Self Worth and Work – I Can’t Tell The Difference
December 30, 2010 11 Comments
It donned on me last night as I was starting to spiral in to a pit of depression exactly why not workings over this break is taking a toll on me personally.
I spent 5 years in graduate school and followed that with 2.5 years of post-doctoral research (more of graduate school work, you just have a degree that none of your coworkers really respect). Most people will never really know what it is like to spend 7.5 years in a graduate school-like environment. Especially in the sciences. I’ll try to explain it, but I’m sure that I’ll do a poor job of trying to illustrate.
In graduate school your worth is defined by two things: How much you produce and how hard you work. Some people excel at one or the other, most do a combination of the two. We were expected to work 70+ hour weeks in graduate school. We were expected to work Saturdays. We were expected to work at least 12 hour days. We were expected to not take days off unless absolutely necessary. There was an underlining competition between the graduate students/post docs to work more, harder, more productively than everyone else. There was the reinforcement of this behavior by our bosses who cared about us not as human beings but as cheap labor to support the work addiction that they’d been in the cycle of since graduate school themselves. It is a never ending circle of work more, work harder, nothing else matters.
In graduate school, in 5 years, I took 7 weeks of vacation off. Three of them when my brother died – not exactly vacation. A week in New York. Three weeks in Hawai’i. In graduate school, in 2.5 years, I took 3 weeks of vacation off. My 20 day vacation in Europe with my grandma.
I was indoctrinated with the belief that if I’m “home” I should be working. If I’m on “vacation” I should be somewhere else.
Fast forward to today. I’ve finally escaped the research institution indoctrination that work is all that matters. I know work at a place that believes in balance in life. That our day jobs are just part of who we are as individuals – not all. The problem? I haven’t developed the rest of my person. I’ve spent the past 7.5 years of my life stifling who I am, trying to push down all the parts of me that don’t add to my work self worth.
This is why sitting around my apartment with nothing to do is driving me crazy – if I’m not working and I’m not “somewhere” on vacation – I don’t know who I am anymore.
Now that I have a job that encourages me to develop who I am as a person I really need to find this out. What else do I enjoy aside from working and vacationing? This seems like a pretty good goal for me to do in the next year – explore hobbies, activities, groups that I enjoy – to find out once more who I am outside of just a “professor”.