Sunday, September 9, 2007

Confessions of a Chronic Overcommitter

I have written a lot recently about the wonderful things that i now get to do and how much happiness they bring me. I have sort of ignored talking about or writing about my work life, which used to so dominate my life. Just last night a good friend said how proud she was of me that I have never let work dominate my conversations or social life. I had to think about it for a few moments, until I ultimately agreed. I have chosen for years to try to leave work where it belongs which is at work where I have spent way too much time anyway. I mean really when you work nearly a hundred hours a week, why on earth would i want to think about or talk about my job when I am not there. Plus, I really don't like talking about my job, or at least the specifics of it with people who don't understand it, even other doctors from different specialties. I am so superspecialized that few understand what I do.

Still none of this is to say that I haven't done some crazy things to try to keep my often antagonistic goals of keeping work and life seprate when both are demanding. Back when I was a fellow, I planned a trip to Greece with my best friend. I carved out 9 days for the trip, when I only had a week vacation, by arranging to do the following insane things. I stayed up all night the night before i left to finish a talk that I was scheduled to give the day after I got back, I met with my boss and mentor 5 hours before getting on the plane to review said talk, and I was scheduled to work in the hospital overnight, responsible for the lives of very small babies, 6 hours after my international flight was scheduled to land, while yes giving this talk the next day on no sleep for days. What on Earth was I thinking, yet I used to do things like that all the time. No wonder I didn't mind slowing my life down. However, on that particular trip, which was Sept 2001, the world changed while I was a way when Sept 11 happened. My flight home got cancelled, there was no way for me to conceivably get back for my call or for the talk the day after. Everyone understood, no one was flying. No one blamed me. Yet somehow I felt guilty. I had to call multiple times to make sure that someone was covering my call. Hello, what the heck was I going to do about it, I was stuck in Greece. Crazy- Really, truly, seriously crazy. I could go on, I have scheduled myself many other an insane journey in order to try to meet the demands of my life and my work. Case in point number 2, when I was interviewing for my post fellowship jobs and flew home to Chicago after a 3 day interview in Phoenix, arriving at midnight. I did my laundry, repacked and reported for work at 8 am the next morning, where I proceeded to work for 26 hours, with nary a moment of sleep before reloading a plane to fly to LA for another interview at the hospital where I work now. The sane approach to that would have been to declare that I couldn't work that weekend and to have flown to LA from Phoenix, an hour flight, and spent the weekend, which was my mom's birthday, with her, but no I didn't do that. Like I said I used to be crazy.

So, why think about this now. I am leaving for vacation in 5 days. I am going to Hawaii with a good friend. I am going to scuba dive, relax, play in the ocean, try to avoid the sun, and just enjoy that almost 11 months after my first surgery I can finally do these things again. This trip has kept me focussed on my rehab, it brought me purpose when things were not so good. I have been looking forward to it for months. I have refused to bring work with me. Yet..... I agreed to write a reveiw chapter, on something that isn't exactly my area of expertise, which is due before I leave. I was initially supposed to write it with someone else, meaning I'd write half of it, but she backed out leaving me to the whole thing with no extension to the deadline. OK, fine. I am almost done, but I have had to work on it all weekend, and it is provoking anxiety in me. I so wanted to get ready for this trip leisurely and enjoy my new outlook on things. But no, because once I finish this paper, I have another project which also must be completed before i depart becasue i have stupidly agreed to represent my hospital at some national meeting, which will require me to turn around and fly to Nashville 36 hours after I return for my vacation. Yikes, don't I learn.

Nonetheless, i will be on a plane to Hawaii in 5 days, so what if I have to work some today. I will hopefully get everything done. Oh goodness, wish me luck.


Jason said...

Greetings from a fellow overcommitter.

The dolphin pics from the last post .. epic ... looking forward to seeing some Hawaii ones .. be sure to only over commit to relaxing on this trip .. I can't believe this is here already ... enjoy Lisa, I'm s happy to have met you ..

Kathryn said...

I wish I could say that I too have learned from the experiences of this year, and yet no. As a positive, I refused to go to the Nashville meeting (bummer we could have seen each other!). Unfortunately, in my usual overcommitter-fashion, I have a grant due tomorrow at 5 PM that I am STILL working on, and after that I've agreed to review an article before friends arrive in town on Thursday night. Doh!

Lisa said...

Cheers to my overcommitter friends. Jason- thanks for all of your support in pushing me way out of my comfort zone. Kath, I am proud that you refused to go to Nashville but bummed that we don't get to hang out. Oh well, Any chance you are going to Hot Topics?