"Your grandfather died on a toilet at work at 55. He had a heart attack because he was a workaholic."
Someone told me that once or at least that is how I remember it. The idea of the dangers of being a workaholic has always stayed with me and I became sensitive to the idea of "working to death" at an early age. My grandfather was a successful businessman and inventor. Supposedly he helped invent the first color printer or something like that. In attempting to write this out I realize that my knowledge of the man is muddled and I am probably making some of this up based on old memories of conversations with my mother. None the less it is a related memory.
Speaking of my mother, she is a borderline workaholic. I would call he a straight up workaholic but she does take the time to visit and socialize with family and she had a long-term boyfriend. She is also calm, open to conversations about most topics, and enjoys the occasional movie out. I call her a workaholic because the vast majority of the time for the past 30 or so years has been working.
From my earliest memories, she has always put work above anything else. She was barely home and when she was she was busy doing household things and arguing with my father. She was a speech pathologist, then she worked in special education and then went on to administration jobs such as Dean and she is now an administrator for an entire school district. During her time in education, she went back to school and got her Ph.D. and taught college courses as well. She is very accomplished and has won an award in education recently. I am very proud of her as far as this is concerned. She is good at what she does and I think she has made the education system better although I have had only a glimpse into her career and I am biased.
She has been a positive role model for her work ethic, and the ability to support our family, but she has been a negative role model for how to balance work and family, nurturing, affection, and parenting in general. When I was younger I appreciated that she worked so hard and that people seemed to appreciate her work but I also felt the lack of attention and personal bonding that occurred due to her prioritization of work. This has taken its toll on our relationship and I would have rather had her in my life more than at work more.
This is all to say that I am cognizant of the impact that a workaholic can have on those around them and that while there is a lot to be gained in terms of financial freedom when one works more I am not interested in forgoing the pleasures of life either. Taking time to talk with friends will not gain much in the way of long-term financial wealth but as I get older and my friends begin to die I doubt I will wish I had spent less time in their company. The same goes for swimming, playing games, smoking weed and the myriad other activities that only hold fleeting intrinsic value for me.
At the same time, I have a deep guilt that wells up in myself when I neglect to be productive. If I play for too long, waste too much time in pleasure seeking or spend too much time stagnating and not seeking some goal then my self-esteem rots away leaving despair, depression, and anxiety. The few times that I have been unemployed I have felt the worst. I once had a mental breakdown right out of high school when I spent about three months out of work in a new town and with no friends. Obviously, this was a recipe for disaster but had I kept myself busy with a job or hobbies I might not have been so existentially confused.
In attempting to have balance in my life I try to be aware of the two competing forces in my mind. One voice telling me to "slow down, don't worry, have fun, you're just going to die in the end anyway," and another voice saying, "hurry up, you're just getting older, man up, you don't want to die with nothing." This dichotomy winds back and forth in my mind like two rocking horses battling to the death at high speeds. All the while constantly re-calibrating for new goals, new ideas of pleasure and new ways of attacking the problem of existential angst that is never satisfied and never quite certain.