workaholism

Thankfully, the dust has started to settle a little with my new role at work. The extra headspace has opened up space for analysis (MY FAVORITE THING!), which came last week in the form of a stream of consciousness over breakfast burritos:

“I’m trying to figure out what it is exactly about this is firing me up so much. Is it the management aspect, or that I’m working with people more, or doing more problem-solving, or is it having to juggle so many different types of things, or the increased responsibility, or that there’s no barrier to act on my ideas? I want to figure it out so that I know what to look for in other areas of my life or look for in the future…”

Probably why I only got half of the burrito down.

This is the gist: I didn’t realize how dormant this part of myself had become, and getting in touch with it again has brought a sense of flow when other areas of life are bottlenecked with uncertainty.

There have been numerous impromptu celebrations of my new job, but surprise champagne from Julie was one of the best!

There have been numerous impromptu celebrations of my new job, but surprise champagne from Julie (fellow work- and tri-aholic) was one of the best!

I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been a hard worker my whole life. During the spring and summer of my third year of University, I’d log 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. shifts for a term job with Revenue Canada and then head straight to wait tables from 4 p.m. – 11 p.m. Then there were the Vancouver days: the 5 a.m. “muffin shift,” biking home, changing, riding to an evening restaurant job, and riding home in the dark.

After years of that, settling into a 9-5 (ish) job has brought a rhythmic predictability that I’ve wholeheartedly embraced.

Working from home the past 15 months changed the dynamic yet again. As anyone who works remotely can attest to, now my “9-5” looks more like “5-10/12:30-4/7-8.” Stereotypes of remote employees being on “permanent happy hour” abound (as my colleague teased me recently on Skype), but as an oft-cited study last year found, we’ve actually been shown to be more productive. And when you actually really like your job? Well, I can easily see how people become workaholics. Plus, the iPhone has made it almost impossible to ever really unplug. At this point in my career, I won’t be heading out on any WiFi-free backwoods trips anytime soon.

Grandescunt aucta labore.

By work all things increase and grow.

I’m not finding my career self for the first time—that happened over a decade ago, and probably even earlier, at a coffee shop or the side of a mountain where a pen and a journal opened up whole worlds. And although my current job is only about 50 percent writing, it’s been surprisingly satisfying putting my other skills in communication and creative thinking to work. It’s like the first time you bake a pie or cook something delicious—the feeling of “I made that!” is invigorating.

Lately I’ve been writing a lot more about work than triathlon. I guess this little space of the Internet is always fluctuating according to what’s currently winning my passion, whether it’s food, triathlon, or in this case, my career. Right now, however, I’m feeling more squarely in Amy Poehler’s creative zone than career zone. If you haven’t read the excerpt from her new book Yes Please on career versus creativity—the former being like a bad boyfriend and the latter “a really warm older Hispanic lady who has a beautiful laugh and loves to hug”—do it. (Good excerpts here and here.)

What does all this mean when it comes to triathlon? Well, that these days training is for its own sake, not for any particular race. When the work storm hit, I decided not to race Ironman Canada (yes, AGAIN…I signed up and then didn’t race last year, too). I didn’t have the energy to fuss over training (at precisely the time when I would’ve needed to start fussing). Yes, I could’ve done the more “relaxed” approach, but I’ve been there done that, and this year I would’ve wanted to race. Or at least try. I then committed to Vineman 70.3 —a trip to wine country with friends sounded like just the thing for race mourning.

Nothing beats eating outside, with friends.

Nothing beats eating outside with friends.

Right before clicking the register button, however, I found out that two days after I get home from Idaho (where I’ll be working Ironman Coeur d’Alene) I’ll be heading to Germany for our European Championship in Frankfurt. This would’ve made the turnaround for Vineman tight, so I scrapped that race, too, and decided to go visit one of my dearest friends in Germany for a few days instead.

So here I am, riding my bike in the early evenings when I have a moment to breathe and the summer light is right, swimming when I can because I AM LOVING IT MORE AND MORE as the years go by, running hill repeats between conference calls, and doing all the regular long stuff on the weekends (like this past Sunday’s 14-mile “just because” long run.) It’s as if I can’t help myself. As if, as the actor Sean Astin said on a recent Babbittville podcast (quoting Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray), “because I can’t stop.” I don’t have any races on the calendar, but yet I wake up and it’s autopilot: swim (or) bike (or) run. Not doing trainer workouts, not thinking about how many calories I’m consuming on the bike (or in the pint glass), and not stressing about missing key workouts while traveling.

Maybe a surprise Ironman will come my way yet this year, but maybe not. And as with so many important things right now, the mantra I’m feeling challenged to live by these days is stark, and simple, and difficult: “Wait and see.”

4 thoughts on “workaholism

  1. June 19, 2015 at 5:48 am

    So long as you still keep that “speak truth to power” mantra embedded somewhere in your noggin! Enjoyed the thoughts on work-life balance as I can relate, and have been training for the sake of training (and not toward a specific goal) for a while now. Oh and hope you’re still in for Santa Cruz 70.3 in Sept (for fun!).

    1. The Hippie
      June 20, 2015 at 4:58 am

      Hey, thanks for stopping by! Truth to power…well, these days not so much! I noticed that SC has a relay option…might be fun? Hope you’re well!

  2. August 2, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Oh, now you have me staying up late and reading. This was a great post, Jen. I have watched your career with keen interest…and often reflected on what it would look like if I put a hold on my tendency to be a self-starter and put those skills to work for someone else. You’re amazing at what you do, whether it’s here on this site or your other publications. Someday we’ll have to meet up for a coffee and really talk shop. :)

    1. The Hippie
      August 4, 2015 at 7:14 am

      Thanks for the comments, Megs! It’s been a wild few months indeed. I can’t help but think, however, that the two aren’t mutually exclusive (being a self-starter and working for someone else). Sometimes I feel that working remotely offers the best of both worlds, and requires me to be a self-starter, as you put it, on a daily basis, while enjoying some of the comforts of working on a team that can accomplish far more than I could if on my own. Would love to catch up, perhaps our paths will cross on Canadian soil sooner than we think!