Life-work balance is one of the most cited subject in non-political news. Well, this shows that how important it is, perhaps it is fair to say that it is one of the main concerns of our current era. From one hand, it is important for everyone to be “successful” professionally, and from the other it is also important to live a happy life. The reason that the word successful is in quotation, since there is no universally accepted definition for this word. However, success is defined as moving up in the hierarchy (financial, political, educational, etc). Since we are bounded by time, we have two main competing interests, i.e., living vs working. In my experience, many people live to work better, and most of them are working for other people and celebrate TGIF.
Here, I am writing about this issue under different umbrella and that is re-immigration from north America to Iran. In the past 10 years, I have seen many of my European friends return to their home country without too much consideration, however, for my Persian friends it is very hard to decide to return. After a lot of thinking, I should say in my opinion, living in east (e.g., Iran) is in different layer than west, in particular US.
In Iran, the life is (maybe I should use past tense) heavily based on the concept of living, where every city even small villages here and there, has its own living style, food, dress, and so on. This concept is also vivid in the ancient greek, where living intellectually is the only concerning issue rather than having a career. Basically, our main task is to live happy life and spread our intellectual wisdom around. Of course, living in a monarchical society may not provide enough time for everyone to do so, but at least that is the goal.
On the other hand, life in US is based on achieving goals, that is why it is (again, maybe I have to use past tense) called land of opportunity. There, the main task of human being is to progress, this progress is only utilitarian progress or technological progress. So in short, life in US is optimized for working. Maybe, Charles Chaplin understood this before than everyone else, and beautifully depicted this in “modern times” film. Europe, lies somewhere in between where the weight between work and life changes country by country.
I hope that title of this post is clearer now. In my opinion, deciding to return to Iran from US is hard, since you have to choose between your career and personal life. For example, for someone working in a well developed lab, or well established company, it is hard to leave everything behind. On the other hand, every once in a while, you may ask yourself if I am not working for better life, then why do we even work? It is a challenge between personal goals and societal goals. That is why in the current western culture people often compare a country to a biomass, where everybody is just another bricks in the wall. That is, not everybody has a goal, rather every group of people follow a goal.
I should be clear that, I have never said that you can not have a good profession in Iran, or a good life in US, I just mentioned the whole system is not optimized for that. That is why, it is so important to choose your location carefully.