My parents are intelligent, fabulous, awe-inspiring… workaholics. I grew up witnessing the aches and pains of confusing who you are with what you do. Through my first jobs, I’d remind myself daily about the toll that over-investing in a job or career takes on a person. I’d lecture my little siblings, re-telling stories of strokes that took time to heal, heart attacks that caused panic, and family events that were missed in the name of a job. We had a good childhood, don’t get me wrong– my parents are the sort of people that managed to give their full undivided attention to a million people at the same time. They never missed a big moment, but I’m not sure if they were ever entirely present for the small ones, because they ran their lives based on the equation:Job = Person
- If their job was not going well, they weren’t doing well.
- If their career required late nights, they didn’t sleep.
- If someone in their industry needed their help, they were there.
None of those things are inherently bad, but all together– they form a life dependent on the success of a job in order to achieve happiness.
I would ask my father to take some time off, and rest himself. He would quote to me from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches:
“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”
Those are beautiful words, but Dr. King wasn’t exactly the best example of work-life balance, now was he? On top of that, I’m pretty sure he was talking about destiny in general, a blueprint to being who you truly are– not about working so hard at street-sweeping that you have a heart attack.
Like almost every I belief I had in my possession before I met him, Dave complicated this thought, too. You see, my husband is an artist. I don’t mean to say that he paints, or that he writes. I mean that he lives, breathes, writes, and thinks in artistry. His job is his career and his passion. Still, several years of late night novel writing, and skipped meals in favor of painting is the closest thing to a “reason” that the doctors could give us for his diabetes. Once again, I gave my heart to someone who had such a passion for work that they bettered the world by living, and increased the profitability of the local emergency room at the same time.
So again, I’d offer advice to my siblings, my loved ones– Distinguish who you are, and let that stand alone, from what you do for a living.
When what you do starts to hurt, to strain, to take away from who you are, something needs to give. Not just something, actually– YOU. You need change.
To give a soft reason, you are worth more to the universe than just a mathematical calculation of what you produce.
To give a blunt reason, you can’t do your beloved job if you’re dead.
Years ago, I started a dream job. It was at a comfortable, family-oriented business that looked after the interest of its clients. Two years in, with changes to management, a lot changed. I started getting funny feelings about the work I was doing, and my Intuu trainings kicked in full-time. I sniffed around for a source, and when I couldn’t find anything specific, just tried to institute changes that would make it easier for me to keep on working.
I worked at that job for 3 more years. By the final year, I came home crying or ranting on most days. I missed the small moments of life because I was too emotionally exhausted to enjoy them, and the big moments because they would routinely call me in to work and, unlike my parents, I would go.
Still though, I was the first one in and the last to leave, and I think I was actually proud of that fact– like being great at a job that was bad for me was an accomplishment instead of just a waste of effort and cosmic energy. I was connecting myself to my job:
- I couldn’t quit — I had built this career.
- I couldn’t leave — this business was my baby, even if I didn’t own it.
- I couldn’t stop working late nights — they needed me.
- Job = Me
When I finally realized I was living my parent’s equation, I quit– and that led to another epic story of lessons learned. De-tangling myself from the web of my making was a terrifying, terrible experience which I might one day heal enough to write about. It seemed like a fitting punishment for betraying my own advice and intuition, though.
In recent years, I’ve tried to regroup and find my footing once again. I’ve searched for the balance of energy necessary to give 100% at work, and then come home and leave it all behind. My efforts have been rewarded, but I remain diligent. It’s so easy to slip.
My name is Rarasaur, and I am a workaholic. It’s been 9 months and 28 days since I skipped a meal for work, went to sleep worrying about a paperwork problem, or answered the question “What do you do?” with a dehumanized job title.
So when I give this advice to you, please know that I’m intimate with it’s difficulty, and I still believe it’s good advice nonetheless:
Distinguish who you are from where you work, and make yourself the source of your own happiness.
Daily Post: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given someone that you failed to take yourself? http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/daily-prompt-take-it-from-me/