Sacrifices worth it for family

Michael Graves
Graves is a senior majoring in communications and religious studies.

In class yesterday one of my professors had us make a list of our top five values — love, relationships, work, productivity, honesty, etc. — and rank them according to our personal standards of excellence and ethics.

However, after that exercise we were encouraged to look at which of these may be in conflict with each other. Two of mine stood out. My list included family and work productivity. I was told that these two values conflict each other, because one has to choose between work and family, both of which take time to maintain.

To be quite frank, I was a little perturbed at this realization. I get a lot of joy from completing my work, but I also feel as if I help keep my family together at time. I’m often a mediator between certain family members, and I try to make time for family and friends when I go home and when I’m in Dallas at school.

This made me start to think about how much time I devote to each of these things, and how this dialectic can survive and thrive in my daily life and in the long-term.

SMU creates a culture of “winners,” as my friend put it once. We’re encouraged to strive to be the best not only here, but also in the workplace.

Many of my mentors share with me that this sometimes requires personal sacrifices. I’ve often found myself on my computer in the living room as my family watches a movie trying to finish up an edit on a paper, or complete a cover letter for a job application.

Indeed, perhaps I have been distant from my family to complete some of my work, but there have also been times when I’ve sacrificed a deadline to spend an extra 30 minutes with my mother when she’s in town. However, I’m also choosing not to go on a mini-vacation with my boyfriend in April to stay at school for a conference that I’ve made a top priority.

This dialectic tension exists in my life, and until now I’ve assumed that I can have both an intense connection with those that I love, but also dedicate much of my life to my work at school and on the job.

So how, as I ponder my progression forward in my work and the final stages of matriculation at SMU, can I continue to have these things exist in the same space when they are in obvious conflict with each other?

The very frank answer is that if I truly value family and time spent with those I love, I will inevitably sacrifice certain aspects of my work or time spent with my work that will hinder me from “making it” as high as some of my colleagues, or if I can excel perhaps it will happen at a slower pace.

However, I am happy to accept this. It is important to note that family and love were first on my list, and work was last.

Therefore, I know now that while work is important, it is not my entire life.

And if the point of prioritizing is to ensure that the most important things come first, well then I need to be ready to accept the consequences, but also the joys of putting family first, and letting that time spent with those I love fulfill me more than the work I complete each day.

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