The Need To Work

November 04, 2002

Michele and I are taking a week-long cruise around the Hawaiian Islands for Christmas this year. We are flying out to Honolulu a couple of days early so that we'll have time to recover from the 9-hour flight. After we get back I am taking a couple of days off, including New Year's Day. My plan is to return to work on Thursday, January 2nd. Michele's question to me was why? Why not take that Thursday and Friday off as well? So far I am having a hard time coming up with an answer that doesn't sound like bullshit.

For years I worked as an employee. I had limited time off and had to color within the lines as it were. Now I am self-employed, I still like to color within the lines, but I get to draw the lines too. I think that after years of corporate conditioning I find it hard to cross the boundaries that used to be in place. I feel like a dog whose yard has always been equipped with an invisible fence. I am used to not crossing the line due to repeated conditioning. Even though I've moved to a new yard (self-employment) I am very wary of the invisible line I imagine is there.

I could say that I am comfortable with boundaries imposed on me by outside forces, but that wouldn't be true. I don't like being restricted arbitrarily. However, I do engage in ducking responsibility when it suits me. Not taking the first two working days of January off absolves me of taking responsibility for setting boundaries for myself that are different than my peers. If I take those two days off I feel as if I am setting myself further apart from my co-workers. Inwardly I have always felt different from my peers, acting differently outwardly is very difficult at times.

During the past couple of years I have started to express the truth of who I am more openly and honestly than ever before. Whereas I used to wear suits and ties to look professional I now wear slacks with suspenders because it is comfortable for me. It was hard at first to be visible different from nearly everyone I saw. I had to work long and hard to overcome my fear of appearing to be different.

I think I am learning an important lesson of being an adult. Instead of looking to others to set boundaries that are acceptable I am learning to trust my own instincts to set limits for myself. Other people are not me, they don't know what motivates me or how I wish to approach life. Only I can know that, and only I can create situations that are pleasing to me. Whether I take those two days off in January isn't important. Understanding the reason why I am working or not working is important. Going to work because I think it will look good to others is a lousy reason.

Now that I have identified the reason for wanting to work those two days I need to set that aside and try to find my truth about working or not working those days. This will be difficult, as I have to sort through all my reasons and identify those that are truly mine and those that are imposed upon me from outside. In the end I must be content with my reasons, in the end I must make the decision for myself and not for anyone else.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.