I’m not sure if it’s always been this way, but it seems like in the past 10-20 years or so, people let themselves be defined by their jobs. More than that, they think that if they are important at work, they are important in life. Hence all these people who run around from work meeting to work meeting, checking their email remotely from anywhere at any time of day like the world will end if they are not responding to messages.
A few of my posts lately (i.e., the two I wrote yesterday) mention work/life balance. Clearly, it’s something that’s been on my mind (not least of all because I have to work all weekend). But I remember when I was new to this job, in the first year or two. We had a big movie coming out and about twelve partners. I was overseeing the production of at least six TV spots. It was nuts and I was averaging 10-12 hours a day. Our department was a lot smaller back then (when I started there were four of us – now there are fifteen of us), so I just had a lot more on my plate. Part of it was the need because there was legitimately a lot of work to be done, but looking back, I think I let my job define me because I was unhappy outside of my job. My marriage had its problems and we were constantly worried about money, so I think focusing on work was an outlet and distraction from what was happening at home. Then I ended up in the hospital with an ITP flare up and was on disability for a month. And a funny thing happened – the world didn’t fall apart. My job happened without me. It was sort of disconcerting, but also a relief and much-needed dose of perspective. It is completely insane to let your health fall apart because you’re working so much. Ridiculous, really.
As you may be able to tell from the frequency with which I have been posting lately, I am not busy at work. Even though I hate meetings and brand them as ridiculous time wasters, the days when I don’t have any are the worst. The time goes by so slowly it practically feels like it’s moving backwards. Just now, I looked at the clock and thought, “2:40?! Good God!” It will be a long afternoon.
Because I am bored and with little to do, I am perhaps more sensitive to the people running around like chickens sans heads and how obnoxious they are. How can anyone in this department be that busy? I don’t buy it. Earlier today, I was in the kitchen making myself some tea and I bumped into a girl from my department who has worked here for 6 months or so. She’s very nice, but a little bit too corporate cheerleadery to be someone who I would actually consider having more than a shallow conversation with. We exchanged pleasantries, and I asked how she was. Her reply was: “Very very very very very busy. I added an extra ‘very’ in there because it’s so busy.” Who says stuff like that? And again, I know what we have going on as a department for the next few years – she really shouldn’t be that busy. When she was hired, I actually questioned the need for her position (rich, I know, coming from someone who blogs and reads stupid stories on the internet all day). But it seemed like she was proud to say it, like she was almost bragging.
I guess that’s the difference. Many people are very busy these days. Lots of companies have downsized, so you often have one person doing the work of two or three. Many families have both parents working, and if there are kids, their school commitments, extra-curricular activities and social lives only add to an already daunting list of things-to-do. But when you ask many people how they are, and they say, “I’m so busy!”, it is often said with an air of regret, or even complaint. Which I don’t mind. They should be complaining. Who wants to be that busy all the time? When would you get to read stupid stuff on the internet or watch TV? It’s the braggers who annoy me. But then, maybe I should feel a little bad for them. When your job defines who you are in that way, and when your level of work busy-ness is tied into your self-worth, that means there can’t be a lot of fun stuff happening outside of work. If there was, then that is where you would focus your time and energy.
I am grateful for my job and appreciative to have it – especially in this economy. I’m not trying to be a brat. Working is great. But living is better.