The Drive to Work


How tightly do you identify yourself with your job? I’m not a workaholic; this I can freely admit. I’d much rather be sitting in traffic listening to the radio on the way to work, than sitting at work, working. It may not be quite as heart-healthy, but the stress is somehow quite a bit less life-consuming than my job.

My boss came into work today. She was originally supposed to be taking vacation this week. Her mom and dad arrived from a country that takes 19 hours by plane, to reach from Washington DC. Her sister also lives in another country and is here to visit, 6 hours by plane. The families were supposed to go to the beach for the weekend, but her aged parents didn’t feel up to the journey. They decided to do touristy things around Washington DC instead. So, my boss, felt the urgent need to… God knows what?–it’s not like the library blows up in July or anything–… “hold down the fort here at work” (her words) for the next two days.

My boss manages to ratchet up the stress by her presence. She doesn’t trust anyone, and snatches away our assigned duties when things aren’t moving exactly according to plan. She calls her staff to impromptu meetings over non-issues. She second-guesses our work, and frequently supercedes our emails with her own, if she’s been included on the email trail. I don’t know how she finds time to do her job, she’s so busy doing all ours. I hate being treated like a child (unless I’m sick, of course. I like being babied when I’m sick. Spoon feed me!)

I’m just shaking my head here. I was looking forward to Monday and Tuesday (my own vacation begins on Wednesday) mostly because the leisurely pace, and absence of a boss, would allow me to get things done, and pleasantly so. This was not meant to be. Instead, we’ll have a frantic pace, probably three more meetings in the next two days, and everyone will feel constantly monitored, despite her staff of three having 70 collective years of experience at their jobs.

What drives a person to identify so much with their job? Librarianship is a good fit for my life, sure, but I don’t want to live here. I’d surely find a way to take two vacation days, if my immediate family were all visiting from overseas. Work itself doesn’t bother me; it’s when a person attains their identity by doing their job that I get worried. It’s nice being patted on the back by your boss. It’s nice to be recognized. I’ve experienced this at every job I’ve ever had. But I’d rather spend the evening with my sons, laughing with them at some ridiculous TV program or comedy routine, than be told “good job” by my employer.

I don’t know where the line is; I just recognize in myself, I’m not close to that line. I can understand other reasons: the need to make money, or whatever. I just looked outside for a minute. The day is beautiful, if a bit warm. I can’t see a single cloud–there’s a light breeze. The birds are making a melodic racket, in a way that’s only possible on the East coast. Squirrels are playing a rough-and-tumble game of “catch me if you can”. The Nation’s capital, with all its attractions and points of interest, is 30 miles away. The Blue Ridge mountains, and Shenandoah river, are 5o miles from here. Live is old there… Older than the trees.

I guess I’m challenging folks to prioritize. If you feel work consuming you the way my boss is, well, I can’t say all this to her, but I can say it to you: there’s so much more to life. The air smells better when you’re not in the office.

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