Life, Work, and Friendship

Maristella recounts how a question shared among friends became the spark that gave birth to the New York Encounter's Professional Corner.

How many times have we been encouraged to find a balance between life and work? As a mother of two kids at the beginning of an academic career, I have heard it plenty. And I get it. But somehow something is lacking in the way it has been suggested to me. As the time passed and the commitments for my work and my family grew, I felt as if I was asked to carefully find a way to split my heart, my time, my brain in two, so I could do more or less okay at work and more or less okay at home. On the other hand, all of me kept suggesting that something was missing that could keep every moment of my life together, that could be the fil rouge unifying the meaning of every action. I felt the urge to understand more deeply what it meant that my job was part of my vocation, that cooking dinner for my family or writing a paper ultimately answered the same call, and that doing one well helped the other grow.

With this desire, I kept my eyes open for people that could be mentors on this path and I was very blessed to meet friends like Andrea and Alessandro who embody the experience I was craving in so many ways.

One night over dinner Alessandro told me about how recently a lot of people had asked him for advice about work. He realized how crucial this topic was and how we didn’t talk about it enough and we didn’t share our experience of work with one another. Andrea also shared with us a very concrete example from his work in a higher education institution while developing new training for researchers. The previous year he had started a two-day workshop for new and future scientists, designed to prepare people for their new or future jobs, including teaching them how to navigate their new environment, lead a scientific team, use their time, etc. In the end, many of the attendees were extremely grateful to him and his team for having realized the need for a place to share their challenges, expectations, and (why not) fears about their jobs. Andrea told us about how he realized that he had the very same need and that he had been very fortunate to have many friends and colleagues throughout his career to ask for advice and direction.

Andrea and Alessandro shared with me their desire for a network of professionals to discuss jobs, and this was the starting point of many beautiful dialogues among us which expanded to friends and colleagues. For this reason, we thought it would be a great opportunity to have a space at the New York Encounter to tackle these questions.

This is how the New York Encounter’s Professional Corner was born. It will provide opportunities to meet great professionals from different fields who are going to be available to chat with people about work and will give talks on meaningful experiences in their careers. Our hope is that the three days of the New York Encounter will be the beginning of a long-lasting work together!

Maristella, New York, USA