A Workaholic, Or Just Different?

A Workaholic, Or Just Different? April 30, 2013

There are times when I think I’m a workaholic, and other times when I think that no, I’m just different than other people, and my preference for spending a lot of time alone working is simply a reflection of that difference.

Maybe I’m just one of those people who’s really driven to accomplish stuff. I tend to be happiest when I have goals – and when I’m on my way to meeting them. I’ve run a marathon, finished a PhD, traveled to Europe and India, organized conferences and dance events… I’ve accomplished a lot, and I think those accomplishments are generally linked with my self-esteem and contentment. While that may set me apart from a lot of other people, that’s not too terribly weird… or is it?

I know a lot of introverts who prefer curling up with a book to social interactions. The difference is that for me, that book is for pleasure reading only part of the time. The rest of the time, I’m reading something that’s goal-directed: an academic book to write a book review of for publication, or the latest in a series on fairy-tale scholarship, or a new issue of a folklore journal that I subscribe to. For me, though, the goal-directed reading often is pleasurable. I mean, I wouldn’t have picked life goals that I didn’t also enjoy pursuing (some people apparently do this; it makes no sense to me. I don’t doubt that I could’ve been a kick-ass lawyer or doctor if I’d put my mind to it, but I would’ve hated almost every part of getting there).

So, most of the time I just try to accept that I’m a little strange and that I spend a little too much time working. I only start to worry when nothing feels like fun anymore, or when friends invite me to something that should be fun but only registers as “ugh, something that takes me away from my work.” Or when I think to myself, “hm, I should take a break,” and then nothing sounds appealing. That’s probably a bad sign… or is it? Usually these periods of apathy-toward-everything-but-work only last a short time. I know that different people have different working habits, which is one of the reasons I like to write about my own process and read about other people’s processes.

This issue is very much on my mind lately because as the weather gets nicer, various friends of mine are inviting me to take weekend trips hither and yon. Among the other factors in my decision (such as the fact that camping and I do not get along), I find myself thinking that I don’t want to give up a weekend when I could be working. Which strikes me as a little strange… but it’s not like I intend to do nothing but work the whole weekend. I mean, surely I won’t work for more than 8 hours per day. It’s normal – or at least not unhealthy – to want to do that, right? Kinda? I hope?

I know that the people close to me worry about me working too much, but I always assure them that I make time for the other things that are important to me, such as cooking, dancing, exercising, and spending time with loved ones. I’m curious, though: how do other over-achievers find a balance? Or how do you get people who are less driven to understand that, yes, we actually like working this much?

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