On Working and Staying Sane

It’s just past midnight and my roommate and I are rebuffing traditional seating options on opposite sides of our living room. I sit on the floor with my laptop infront of what is best titled our love seat, a removable middle section of seats from the 1990 Plymoth Voyager that dominated my childhood driving experiences, with my back resting against it. Tyler is perched on the arm of our sofa, leg outstretched, scrolling through his phone. He is chiding me for my work habits.

“You need to work less for more money”

He’s right, but he’s also not exactly one to talk. Sure he get’s dental but the cost appears to be sleepless nights working and then ridiculous naps that stretch from late afternoon to the very early morning. I’m not sure I could count the number of times I’ve presumed he was simply out, only to have him stumble bleary eyed out of his room at 1am and begin to make coffee for the night ahead. Those are my turns to chide him.

“What are you doing? Go back to sleep!”

We both understand that our concerns are falling on deaf ears, as in many ways we are cut from the same cloth. So we simply throw each other pieces of advice that we ourselves do not adhere to and move on. For as much as we speak, what is left unsaid is where the real story is.

“What would you have me do instead?”

For the past four years work has played a peculiar role in my life. I have never had a traditional 9-5 and I haven’t had weekends since my first year of university. It should be stressed that this is all by choice, this post isn’t about me complaining that I feel overworked or that I am burning out, rather it’s about what happens when the concept of a work-life balance simply makes no sense because the lines are so blurred.

I imagine this is a common phenomenon with those working on social ventures, non-profits, charities, or really anywhere that values and work overlap. When I say that I am an environmentalist first and foremost I really do mean that, I don’t have many other ways to define myself, and so I work.

I work because there is always work to be done. I work because I believe in what I am doing. I work because it is important and time is of the essence. I work because I want to.

Or at least that is what I tell myself and It’s certainly what I believe most of the time. But occasionally a second thought sneaks into my consciousness. What if I work, not because I want to or need to, but because I have to. What if I work to escape?

Work keeps me company when no one else is available. Work allows me to tune out the rest of my life’s concerns because ‘there are more important things to do’. Work doesn’t flake out or run late. Work is reliably there, just waiting to give me the momentary validation of checking something new off my to do list.

And to be honest, I don’t really know which of these options are true. What I do know is that at least for now, I am happy with my life and those in it, so what else can I do?

“Alright, I need to go to bed”

Tyler has looked up from his phone, and is now walking past me towards the bathroom to brush his teeth. I’m three-quarters through the only thing that I’ve worked on today that actually pays. It’s probably only another forty-five minutes, not too bad at all. I’ve been up since 7, so sleep should come easy tonight. Tye-dye reappears from the bathroom and passes me on his way to bed.

“Stop working and go to sleep.”

I smile.

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