How Can Anyone Be Content at 30?

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines contentment as the “action of satisfying” or the “process of being satisfied.” Technically, contentment can come at any age. One can be content with a project accomplished and a job well done, but I am thinking about feeling satisfied with life overall. From the vantage point of age 68, I don’t understand how anyone could be content at 30 because of all the unknowns and possibilities ahead. For me, contentment has come with age.

I was never content when I was younger because I believed there was more to come, both joy and sorrow. Over my years, I experienced great moments of happiness: marrying my husband, giving birth to our daughter, success with my chosen career. Yet contentment is different from happiness. Happiness is a high excitement, a thrill, and joy in a moment, whereas contentment is a more placid emotion. Contentment, I think, requires a very strong sense of self and belief that you are fundamentally OK that would not have been possible when I was younger. [Read more...]

“Of Mice and Bears”
Relevance and Expectation in Career


When Sam was a little boy, he had a passion for small things – so when his mom made him a dollhouse as a gift, he was enthralled. Together, they created furniture, landscaping, decorations, and a rich life for the dollhouse’s inhabitants, which were mice and bears (no regular humans allowed). They also entered competitions, which Sam won three years in a row at the ages of eight, nine, and ten years old.

Later, on the basis of his love of design and the influence of his grandfather, a respected architect who considered the profession a higher calling, Sam decided to get a Master’s degree in architecture. But his expectations for what being an architect meant and felt like were based on his grandfather’s experience at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. It was the 1950s, and a heady time in the profession. Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus and a renowned modernist architect, was the dean of the school. In the post-war environment, there was a sense of cohesiveness and a belief in the power of architecture to change the world for the better that was intoxicating.

Sam got to architecture school with this in mind, but it was fifty years later, and there was no longer a cohesive narrative that brought everyone together. The realities of being an architect had changed. “I wanted to be someone interested in and capable of changing the world,” Sam said. He found that a much more complicated goal than he originally thought. [Read more...]

Rebecca, Inc.
Life lessons taken from work


A few years ago, I had a moment of total clarity. I was spending the Thanksgiving long weekend with my then-girlfriend. My friends were away, and we’d been hanging out with her friends for three days straight. On Sunday, I really wanted to spend some quality time with just her, but there was a group hike already planned. My way of dealing with my disappointment and frustration about yet another activity was to be completely dismissive of the hike they chose. When my girlfriend said, “Well, I’m going and you don’t have to if you don’t want,” I went into the bedroom and melted down.

[Read more...]

How to Quiet Your Inner Critic

Yesterday, I left work about forty minutes later than normal in a last minute effort to accomplish the work I had avoided during the day. Finally, I called it quits and walked to my train station to head home.

“You didn’t do anything today!” a voice in my head cried out, “you’re terrible.” I wallowed in that voice, the voice of my Inner Critic, and agreed.

should have done

We all have an inner critic: the voice in our head that says the mean, unhelpful things. My inner critic looks like me, but with a pinched nose and a tight bun. She’s very proper; I imagine her in a tight pencil skirt that doesn’t allow her to take long strides. Instead, she teeters around on high heeled pumps (shoes I would never wear, for the record), and wrinkles her nose at people. She is the type that shushes other people at the movies. [Read more...]

What Does Work Look Like?

Rush hour (New York, NY)
Rush hour (New York, NY)

What does work look like for you?

For me, it looks like a 30 minute commute by train and by foot in a major U.S. city followed by eight or more hours at a desk. I often assume that this is how others experience being at work (and it is pretty standard among my friends), but in fact work takes many, many different forms – from a goatherd, to an farmer and craftsman, to a subway performer, to an international rock star and more. Today’s post is a photo essay by my dad, Eddie, about what work looks like across cultures and countries.

Scrolling through these pictures reminds me of how fluid the concept of work really is. Imagine if your morning led to the scenes and experiences depicted here. What would that mean for you and for your family? What would it smell like and sound like? Would you be physically comfortable? What would the act of work mean, and how would your body feel at the end of the day? What, fundamentally, does it mean to work?

[Read more...]