Thursday, April 29, 2010

Workaholic II

There is a truism that tells us that nobody on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time at the office. These words are meant to get us to appreciate what is really most valuable and important in our lives, before it is too late. It is not our jobs, but our relationships that truly matter. This is my story as a recovering workaholic.

Now, having considered my previous thoughts (see Workaholic I), which I believe are valid, I do find a kernel of important truth in the words of my colleague those many years ago. The kernel is that while work must be important to us, and we must take our work seriously and give of ourselves, we must not let work rule our lives. Our families and personal relationships cannot be pushed into the backseat or the closet. They cannot be neglected or ignored in our drive to further our career or our intellectual girth. Unfortunately for me, this is a lesson that I learned rather late in life. Some very important blossoms in my life withered and died away and I never noticed. Hopefully though, it is not too late for me to put the lessons that I have learned into practice.

Personally, I have known that I would be a scientist since I was a young boy. My field held a special fascination for me. I wanted to know everything and I remember how impatient I was with the slow pace of my education. Increasing my knowledge was a thrist that just could not be quenched. For years I threw myself unapologetically into 100-hour weeks. My lab eventually though became a place that not only fascinated me, but also a place where I could hide from the problems of the outside world. Furthermore, with my success at work, it became a place that fed my ego and established my self-worth. It became an addiction, and what a powerful drug it was. While my real world crumbled down around me, I was buoyed and supported by my work. The more success that I had and the more good feelings I received from my efforts, the more I continued to strive and to work and to push. All the while, I never perceived that I had lost nearly everything that mattered to me in the outside world. When I understood what I had done and where I was, it was already far too late to do anything about it.

(Part 2 of 3)