Friday, August 26, 2011

Douse me with a hurricane, cause I'm burning out.

I work 30 hours a week at a grocery store, 16-20 hours a week from home for a nonprofit, and anything from 0-10 hours a week doing freelance design. That adds up to at least 46, usually closer to 50, and occasionally 60 hours a week of work.

Sometimes I feel like a whiner, but sometimes I feel like I'm completely within my rights to be overwhelmed by my career path. Sure, some executives and lawyers and doctors put in these kinds of hours without complaint. But they're making scores of thousands of dollars every year, have sick time, personal time, and vacation time, and countless other perks that my jobs lack. My last tax return revealed my Adjusted Gross Income to be around 25,000$ (next to nothing here in the DC area), and every day that I don't do work (I try to give myself one full day off every two weeks), I am losing my opportunity to get paid.

I used to think I was fortunate that one of my part-time jobs was work-from-home. I used to be excited that I was a free lance, able to accept and decline contracts at will. Now, I look at anyone who has a full-time job — even one that requires commuting — with envy. My salaried coworkers at the grocery store start out at a paltry 30,000 a year, and are required to work a minimum of 45 hours a week, although they rarely escape with less than 50. And even though their souls are owned by a rapidly growing corporation, I am starting to envy them. Sure, they spend 12 hours a day working for The Man on a regular basis, but when they are finally done, they are free! Free like a bird released from a trap! Free to pursue hobbies or to lounge around watching TV as their personalities dictate. They don't have to clock out with sore feet and strained wrists and trudge home knowing that the rest of their evening will be occupied filling out a different timesheet. And their days off are not weighed down with guilt about the work that is piling up in their absence.

I think my work ethic has descended to an all-time low. When I was fresh out of college, my dream job was any kind of work that I enjoyed, especially if it was for a good cause! I knew I wouldn't mind if it took up all my time, because I would be making a difference! In fact, I wanted my job to be my life. Now, my dream job is one that is comfortable, close to home, and high paying enough that I don't have to have a second one.

I really do appreciate the jobs I have. Every one of them has its perks. The store is a 10-minute walk from my house and the work I do there is good exercise. I usually come home with some sort of free food. The nonprofit does make me proud to be working for a good cause—even in my jaded condition. I set  my own schedule. The work is full of variety, frequently providing me with opportunities to exercise my creativity, and even though I am only part time, it pays 100% of my health insurance. The freelancing is full of excitement. Every new client presents new challenge. Every design that I create is fresh, and every finished project is grounds for a fulfilling sense of accomplishment. Yet I am reaching the point where I would give all of these up for some stability and an easier life.

Each one of these jobs is a good thing, but all three of them together are too much of it. What would I give to have free time again? Would I take the risk of quitting one (or even 2) job(s) to devote more time to another? Would I abandon my beloved recycling nonprofit for the comfort of a full-time job? Would I give up designing the websites I love (knowing that I'm charging too little for them anyway) and all the satisfaction they bring me?

What is the price of a happy medium? And for that matter, what is the meaning of life?


Geoff said...

I have an idea.