Rick: How’s it going?
Me: Um… realising I’m a workaholic?
Rick: Heh. Worked out how far you are ahead?
Rick: So what are you going to do with your enforced two months off?
Me: Haven’t finished! Can’t! Words!
Rick: (don’t explode)
Me: Yeah. God. I started to think about that and I was all, Just let me hold him.
So I admit that I’m in love with my laptop. Pan’s not just an object, he’s my friend. But that’s not… I mean, I’m not a workaholic. Honestly. At least, I never used to be. Back in the day I would walk out of my workplace on the dot of five and cheerfully delete the whole place from my memory until I had to walk back in again.
So maybe it’s the nature of the work I’m doing now? You go and live in another world in your head and it’s a bit hard to leave… Or maybe it was the nature of the work I was doing then. I mean, I wasn’t torturing puppies or anything but most of the jobs I had as an undergrad could have been performed by a well-trained monkey. Less efficiently, but they could. So the rest of my brain spent an awful lot of time screaming at me to get out of there.
Or maybe I’ve just changed? Grown up? (I hope not.) In any case, I’ve been trying to picture what I’d be like in different situations, in different jobs. To see if I’d still have trouble stopping. To see if it’s just the writing that makes me an obsessively compulsive madman* or if that’s just me.
I’ve decided to call this hypothetical game: Workaholic: Yes or No? You can play along yourself if you like.
I think in any situation where I work for myself, definitely yes. There’s this ‘everything done is less to do’ feeling and deadlines and quotas are what you make them and it feels like effort in is reward out (even if this is not reflected monetarily), so there’s no reason to stop (short of outside intervention, like the people in your life demanding to know if you died or you just hate them).
Employed in a job you like:
Given my already stated affection for the ‘effort in, reward out’ concept I think that if I worked in a job where I liked what I did and was paid for the hours I put in the answer would still probably be yes.
Employed in a regular/boring/salaried job**:
If I was in a job where I didn’t care about the work? Or one where I felt like the work was actively making me dumber?*** No.
I remember quite clearly thinking at the time that the biggest plus about the stunningly stultifying jobs I worked as an undergrad was that when I walked out of the building they just faded from my mind. I didn’t have to think about them anymore. They weren’t my priority and I didn’t want them in my head.
Now that very memory seems rather telling. Like I knew that if I cared at all about the work that it would be in my head. That I’d have trouble letting go.
So it seems like the answer is yes. It’s always yes. Hi, my name’s Kandace and I’m a workaholic.****
So. Are you coming to the meetings with me?
* I think ‘madman’ should be a gender neutral word like ‘waiter’. I don’t know why. I realise it has the word ‘man’ in it. This in no way sways me.
** And no, I’m not conflating those terms. They’re just options that, for me, have the same answer.
*** I would go home after work with my stunningly empty brain and try to teach it how to think again in the brief hours before I had to go back. And I remember loathing my jobs not for their tedium or their poor pay or the way they made me get out of bed when it was still dark but for having the audacity to put me in the position of needing to defensively switch my brain off, thus making it that much harder to use it in the precious hours I had available to study and write.
**** But I’m a high-functioning one, so that’s okay, right? No! Don’t take my laptop away from me! I’ll be good! I’ll just… I’ll just hold it. I won’t work. Promise. We’ll just… sit quietly and… THINK about work. Shh, don’t tell.