I recently spent a weekend with dear friends in NYC. I took a half day off work on Friday, but, instead of feeling relaxed, I got that sinking feeling every time a work email alert popped up on my phone screen and the Pavlovian response would kick in. I would reach for my phone and feel compelled to immediately respond, lest some partner think I was less than completely committed to the job, or dropping the ball in any way. Despite my active search for a new career, I often still find myself unable to emotionally detach from my job.
It is a remarkable irony, yet entirely unsurprising to me, that I would feel so clingy towards a job that is a fundamentally bad fit. Because I do not yet have a strong exit plan, it is still the source of my income in the face of a mortgage and 6 figure student loans. Moreover, I have an overwhelming fear of criticism. This combines to create a type of Stockholm Syndrome - I am desperate to make myself a valued employee in order to keep this job as long as I need it.
By Saturday afternoon, there were still incoming emails, but I found myself more able to withstand the pull of my phone. In part because business hours were officially over, in part because, with each passing hour, I was more firmly entrenched in time with my friends. Their companionship helped blunt the anxiety of not responding, reminding me that being present with them, for the precious 2 days that we have together is worth more than proving to a partner that I am the perfect employee.
I have this epiphany on a semi-regular basis. Sometimes it's when my husband and I take in a concert on a weekday night. Other times it's when I put my phone on mute and settle in to my French class. But I keep having to remind myself that the experiences are what make life worth living. Earning a paycheck is fundamental, but time with family, friends, and in pursuit of what lights you up, is something you never regret. And I hope that the more that I remind myself of that, the easier it will be to push aside the Pavlov's bell that is my work email and be present, wherever I am.