Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Achievement, Balance, Workaholism, Etc.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how much work I take on vs. the amount of time that I'm willing to invest in non-work activities. The truth of the matter is that I have been much better over the past semester about prioritizing non-work-related things. I mean, yes, all the while I keep volunteering for things and saying yes to requests and all of my usual work-related antics, but I have also this semester kept to my commitment to working out (though sometimes only once a week, but still) and to cooking decent food for myself (I'd estimate 85% of the time) and to pursue dating things, even if nothing has really materialized from all of that yet.

But last night, I wasn't able to think about all of the ways in which I've been putting myself first, and instead I was thinking to myself that I would never have a fulfilling personal life because the job is sucking away my soul. This also may have had something to do with the fact that I was watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in preparation for teaching it, and well, those people aren't too happy with their lives either.

--- time passes ---

At any rate, now, I started this post but then got side-tracked because a student came by to be advised and another student came by to interview me for an assignment he had to do for his literary theory class, and then I decided to send these emails that I should have sent two weeks ago, and now I'm not feeling all ambivalent and upset and everything the way I was but instead I'm feeling energized because I'm getting good work done. See, this is the problem: I really, really like my job. All the parts of it. I know, it's sick, isn't it? In the past, when I've worked at jobs that I don't like, I've had no problem putting my personal life first. Even when I was a student, I was not a model student, but skipped class and put my own personal needs above the demands of the course. But now that I'm a professor, I have a hard time doing it not because I feel like I have to - I am probably the one person in my cohort who is certain to get tenure based on publication alone - but because I really like all of what I'm doing. And so, how do you say no to things that you actually want to do?

I mean, even this thing where I'm taking over for my colleague. No, it's not my dream gig, but I do want to help her/the department out and I am being (well) compensated for my (minimal) efforts. So should I say no on principal, or should I do the thing and be ok about it? I think the problem is that I feel like I'm not "supposed" to enjoy doing all of what I'm doing - I feel like I'm "supposed" to be upset that my life is so dominated by work instead of energized by the work that I'm doing. And so I feel this weird need to beat myself up because I'm not beating myself up enough or something.

I don't know where I'm going with any of this. I suppose I just wanted to blurt out all of this - that I'm really quite pleased with all of what I'm accomplishing, and I'm afraid of becoming overwhelmed even though I don't necessarily feel overwhelmed, and I do want to have a personal life but at the same time I'm finding my professional life really, really rewarding right now and so I don't really feel that bad about the lameness of the personal, and yeah-I don't know what else. I guess that's it, for now. I'm going to go accomplish more things!


ceresina said...

I'm jealous. Well, maybe that's too strong a word (or maybe it's not), but I think you're very lucky to have found something you love which will pay you so that you can eat, etc. I mean, I love reading blogs, but it doesn't buy groceries. :-)
Go, accomplish!

Kate said...

I kinda know what you mean. I am often energized by my work, but still feel the need to force myself to carve out some personal space.

Lab results are cool. Publications are cool. Mentoring and teaching are awesome. How do you draw the line on something fun? I get overwhelmed by how much I have and then have a brain melt unless I pace myself. So I have discovered that if I'm going to keep doing this stuff that I love, I *have* to be smart about how much I do or else I go comatose.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

You also have to figure out how much you can handle so that you can do a good job for all of it. You'd hate to do a half-assed job at something because you are distracted.

Starving for Wisdom said...

I tend to ignore other parts of my life until they are bloody screaming at me and my health is shot and I'm burnt out completely. It is a little comforting to know that other people out there do that too.
I'm still at the student stage but I'm hoping to find more balance in the coming year by getting into some routines of "me" time so that I don't forget to do things like... oh... brush my hair and eat.

D.B. said...

I just filled out a survey distributed by grad school powers-that-be. In sum, I found I'm on the line between ambivalent and generally dissatisfied with most of the steps in the giant hoe-down that is grad school. Nevertheless, I just signed up for 3 more years for the energization you're talking about, Dr C. I'm pretty sure we aren't in it because we're secretly masochists or even workoholics but because the thing is genuinely satisfying. And sure, there's the school that says it's bad when "work" and "personal life" are out of balance, but there's also the school that says it's a many-splendored thing when you're not, like, alienated from your labor. Or something. Speaking for myself, I'll drop academia when I find another job where I can sleep til 1pm most days.

Derrick said...

Maybe this is an odd-ball perspective but in my life it seems to be more about rythym than balance. I seem more fulfilled when I allow various aspects of my life to have various intensities. Balance is just too static. It's like turning the knob on my job up to four, then making sure the hobby knob is also at four, then finding the energy to crank some other life knob up to four. It just doesn't work for me.

Starving for Wisdom said...

I never thought about it that way before Derrick... reading that I just had a little ah-ha moment. Thank you.