The reason I find it particularly remarkable to write about is because, it took me 3 years (beginning 2011 March in fact) and hard work to get to this state of health. I hadn’t seen it coming at all at the time that my obsession had begun (in 2007/8). At that time, I almost felt a bit snooty for doing such ‘great work’ and being at the helm of things. I even remember talking (almost with pride) about how I had to take myself out to Bombay and actually felt bad to apply for ‘leave’ for a long weekend with a national holiday. Maybe it was the lack of other fun things in life or a sense of immense ghissu-ness (Tiara syndrome) with which I actually thought working so hard was a good thing. Of course, it was, severely short sighted.
I felt burnt out. My relationships at all levels- family and friends included- suffered. I was constantly angry, upset and my only friends were people from office with whom I also spoke enthusiastically about work (and occasionally Sex and the City). It didn’t help that I was travelling 5 hours (as a best case scenario) everyday to and fro office for 6 years. I was living the lie that no one else would understand. Which wasn’t really far off. What was there for anyone to understand anyway – I was working till 3am and still getting out of home at 5:30 am the same morning for a power point presentation frequently for no visible rewards (at that time or afterwards). I was pushing myself almost as a habit. This, in my 20s, and making myself a big bore in the process.
|When will I get a change times (Photo credit: tim caynes)|
Thankfully, I didn’t need to have a baby to start talking about the lack of balance. However, once in the hospital with family, my boss called and without being human (or mildly kind), he asked me where a certain ‘excel sheet’ was (and not how I was doing). At that time I realised for the first time,
- In rage: my boss is a jerk. I am a resource. I am a resource working for a jerk. No one cares because it was put up as my choice.
- In reflection: more importantly, it was unsustainable and indeed my own doing
- In further depth: the moot point, nothing or no one would come crumbling down if i drew boundaries
|Overworking my way to the creativity-dead zone (Photo credit: HikingArtist.com)|
It has been helpful that I came to Germany in the meantime to recover. Indian companies and work culture makes it far worse and easy to fall pray to such behaviour and I am not the only person who suffered so. However, also, living in Europe makes me feel a lot more human and beyond a replaceable number. Not to say that everything in India is like that. But the numbers and the inherent replaceability does make a difference.
Now, I take time to walk back from work and make that my daily meditation time. I have friends beyond my workplace and I do not suffer from work mail guilt pangs once out of office. I am finally making lists of things I want to learn and feel alive with. This is immensely helpful even at work because:
- I prioritize tasks better which means the impact is greater
- I’m trying to be fully present at work or home. Qualitatively it makes me feel good, and I do not suffer from unnecessary work guilt. I feel refreshed at 9am at the start of work.
- Better boundaries translates to me not getting a feeling of being taken for granted by anyone
Many people ask me why I decided to get back to a degree, even after a Master’s already. This was the story. The truth is I was too chicken to take a sabbatical year off in Bali to regain my work spirit. I chose to get a break through academics instead. This has been a risk too, but something that I could live with. I worry for people unable to take breaks from work. It takes much effort to get out.