I’m getting a little tired of Gen Y bloggers proudly flouting their “workaholism” in post after post of how they love their jobs, don’t see a need for work/life balance anymore and question whether or not their relationships are holding them back.
Of course, I’m guilty of several of these posts myself.
I remember Ryan Paugh from BrazenCareerist once wondering in a post if he was going to feel embarrassed by something he wrote 10 years later (I couldn’t find the link). His conclusion was that he probably would, and I concur. Even just a year later, I look back at some of my own posts and shake my head. I’ve changed my mind about some of those sanctimonious posts I wrote. (Maybe I’ll change my mind about this sanctimonious post, too at some point.)
There’s nothing like a good round of cancer scares to put things in perspective. As I’ve been forced to relax and let my “workaholism” tendencies fade into the background, I’ve figured out a few things. One is that the stress in my life came from the label I gave myself as a “workaholic.” I have found that I’m not actually working on less projects now, but that my mind has released the “have-to, have-to, have-to” thoughts that kept my mind racing even when I wasn’t working on something.
I’ve also watched my boyfriend run his distribution business over the past few months. He travels 3 hours away to tend his business weekly, aside from his local branch. He has a business in the sense that he’s not freelancing or consulting or designing websites – he has an office manager, employees with health insurance, customers who demand his time, and expenses that would make me cringe. He experiences a kind of daily stress and time demands that we Gen Y I-run-my-personal-brand types can’t imagine. I don’t care how many nights you slept in your office waiting for your start-up site to go live.
So here’s the deal. You’re not a workaholic. And you’re no different from the young-go-getters of the 1980s. (Please watch “Working Girl.” I mean, those people were always on and always “working.” We’re not the first people to discover taking our jobs seriously.)
We’re simply at the work-hard-to-get-ahead life stage. Like I said, we’re not the first. We’re supposed to be working hard right now because later, we’re going to want to take a break. I know, I know. You luuuuuuhhv your job. Great. For now. Later you will find that you luuuuuuuhhv being home to cook dinner for your kids. The other thing is that “getting ahead” looks different today than it did 20 years ago. Our parents worked late hours, took extra projects on, and went to night school to get higher degrees and certifications. We still do all that stuff, just now we’re also tending to our blogs, websites, overall web presence, personal brands, etc.
We don’t have a “life” to balance yet.
We’re in our twenties. We don’t have kids yet (for the most part), and we might have girlfriends or boyfriends, but not the kind of relationships that require time, energy and work to maintain because they simply haven’t become that important or demanding yet. We’re not trying to figure out how to make our 10-year-old marriage last because we see the love of earlier years fading. We don’t have children pulling us away from our “me” time. Jesus, you’ve still got time for the gym. Ask a working mom if she’s got time for that… if she does it’s at 5 a.m. while everyone else is still sleeping. That is what work/life balance is – not trying to schedule time in for a trip to the bar with friends.
We regard our life activities like they are work.
We blog because we love it, and yes, it gets us ahead in our careers, but that’s not why we keep at it. Blogging, networking, going to social media conferences and volunteering for organizations isn’t your job. We do it because in our day and age it is the new softball team. I spoke on a panel at an economic summit this week and I tried to stretch my mind to figure out how this will advance my career. My boyfriend pointed out that I did it because I think its fun. Oh yeah. That’s my LIFE, not my WORK.
We haven’t suffered the consequences of workaholism yet.
You probably haven’t even been burnt out yet, let alone laid off from your first job at a start-up, driven to real addiction, been divorced or suffered stress-related health problems. When you get there, remind me again of how much you OMG luv luv luv your job. Because I want to know if it was worth it. (The only one I haven’t done is divorce. And no, the 80-hour work weeks from the start-up that went under were not worth it. I’d happily give back the crow’s feet those earned me.)
We’re still seeking definition and identity with labels.
I wrote two weeks ago about my struggle to let go of my self-image as a go-getter, a woman on the make, etc. Elysa Rice seconded my “who am I if not a…” idea. We’ve been students forever, and now we’re joining the workforce and struggling with this notion that we need a label. We don’t. It’s a personal revolution in thought that occurs when you realize that you just are and that being a “workaholic” or a rising star or a go-getter is just a label that you try to live up to.
We like to inflate our own self-importance.
I’m really talking to myself as much to anyone else here. I think we inherently have some kind of egoistic tick that makes us trump up our own value. Gen Y doesn’t do this anymore than any other generation… we just have a syndicated platform by which to do it, in my opinion. When I declared myself a workaholic with no respect for this work/life balance nonsense, I was always rushing around in a state of self-importance trying to do everything I “needed” to do. My reality was that when I backed off, nobody suffered as a result of my loss in super-productivity, in fact no one really noticed.
I’m definitely not the oldest of my blogging compadres, but sometimes I feel like my life experiences have aged me a little. I guess there’s a part of me that wants to save my fellow twenty-somethings some of the pain I went through learning things the hard way. But then again, I didn’t listen to the people who tried to warn me. I figured I was different. I was unique. I wasn’t.
But hey, maybe I’m wrong. What do you think – are we really workaholics?