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Professionalism and its discontents

“I must accept that my body cannot do too many things at once. I must learn to say, ‘No.’ I must take care to get sleep. I must think of myself. I must do things that are fun. I must get the ‘musts’ out of my life.”

The instructions a therapist in Sweden gave to an apparently fairly healthy
golf-playing woman who was on state-paid disability for three or more years.
2002 article in the NY Times

I recalled and then tracked down the existence of this self-indulgent-sounding paragraph in an article I read ten years ago. I was kind of struggling to do a thorough job at something I must do but didn’t feel like doing, and suddenly it popped into my head.

A good deal of the ‘musts’ I experience come from feeling that professionalism demands doing certain things thoroughly and expertly. But some part of me wants to be expert only up to a point, and then I get bored, though even admitting that makes me feel a bit guilty. Sometimes it’s more fun to live by your wits, like Mercury/Hermes, the god of people who do that.

Must one do things as well as one possibly can? If you don’t want to, is that a bug or a feature? And, beyond a certain age, does it matter?


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