I sometimes feel like people in my life have some confusion about what I do on a day –to-day basis. I make a lot of jokes about how I’m “always free”, because technically, I am – I don’t have places I need to be almost ever. I just have a lot of work to get done on my own and handed in, either online or very briefly in-person. While working from home and scheduling yourself to accomplish all of your daily tasks and projects (rather than, say, a boss or professor telling you what to do and when), you find yourself with a lot of flexibility to schedule each day differently. That means if you have an event you want to attend on a Tuesday afternoon, you most-likely can if you gently shift your schedule around.
When others without this flexibility see the way you live, they may begin to question how much work you actually get done. Although the answer is probably “a lot,” it is hard to convince someone that your ability to be free when you want to be for recreational activities, or to take a break in the middle of your workday to catch up on the 30-minute HGTV show that helps you clear your head, and be tricked into believing that your lack of obsession with work is actually a lack of work in general.
And that is clearly not true. We’ve established that working from home is something that is actually very likely to increase productivity. We know that maintaining an incredibly healthy work/life balance is vital to job satisfaction, (and, therefore, life satisfaction). So why do people see others who aren’t self-proclaimed, Capital-W Workaholics, and label them as lazy?
A good example: I’m writing this on a Saturday. Doing anything work-like on the weekend is something that I’m generally not down for, because as someone who schedules myself, I find it extremely important to budget in a solid amount of “me-time” so I don’t become too stressed or work-obsessed. Working a job that isn’t a traditional 9-to-5 is a really good way to get yourself into the habit of never being “off the clock”, and that is unhealthy. Period. So I do all I can to combat those tendencies. And I think, in general, I do an excellent job at that. Sometimes, that means doing a little work on Saturday to avoid doing too much on Monday. Being a full-on workaholic is not a level of employed enlightenment I ever wish to achieve.
I can say this with confidence, because I have felt the slightest bits of stress over the past few months, and it has made me physically and emotionally weak. My usually-flexible schedule has been anything but for just a couple weeks, and in that small amount of time I’ve seen how much a tiny looming chunk of stress can affect the quality of my work, and the quality of my daily life in general – and it is something I’m definitely not on board with. I am still trying to figure out how to scrape together a living by working a few different jobs around my full-time class schedule, and while I find it to be a bit easier with each passing semester, it is never going to feel natural to have so many different things to manage that every moment of leisure ends in a culminating anxiety attack of wondering if I’ve forgotten an assignment deadline, a side-job, a bill payment, a job application that’s soon closing, or whatever else could possibly go wrong.
At this point, I have no vision of myself Girl-Boss-ing about at my desk with a cup of coffee that has something like “Work Hard!” scribbled on it in calligraphy, because the vision I have for my life is not one comprised entirely of work, but not one comprised entirely of leisure, either. I want to do work; I want to do work that I am good at, and am passionate about, and fulfills my own needs – and, if I’m lucky, the needs of at least a few other people in the world. But I also want my entire personal identity to be built upon something entirely different than the things I do to earn money. And that is increasingly difficult to do in a society that glorifies being a workaholic.
My vision for myself includes a type of self-care that isn’t about working myself into such a hardened knot of stress that the only relief possible is taking a daily bubble bath and cathartically throwing my cell phone in a river. It is about maintaining my very human desire to work consistently hard, but in a mindful way that allows for breaks, flexibility, and sometimes, Tuesday afternoon naps.
I see a light at the end of my personal stressful tunnel, mostly because I graduate soon, and without “school” on my list of Shit To Accomplish each day, a lot of time will open up for me to figure out how to more easily put together some sort of neatly-packaged Career so I can earn money with some strategically carved-out time for simply living.
When I complain during this actually-stressful time about how busy and/or tired I am, it is certainly not a humblebrag about how successful and excellent I’m doing – I’m actually genuinely complaining about how I don’t feel like waking up at 4am to finish work, and I highly desire a life that affords me the blissful ability to sleep until at least eight. Not because I’m lazy – because I’m human.