I currently need to read through very basic math’s rules for some course. The most interesting one to me is that a negative and another negative make one positive. Interesting because surprisingly, this cannot be applied in real life – when have two wrongs ever made a right? However, people tend to believe that the correctness of a thought increases exponentially with the amount of its supporters.
What a scam! And yet, sometimes even the best fall for it – yes, right, I am talking about myself: I wrote an article recently*, about having a career and starting a family, and all the subsequent follow-up difficulties this “utopia” brings along. In my conclusion, I blame society for not making it possible to “have it all”. Because, let’s be honest – what happens to our work-ability if we have a baby break? In reality, probably nothing. According to our society, however, the following: it is impossible to return to our career. We might go back to work, but we cannot proceed as steep as we could before that baby break (regardless of gender, btw). Being out of the job for a while is the biggest career-killer one could think of.
Why is that? Does something happen to our brain while being on a baby break? Is all the knowledge previously gained suddenly covered irretrievably in baby-food, full diapers, and toys? Does a person, who might have been a luminary before the break, suddenly really not know anymore how to hold a pen or switch on a computer?
True, there might have been some stuff going on while being away. New technologies, constant change – but let’s be honest, did we not all start from scratch once, right after graduation? Did anyone tell us back then that we would never make it beyond making coffee and taking copies? We did learn the necessary stuff back then, and we can most certainly catch up again after a break. Well, not when we ask our society. No – it is impossible! This was my conviction. Then, a couple of days after finishing the article, I read an interview with a female scientist. She claimed it is absolutely impossible to be a housewife and have a career. She said the same goes for men: we can all work and have a family, but having a career and a family is an impossible combination. One of the parents has to do the sacrifices, or either the career or the family will suffer.
Appalled by what I had just read I wanted to call my editor to change my article before it is printed. How could I have blamed the society? This lady was right! She sounded so convincing! I should change my last paragraphs before anyone could read this insanity!
Only when I read a reader’s comment underneath the interview, claiming that this lady sees the world a bit too black and white, and seems stuck in her narrow career track (a typical disease of scientists, btw, we really have to take care to not stumble on that one), I managed to shake off my fears and self-doubts, recall what my wise friends ever said, and listen to my heart. And I realized, I had once again been blinded by the systematic monster wanting to represent cultural values and norms: society. Yes, what this lady said was right, to some extent: If you want to achieve something, you cannot give up. You have to be persistent if you want to discover some breaking news, some Nobel-price-winning invention, or if you want to save the world from pain and suffering. BUT who said you cannot take a break? We all know how important breaks are for our mental and physical well-being. And the love of a family might be even more rewarding than two weeks all-in. Breaks give us energy and help us carry on. The only thing that could really stop us from pursuing a career is giving it up completely – but please, why should taking a break? Or, sharing our time on earth, besides a fulfilling job, with a family?
No, it’s pretty obvious that it is our own fault that we believe this crap. That we believe the only right way to achieve things is by rushing through life, in a pace faster than our own thoughts could possibly follow; never stopping, never looking back. We are in the middle of this rush, without even questioning it.
Luckily, I later read another interview, with a different scientist. Though being unrelatedly about nutritional science, he had some valid points: Sometimes, you feel like giving up. Sometimes, it is you against a whole nation of idiots (yes, he actually said that). But that should not stop you from fighting for the right thing.
So, if you know deep down inside what is right, don’t let two wrongs (or more) convince you otherwise, ever!