Things I Lost to Workaholism
Being a workaholic should be no badge of honor anymore.
I am a recovering workaholic. And, just like any other „-aholics” out there, my battle is a daily one.
You never STOP being a workaholic, just like other addicts don’t ever stop being addicts. They merely link together as many “clean” and „sober” days, months and years as possible. But that painstaking chain can be broken any time, so you simply can’t let your guard down.
Being a workaholic is like walking for the rest of your life on the brink of a precipice, where every moment holds the danger of you falling off down the slope. And what a slippery slope that is.
Workaholics get their kicks out of working. It fuels their engines, it lubes their rusty inner workings, it pushes the right buttons and turns them into someone worth being. It gives them purpose and value.
Workaholism goes way beyond the mere passion for something, although it always starts with that. Underneath there’s a need of being needed, of being irreplaceable not in a poetic kind of way, but in a strategic straightforward one.
It’s about being the hero.
If you work more, faster and better, you will eventually feel worthy. Needed. Appreciated. And possibly even loved. Like any hero out there.
My 20s were all about work. Sleepless nights, endless pages, always taking up more than it was expected of me, putting in extra hours, going the extra mile. Or the marathon.
Workaholism robbed me of more than my health, which I only recently managed to put back together.
It twisted my sense of fairness in regards to my work.
You see, my generation had ingrained in its collective mindset this crooked idea that “money is not important” when you are young. That youth is all about acquiring skills, learning the ropes, doing anything and everything that is asked of you.
That the more tasks you do, the more tasks you get and that’s a blessing in itself.
And there’s no statue, nor shrine built in your honor either. In some cases there’s not even a „Good job, thank you” thrown in, let alone any glory.
Acquiring experience and building oneself a professional persona is an intrinsinc part of youth, but being overworked and underpaid shouldn’t be the accepted collateral damage.
This is what this new generation finally got right: they know where to draw the line. They find this whole „tax on youth” to be preposterous.
I don’t regret writing hundreds of pages and making magazines from scratch. I loved every second, but what I do regret is not having drawn that line. Between “enough” and “too much”.
Between saving the day and sacrificing one’s health, wellbeing and much more.
Workaholism gave me a sense of purpose, of being the best and honing my craft at the speed of light. However…
I lost my connection with real life
I don’t remember my 20s in terms of dates, parties, escapes with friends. I only see an endless array of pages, articles, events, shootings and interviews.
And although I enjoyed each and every one of them, I could have saved some time, space and energy for me as well. For what the rest of my being, not merely my intellect, wanted and needed.
I should have exercised more, eaten more sensibly, gone to more parties, laughed more, talked to my friends more, done more work-unrelated stuff, just because they felt good and they made me happy, not just as a means to an end.
I worked so much that it didn’t leave much time for living.
I felt falsely invincible
Apart from making you feel extra-worthy and hero-like, workaholism gives you the illusion of invincibility.
Like there are no consequences to doing away with the boundaries of your own body and mind.
Sleepless nights, hours spent in front of the computer and daily meals sourced from vending machines seem the normal thing to do. The required rite of passage into „the big league”.
As weariness builds, coping mechanisms kick in and you suddenly start having a twisted competition with yourself. It’s called „How Much Can I Take?”.
And the answer is always „More, more, more”.
Basically, your sense of worth becomes a sum of sacrifices. The bigger the load, the greater the worth.
Working hours, pages per day, articles, tasks, they all get caught in the mathematics of inner worth. I once translated 100 pages from Romanian to English in one sleepless night and felt exhilarated. Could barely keep my eyes open, but I had done it. Go, me!
There is a time for everything and for nothing
I postponed life.
When you are very young, you see life as this infinite resource that never dwindles nor fades. So you feel you always have the time.
No matter how many weekends you sacrifice working, how many meetings, dates and parties you postpone or how many calls from friends and family you fail to pick up, there is always time for all that. Later…
Until there isn’t.
Workaholism enshrines work as the main priority in life and all the rest as kick-knacks that can wait. Only life doesn’t wait.
It may sound all poetic and deep, but it’s actually the simplest truth there is to know about life: it never waits.
If you allocate a huge amount of time to one part of your life, there will inevitably be chunks that you rip out from other places. Places that „can wait„, but never do.
I absolutely love my work and my current life, but if I could turn back time and be 23 again, with the mind of a 36, I would do many things so differently. I am certain that hypothetical new path would bring me here anyway, but with a lower toll on my health, life, wellbeing and happiness.
Those exact things that „can wait” until we’re done with the important, essential tasks of our professional path.
They never wait, they’re lost forever and we just have to come to terms with it, like responsible grown-up former workaholics that we are.