They Do Exist.

Workaholic: The Wrong Badge Of Honor

Editor’s Note: Every year that goes by, I swear the percentage of women who consider themselves workaholics more than doubles. A lot of us seem to wear it as a badge of honor, while we’re silently buckling under its weight. If you feel like you are always trying, trying, trying – or can’t say “no”, you may want to head over to 10 Things I Learned About Burnout next. Today’s post is by Samantha Fritschle. She’s a second year college student, a musician, and an aspiring writer. Samantha blogs at sammmbam.wordpress.com and tweets at @sammmbam. – Lauren

I work hard. I always have.

And so it was fitting that I chose quite possibly the world’s most daunting major: Music Education. In four years time, I have to rack up 135 credit hours of 0- and 1-credit courses. Those, along with homework, hours of practice, concert band, marching band, pep band, trombone choir, and attending concerts and recitals made every day into a 14-hour day. But I liked it because I liked being busy. I thought I was “seizing the day”, not missing any opportunity, because I had no leftover time. I was doing as much as I could with the time I had. That’s what I thought was important.

People sometimes asked me what my hobbies were or what I liked doing. “Well… I like playing trombone. I like school,” is what I found myself saying. Yeah… probably the lamest answer ever. I didn’t have any hobbies. I was consumed by work.

Photo by Branden Harvey / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

School and “work” were all that I thought about. While the people around me spent time with each other, I came home with only enough energy to stay awake until bed time. I was so tired that I couldn’t do much besides stare at a computer screen. There were no coffee dates or doing homework together or even having alone time. (My poor fiancé, he had to deal with a zombie version of me for almost a whole year — and he STILL proposed to me. What an awesome guy.)

I didn’t really have friends or even make them in the first place. I lived in the dorms my first year, which seemed to me to allow exceeding amounts of social interactions for all the extroverts (them), and a lot of overwhelming experiences for the introverts (me). I kind of went into friend-hibernation because I just couldn’t keep up. I was always baffled by how other people with my same major and responsibilities actually hung out with other people — but then again, I got a 4.00 GPA my first semester and a 3.84 my second. All I thought about was how to succeed. How to “be better”. How to get noticed by someone more important than me. How to be perfect, really.

And I’m starting to see that God doesn’t want that for me.

When I visited my mom for Christmas break, she actually thought I had a chronic condition from how much I slept. I suppose my stepdad saw it necessary to intervene at this point. My stepdad used to be in the military, and from what I hear, basic training is brutal. So when he asked me what my basic needs are, I knew the “right” answer: food, water, and shelter. Then, a source of income (going to college so that I can get a good job) and transportation. But he pressed onward. “Those are your physical needs.”

“You pay for every ounce of stress that you place on your body, whether it’s sooner or later. And you can either choose to continue your stressful lifestyle — meet your known level of tolerable stress without shutting down or having emotional breakdowns — or to live a balanced lifestyle.”

Those were perhaps some of the wisest words ever spoken to me. For they imply so much more than what is there.

He showed me that it’s not just that I want more than basic needs in life. Or even that I deeply desire more in life. I need more than just those physical things. I need to sit in my bed and get lost in a good book. I need to spend time with my fiancé and devote my undivided attention to him. I need to write. I need a huge chunk of alone time in every day. I need to spend time forming and maintaining friendships. Because God created me to do those things, too.

Friendships, “me” time, family, hobbies… those aren’t just added bonuses to life. They’re not just little extra treats I get when I finish doing “important stuff.” Those are the things that refresh me and motivate me to do the “important stuff.” Which, might I add, isn’t really the important stuff in the end.

Because in the end, God wants me. Not my accomplishments, my independence, my pride. He wants my heart. And taking care of the heart He’s given me is way more important than chasing after the things I think the world wants of me.

Sometimes, it’s not all about doing. It’s about being.


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17 Responses

  1. Scotty

    "And taking care of the heart He’s given me is way more important than chasing after the things I think the world wants of me. Sometimes, it’s not all about doing. It’s about being."

    YES, YES, YES times a million. As a pre-med female students, I continually tell my girl friends the same thing — you are more than what you can accomplish. Especially in the US culture of utilitarianism, we need to realize the value of our hearts!

    June 25, 2012 at 2:44 am

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  3. My natural tendency is to be a workaholic too, but it does not define me. I may always say "yes" to doing more than I want or need to. Other people will always tell me what I SHOULD do, but I do not have to follow their opinions or add to my list of "should-dos." Two years ago, I came very, very close to burnout and depression (if I wasn't actually there). I remember that and keep reminding myself I do not want to go down that path again, that I want and need to make different choices now. It's working.

    June 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm

  4. Anon

    "Because in the end, God wants me. Not my accomplishments, my independence, my pride. He wants my heart. And taking care of the heart He’s given me is way more important than chasing after the things I think the world wants of me."

    I sooo needed to hear that! I spend my life striving….striving to be a good employee, striving to be succeed at everything, striving to make my life count…but I don't need to strive – God loves me for who I am, not what I do. He loves when I sit at his feet and spend time with him rather than working and working… I need to learn to simply be.

    June 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm

  5. Pingback: Rules, Humility, and Spirituality: A Love Story, Part 5 « Like An Introvert

  6. Pingback: Saying “No”: How Limits Can Give You Freedom from Stress « Study Break

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  13. There are so many people who think that workaholic is a bad thing. But I don’t think that is a bad remark. I mean the people who are workaholic are people who actually work to get money.

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