In the last three hours, I’ve talked two folks down off the work overload ledge.
Yeah, I know: it’s like the blind leading the blind.
I don’t know if it’s the sudden, completely oppressive heat, a long summer with no real vacations, or just the hidden epidemic of corporate America. But this work burnout business is nasty.
What is it about our work-obsessed culture that makes us truly believe that any of this matters? I drag myself onto the elevator at Corporate Behemoth at 5:45 and see that all of its occupants are dragging their laptops home – myself included. Surely we’re not all that important.
No matter how much I may try to kid myself, I’m not that important. And the work we do at Corporate Behemoth has nothing to do with cancer or firefighting – if we fuck up, no one dies.
So why do we internalize the idea that the work is very, very important – important enough to trump family and hobbies and joy in general? You can’t tell me that folks schlepping their laptops home at night have evenings of joy ahead of them.
I have been guilty of working instead of having a life. I’m working on this. But I can’t help but wonder if we, collectively, focus on the work and build up its import so that it makes for a better excuse. I’m not wasting my life doing a series of meaningless tasks – I’m doing something important!
I like my job a lot. I enjoy the tasks that I have to complete. I’m lucky. And I’m lucky that usually I realize that my job is a means to an end. Usually.
And then there are days when I realize I need to take my own advice.
I told my brother to go get a milkshake so that he could incorporate some type of joy into his afternoon. And I told my coworker to schedule a two-hour meeting with herself this afternoon at a nail salon. They were both giddy that someone gave them permission to be kind to themselves.
Why do we need permission? And why am I still slumped over in this cube?