Do you ever have moments where you completely stop in your tracks by something someone does or says? Earlier this week, in an utter state of flow, I stayed up way past my bedtime working on a fellowship application. At some point my husband came upstairs from the basement and asked what I was doing. Suddenly realizing just how late it was and a bit embarrassed to be caught working; I replied, “Not much” and turned my attention back to the application.
He sat next to me to watch TV and glanced over at the computer screen, remarking that it looked like I was filling out some kind of form. I explained a little bit more of what I was working on and then started bemoaning that it was so late and I was tired but still had an urge to keep working. He looked on amused so I asked him if he thought I was crazy for working on a fellowship at that hour instead of doing something else with my free time. “No,” he said, “working and doing stuff like this is kind of your hobby.”
I was dumbfounded. Here I am writing this blog about balanced living and shouting from the rooftops about the importance of establishing healthy work-life boundaries and yet according to my husband, working is one of my hobbies. He went on to say that he didn’t think I could help it because it was something that came naturally to me, something I truly enjoyed doing. Still, some of it didn’t sit well. Could I really be a workaholic and not know it?
I certainly don’t subscribe to many traditional workaholic behaviors. I genuinely try to leave work on time. I never brag about how many hours I work and do my best to refrain from exclaiming how busy I am. I’m super cognizant about work creep and a huge advocate about limiting work on the weekends. Yet, here I was, past midnight doing something that ostensibly really didn’t need my immediate attention.
Frankly, I was enjoying myself. I was in a complete state of flow and felt great going through the application, ticking off every box. Yet to my husband and probably any outsider, I was working. I never thought it possible to have work be one of your hobbies. I don’t subscribe to the passion argument either that says if you love doing what you’re doing, you won’t mind spending long hours working on it.
When I finally went to bed and digested my husband’s comments, I came to the realization that I work so much because I’m good at it and doing things one is good at is satisfying. There’s a bit of a comfort zone element with doing a repetitive behavior that you also get praise for quite often. I’ve been fortunate to qualify for fellowships and scholarships before, so working on another one just comes completely naturally (like my husband said), whether it’s in the wee hours of the morning or not.
I don’t feel guilty for viewing work as a hobby, even if that realization is going to take some time to get used to. Being a secret workaholic just seems rather bizarre since all along it’s just been me doing my thing . The positive aspect to this revelation is that logically I also know that it’s unlikely my workaholic ways will continue forever. I choose to devote my time to my projects first and foremost because I’m in a season of life where my number one focus is growing my career. When I do plan to expand my family in the near future, I will have to re-calibrate my focus, something which all major life changes typically require.
It’s certainly a unique combination, a workaholic who values work-life balance and self-care above all. It’s the little things that make life interesting after all.