Hello, I’m Jen, and I’m a workaholic.
Do you work late into the evening and on weekends? Do you find yourself worried about your job even when you’re not at work? Do you check your BlackBerry or iPhone constantly for incoming email? Do you flinch every time your phone rings and answer it right away? Do you find yourself texting or writing emails under the table when you’re out to dinner? Does your self-esteem hinge on the next promotion or raise? Or on praise from your boss? On the flip side, does any sort of criticism at work or perceived failure send you into a depressive tailspin? Do you have a closer relationship with your boss than your significant other?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be a workaholic.
Chances are that either you or someone you love fits the bill.
I know from experience—I used to be a workaholic, too. And I worked in an industry that has no respect for personal boundaries. I’m talking about Hollywood, of course.
I began my career as an assistant (yes, that old story). I worked for a major A-list director and a studio head, before I became an executive myself. I answered phones and read emails and booked travel and ran errands and went through break-ups, divorces, buying houses, selling houses, weddings, the births of children, and much more with my bosses. I knew the most intimate details of their lives—and memorized their eccentricities.
However, with the economy going sour, this is happening more and more, across all industries and pay grades. This article appeared in the Huffington Post this week—Rehab Surges in Bad Economy with Executives who Won’t Stop Working. The comments (over fifty and counting) are also worth reading. This article is exactly what my debut novel is about.
When you find yourself so immersed in the details of somebody else’s life, it feels almost like a marriage. Except with an unequal balance of power. It’s an unhealthy relationship that is destined for divorce. The terms may either be amicable (you will remain friends, though the separation will be painful/you are moving onto greener pastures) or otherwise (you find yourself fired, possibly without notice or severance, sending you into massive depression and financial distress, and you fear that you will never be able to date again).
I’ve parted with bosses both amicably and otherwise. I’ve been fired (from my first job), left on my own terms for a better position after hitting a glass ceiling, and been laid off when the economy collapsed and credit froze and independent film ground to a screeching halt.
But who in Hollywood hasn’t?
Everybody in this town is always rising and falling, shifting around and slipping into different positions. It’s anything but stable. It’s constantly changing. It does keep you on your toes.
I’ve taken a step back from the industry to focus on myself for a change. It’s the best thing that I’ve ever done for myself. I highly recommend it. I admire people like Christine “Kee Kee” Buckley who did just this and blogs about it on Seeking Shama.
And I wrote my debut novel on this very topic. It was a cathartic experience to explore the relationship between a woman and her job, and how she is able to go on a journey (to rehab and back again), and in the process find both love and balance in her life. The novel is currently on submission to publishers (via my fabulous agent Deborah Schneider), and I hope that it finds a great home. I know there is an audience out there who would love this book and also find it cathartic and therapeutic and relatable, and most of all, hopeful.
There is life after workalcoholism.
I promise. Just repeat after me:
Hello, I’m _______, and I’m a workaholic.