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No work, just play!

Inspiration is a weird thing. Sometimes I sit down at the computer full of determination to write but my mind goes blank and my mood goes "noooo!" like Veronika when she yells at Digby. And other times I barely manage to open up the laptop, but before I even finish thinking "I could write" I feel this urge to start. That's the thing... you can't make it come to you but you also can't just sit and wait. It must be a combination of resolve and moment. I don't know. Now that I got this nonsense out of the way, I can proceed with my initial idea.

Writing on this website has taught me that things you do out of enjoyment are often serious business. I think I grew up thinking that there is always work and responsibility on one side and then fun and irresponsibility on the other. Not in that strict of a setup, but something like it. Things you enjoyed are pastimes, irrelevant to the daily grind. It doesn't matter whether you enjoy your work or not, you focus on getting it done. After that you can dedicate yourself to having fun, which, though necessary, is always inferior and unimportant. I was never of rebellious nature, so I followed this thinking, at times unhappily, until I had the opportunity a few years ago to look for a job I would enjoy. That was the only requirement basically, that I enjoyed it. I got pregnant soon after, so I never actually got to pick that job, but what happened was that I realized I didn't know how to find out what I liked. I had several ideas but every time I was honest with myself I had to admit that all of them were based more on practical and responsible thinking than on my true preference. I learned that I was sort of taking refuge in being rationsl so I wouldn't have to face this insecurity of having to examine my likes. It felt wrong, it felt so selfish! Ha! Just do what you want! Right. Who can do what they want? Good people do what's right, not what they want. The problem was though, that I had done what was right before and although it was a good decision at the time, I was miserable for not finding meaning in the work I was doing. I did find meaning in the situation because I was making money for a good cause (like rent, or food) or I was using a talent, but the work itself was just a task. Work- and schoolwise I had spent too many years fulfilling duties that didn't bring me much joy, that I actually was not capable of envisioning joyful work for me. I'm not saying one has to have happy feelings at work all the time, but I do think that it makes a big difference in your performance whether what you're doing is "your thing" or just something you do because it makes sense in your life situation. I'm still not sure at this point in my life whether one needs to do the most meaningful work in one's job necessarily but I do think that it's almost essential to find that thing that drives you, the kind of work you'd want to do even if nobody paid you. And that's where that fun part comes in. It seems that the spark for enjoyable work lots of times comes from aimless fun.

I started writing this website just to keep friends and family far away up-to-date on my life but then it turned to be writing just for the sake of it. I started to enjoy it and it was wonderfully freeing to be productive without a boss looking over your shoulder or someone telling you which ideas were good and which ones were bad. I had never been in the situation to be ambitious about something that had no practical use, so to speak. It wasn't responsible or necessary but I noticed that I would give it all commitment to make it better if it came down to it. I wasn't used to associate ambitious feelings with fun and creative stuff.

I remember all the time I spent in school trying to succeed (more or less) in all subjects according to the theory of "it doesn't matter whether you like it or not, just do it" and I think a lot of that time was wasted. It was time I could've spent on focusing on the things I liked and develop a real proficiency in them, or time I could've spent on hobbies and discover new talents... or simply discover earlier in life that work does not always have to be dull and hard, that you can actually be inspired to work by the work itself and not just because it serves a purpose. Obviously I am not advocating work without purpose, I am also not suggesting, one should only do things one enjoys. It's impossible, unrealistic and harmful. But. It is also harmful to not give preference in life to things that are enjoyable and take them seriously because it seems to me that's where creativity is born.

It's hard and a little bit ridiculous at this point in parenthood to make major resolutions about what one is going to do in 5 or 10 years down the road. After all I don't want someone quoting me and pointing at my inconsistencies. I do want to keep all this in mind when Veronika is growing up though. I want to remember to take her "fun" seriously. The driving to and from some sort of sport practice or music lessons or kite-making-classes will be tedious, but it is no less worth than driving to school. There are only a few things in life that are as satisfying as getting lost in perfecting a project you have thought up yourself, knowing that you are good at it and that you have given it your all. And this brings me to the subject of confidence, which I don't have time for now, but fits neatly into this series of "Things I say I will teach my kids, but really have no clue about myself."

Posted at 12:10 PM on January 25, 2005