“Work” is more than a two-edged sword – it’s almost like a ball of razor blades, with a cutting edge at each possible point of contact.
“Work” for most people is an activity they would never engage in except that it pays for you to do the things you actually “like” to do. But the alternative, the double-edge of that sword is that when you follow the advice, “Get a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” means that 24/7, work is present in your head and on your agenda.
I take seven days off a year from “work.” During that time, I stay in touch with my office with my phone and my laptop and, of course, respond to correspondence, interview requests, even a radio show or two!
However, on this year’s vacation, there was a huge deadline brewing the week I returned and I actually had to terminate an employee for lack of performance while I was on vacation in order to meet that deadline.
But what it really meant was that, in removing somebody from my office, I had to take on some of the duties of that person’s supervisor so that that person could actually get the work done – from out of the office.
This meant that my normal vacation daily email count went from 15 to 40, and faxes (which had winnowed down after the years of Internet ascendance to perhaps one a day) became two and sometimes three a day.
The irony is that the 24/7 work reality is now so commonplace that there was no cost for wi-fi service and no cost for faxing. It’s become like having hot and cold running water – working 24 hours a day is essentially part of the new norm for many people.
The net downside of loving what you do (and I do) is the same as it is for all love relationships, – the bumps in the road are felt more deeply and have longer consequences that cannot be brushed off, dismissed, or as President Clinton put it “compartmentalized.”
So having worked through this year’s one week, I now realize that the physical and emotional reserve I get from that time off is essentially absent.
This has happened before, as when you limit your time “off” to seven days, things like the Zoning Board meetings that happen in the middle of that seven days or typical family spats in the middle of those seven days reveals the impossible pressure put on those seven days to relieve the pressure of 51 weeks a year of pressure.
So, being “spent”, Facebook profile picture (attached) became a 17-year-old me at halftime in a particularly nightmarish game in my senior year of football. One of the kids that I subsequently coached (now a businessperson in his 40s) saw that picture and sent me this quote: “ I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour – the greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear – is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted.” – Vince Lombardi said that.
Unfortunately, for me, that statement is all too true.
Although smelling roses is a good thing, somehow it seems incumbent upon me to design the garden, plant the plant, weed around it, fertilize it and ultimately create the flower arrangement.
So all of those areas where things could go wrong (and do) become my responsibility. I made this flower bed. It is mostly a delight, but the smelling part is not the goal for me – it’s keeping those plants alive and growing.
Duo Dickinson has written seven books on architecture. His latest, “Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want”, was published by The Taunton Press in November 2011.
He has been the contributing writer for home design for Money Magazine, is the architecture critic for the New Haven Register, and a contributing writer in home design for New Haven magazine. He has written articles for more than a dozen national publications including House Beautiful, Home, Fine Homebuilding and was the “At Home” editor for This Old House.