Is a successful career as fulfilling as a successful relationship?
For many women in the modern workplace, career success can come at the cost of other aspects of life, namely our social and love lives. It’s often thought that career success entails late nights and weekends at the office, minimal sleep, and little time for socializing outside of co-workers and clients. But as Marilyn Monroe once said, “A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.”
Is that true? Is a great career enough for the modern woman, or does it leave something to be desired?
The past 2.5 years of my professional life have seen me single but employed at a globally recognized engineering firm, and later partnered up in a long-term relationship with no job prospects on the horizon (after leaving my job and moving overseas), so I can safely say I’ve been to both extremes and back. For the first year, which was right out of university, I was thrilled to have a job to go to every day, a place where I could work hard and be recognized for my dedication. I’d made it through my studies and was 100 percent independent—the fact that I could keep warm at night by paying my own electricity bills and putting my own dinner on the table was beyond fulfilling, so I’ve got to say that I have Marilyn there.
After three months at my job, I found out that I was being promoted, and I immediately called my family on the other side of the country to tell them the good news. My dad sent me $100 to take myself out for a celebratory dinner in lieu of their absence, and then it hit me: What kind of a celebratory dinner involved dining out alone, with nobody to share the champagne with? Yes, I was fulfilled professionally, but at the end of the day I had nobody to share that with, and that was difficult.
About a year and a half later, I’d met my current boyfriend, and decided to move with him from Canada to Australia. I’d heard that job prospects were great in Australia, and I was confident enough in our relationship to make the move. But when I arrived in Australia it was in the midst of a massive industry decline, which resulted in bulk layoffs within the sector. It was at this point that I realized I’d jumped into the deep end of the job market without much to keep myself afloat.
I’d been unemployed before, but going through it again a world away from the support system I grew up with made those three months some of the hardest in my life. I had no income, no sense of financial security, and no idea how I’d keep myself in the country without the funds to pay for a long-term visa. Worst of all, I felt like I had no reason to wake up in the morning, and nothing that I could succeed at and work hard for. I lost my purpose.
Throughout my unemployment, the one thing that kept me afloat was the support coming from my partner, his family here in Australia, and mine (via email and Skype) from overseas. The advice, the extra pushes to get me to cold call companies, and the occasional tissues to mop up my tears when I became overly frustrated were the things that kept me moving towards my end goal: landing a job amidst the industry crisis. And three months later, I finally did.
So after all that, was Marilyn right? Is my career enough to make me happy, or do I need a “someone” to share it all with when I come home at night? Personally, I think it’s definitely enough on its own. Marilyn obviously had the disadvantage of not being able to be a career-driven woman in the 21st century, because times have definitely changed. The fact is that in today’s world it is enough to succeed in your profession, to put your own dinner on the table, and to pay your own bills. But what Marilyn actually had right is that we can’t go at it alone; we need a support system—not necessarily a romantic partner, but friends and family who’ll share the joy that comes from our successes. If what you can do alone is enough to make you the power mogul that you are, imagine what you could do with a few cheerleaders to push you through the toughest times, and to celebrate with you when you get through them. That is what fuels us to keep going day after day, and that, to the modern day working woman, is more than enough to keep us warm at night.