Words for Work and Life: Part One


By Eryka Milligan

I like words. I believe the words we use shape how we think, act, and relate to each other. When I was growing up, debates between my parents, my brother, and me usually came to a climax with someone pulling out the dictionary. We’re an academic family: my dad has a PHD in Geophysics, my mom received her Master’s degree in Mathematics while hugely pregnant with my brother, who is now VP of Operations for a software company. Me: I’m the artistic one; the one that doesn’t take a straight path. We ran to the dictionary because our academic, analytic, and artistic brains couldn’t agree on semantics.  


se·man·tics | \ si-ˈman-tiks  \

  • the study of meanings   

Or per the Urban Dictionary: discussing the meaning of words, usually in order to win some form of argument.

I still have a need to dig into meaning. I find myself analyzing the sayings we use for work and life and they don’t hold up. Think, for example, how many times have you heard professionals talking about Work/Life Balance? Or count up for me the number of times you’ve been told to Put your Own Mask on First. Sounds good, right? The intent is to encourage people to take care of themselves. But look a little closer. In both of these adages there’s a structural weakness. The underlying message is that we, as individuals, have to hold it all up ourselves. That work and life, success and failure, are dependent upon an indispensable element: our individual performance, our skills, our ability to keep going. It makes me anxious. I think we can do better. When I first saw the Indie Alley tagline, Make. Life. Work, it spoke to me. In it, I hear community. I hear making choices, rather than trade-offs. I hear integration. So, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to spend a few posts digging into the words we use and see if we can change how we think, act, and relate to work and life.

What are the phrases, the buzzwords, that you hear? What’s specific to your industry? Which ones help and which ones leave you unsatisfied? Post in comments below!

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Eryka is a writer living in Fairfax, California and a member of the Indie Alley. Her work has been featured in Creative NonFiction’s Tiny Truths. It’s been a twisty path getting here: she’s been a professional actress, a cabaret singer, a small business owner, and in corporate HR for the tech industry.