Bloodshot eyes, struggling to blink, focused on my laptop screen, I finally noticed my phone ringing. My friend had called me five times, as I was late to dinner. I’m lucky to be one of the few who loves their work. But sometimes I wonder, am I really lucky?
“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Or will you never stop working? I was late to my dinner on a Friday night at 8pm. I’d forgotten to get up from my desk since 3pm. I wish I could say this was atypical but just this past week I’ve worked 10-12 hour days with no more than hour’s break through the day.
Now you must be wondering if work is busy or my company is strict. Neither is the case, I just love my job; I love to code, problem solve, and excel at work.
Capitalism has taught us that it’s important to be good at your job and early in your career you should invest as much time as humanly possible at your job, as your self-worth is established by the work you do and the money you make.
Working long hours is easily justified if you especially like your work, as it’s not work, it’s a hobby. It’s something that brings me joy so it can’t be bad now can it?
In the tech industry during an interview not only do you have to prove your competence but also your passion. It’s a question people will ask directly or indirectly as if you’re passionate about your work you’ll go above and beyond. You’ll put in the extra hours and work the weekends with no expectation of reward.
I sometimes wonder if doing too much of what is seen as a good thing is actually bad? In economics it’s believed too much of one thing is bad for the economy as after a point (of saturation) the benefit is lost.
Ms. Singhal, my economics teacher, explained it as, imagine you go to get gol gappe, it’s a sultry summer day, you’re standing outside in the heat and the bhaiya gives you the first gol gappe. You relish the cold tangy green water, the sweet and spicy red chutney and happily take the next.
Now you’re on your fifth gol guppa and your stomach feels like one too. You’ve lost the desire to have more but the bhaiya insists he doesn’t do refunds and you have to eat all eight you paid for.
The rest taste horrible, you hate gol gappe now and you wonder how something that brought you joy can now cause pain.
Anita Singhal is a legend from whom 6 years later I still remember this law of saturation from. She was a great teacher, always giving funny examples to teach us the graphs and concepts. But I digress.
Burnout works the same way, you’re doing something you love too much to the point that it’s bad for you. I believe burnout is more easily experienced through your job if you love it.
It’s easy to think about the work even when you’re not working, even when you’re not supposed to be working because well, you love it.
This weekend has been a test of my will to not open my work laptop (I did fail and opened it for an hour on Sunday) but throughout the weekend I wanted to open it and work.
I’m trying to set healthy boundaries as I don’t want to burn myself out from something I love. Though, I sometimes wonder if life would have been easier if my job was something I liked but did not love. Something I didn’t willingly bring home with me or better put checked out after a certain hour. However, I do often feel privileged that I get paid to do something I enjoy. What a conundrum it is, isn’t it?