in the United States, it seems that people pursue money and put much less focus on their family and friends at home. But this is why we have the benefit of living as "luxuriously" as we do. But is this real happiness? Or just an illusion? Too often do I see Americans (myself alike) ignoring the beauty all around them in order to focus on their jobs. Maybe someday people will open their eyes and realize that happiness is more than a job title or a number on one's bank statement.