Although I finally earned my Ph.D., I didn't get to go to my graduation. I didn't have the time or the money to make the trip, just so I could walk across the stage and accept my diploma. I really wanted to go, because I spent years working for that Ph.D. I think I deserved to be honored for it, even just for a moment. Missing out on my graduation made me think of other things I've missed out on.
When I was in my twenties, other people my age went on cross-country road trips and backpacked across Europe. I shelved books, folded clothes and resisted the urge to bitch-slap rude customers at least fifty times a day.
Other young people dated and fell in love, opening their hearts to people. I dated a soldier who told me I was beautiful. I didn't believe him. When he called me, I was irritated that he interrupted me while I was working. He stopped calling. I dated a graduate student who was quiet and kind and genuinely wanted to get to know me. But when I was with him, all I could think about was my work. He stopped calling, too. Every time a guy tried to get close to me, something inside of me froze up and I pushed him away, immersing myself in my work like it was some kind of barrier.
My friends and acquaintances climbed the corporate ladder, got promoted, and became richer. I worked as an adjunct instructor, earning less than janitors. I was on my feet for nine hour shifts at stores, resisting the urge to throw hangers or books at twenty-two-year-old supervisors on power trips. No matter how hard I worked, I was still barely able to support myself.
Friends couldn't understand why my workday didn't end at five P.M. like theirs did, or why I spent most weekends working. I didn't have the time or the money to go barhopping with them. Most of them stopped calling too, except when they wanted to tell me about their loving relationships, children, and successful careers (while asking me very few questions about my own life).
Long after my college classmates walked the stage at graduation, I was studying for my master's degree and then my Ph.D. I took seminars where professors told the entire class that my work was not good enough. I pored over books in the library until I fell asleep, where other students' snoring woke me up. I resisted the urge to scream, "Studying is not SOCIALIZING, people!" at all the loud undergraduates in the so-called quiet study areas.
People my age carried briefcases or diaper bags, while I carried a book bag. They went out for lunch or ate with their coworkers in their fancy office buildings. I ate alone in school cafeterias.
I moved far away from home to teach at a new school. Although I'd worked multiple jobs before, I am working longer hours here, at a full-time job and a part-time job. To my dismay, a third of my full-time salary goes to taxes and benefits, which is why I have a part-time job.
I teach larger classes with more students. My days pretty much have gone like this: teach, meet with students, grade papers, watch TV at home, yell curse words in foreign languages at my neighbors, and sleep. I have little time for anything else. That's why I haven't written any fiction and I've hardly blogged over the past few months, despite my earlier resolve to write more.
I looked in the mirror one day and saw the lines in my face, the gray in my hair, and the weariness in my eyes. I realized that I'd given up or lost everything for my work: my friends, boyfriends, my youth, alternative careers, a city that I loved, and now, my writing. I have become a true workaholic. And I hate it.
I look back on my life and regret that I spent so much time working, even though in most instances, I didn't really have a choice. I did accomplish several of my goals: I earned my master's degree and my Ph.D; I've taught at multiple colleges; I've taught high school; I became self-supporting; I became a good teacher. But I didn't think it would mean losing everything else that mattered to me.
I'll always be a workaholic to some extent. But I finally realized that there has to be more to life than work. Otherwise you'll be the kind of person who dreams that she's working even when she's asleep, or the kind of person who becomes so tired and stressed out that she makes voodoo dolls and pokes them ominously whenever her annoying, inconsiderate neighbors look at her.
What about you? Do you consider yourself to be a workaholic? Do you have regrets over certain things that you gave up or lost?
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