Addicted to Workahol

This Post was originally published on June 2nd, 2014

“Why do you work so much?” That is invariably the question that I get whenever I explain my schedule to family or friends for the first time. As with any broad question the answer depends on what whomever is asking wants to hear. I can name any number of factors as to why I work three jobs, mainly money, professional growth, or simply compulsion. I tend to work long stretches of days, today was my 8th day in a row and I was scheduled for 61 hours, but in reality wound up putting in around 70 plus an extra 5 hours of travel. Some people would quit even thinking about that, but I got out of work, jogged 2.5 miles, wrote a 1600 word blog post, and am going to get up tomorrow and work 5 more days in a row. This is my life, this is my compulsion, and I am not sure why I do what I do, or how I am able to get it done.

My parents often joke that they have now clue how old hippies could have raised such a perfect little capitalist. When I was 8 I organized several kids in the neighborhood into a lawn care/snow removal business where even though they were mostly older I was able to convince them to work hard to make cash. By the time I was 12 I started carrying boxes and organizing the stock room at the independent pharmacy down the street, and the week after my 15th birthday I got my working papers and would ride my bike or bum rides to wash dishes at a restaurant. When I was 17 and could drive to work I started at a gas station that sold propane and propane accessories where I would work 13 hour shifts every other weekend in clear violation of child labor laws. I didn’t care, these jobs were a way for me to earn money that I would put toward the things that I enjoyed, and I relished the independence that those purchases symbolized. I was always the one who could afford concert tickets or whatever new CD came out that week, and I even funded my two trips to Europe through hard work. Even then I was laying the groundwork for the work hard to fund lifestyle that you want to live mentality that I still have today.

In college work was a little bit harder to come by because I was supposed to spend more time focusing on my studies. At the same time I discovered that beer was an important reason to work and have cash on hand. I spent 2 years doing the work study building guard job and grabbing shifts from whoever didn’t want to work their own. Instead of the 5 hours a week that I was supposed to get I routinely averaged over 20. I worked that first summer at the SPAC box office doing the best job that at I have ever had. My second summer was harder since I was taking Organic Chem over because I loved it so much the first time. I somehow managed to work full time at SPAC, full time as a pharmacy tech at a hospital while still doing well in my class. I would routinely leave the house at 5am and return at 11pm, but I made it work and apparently a monster was born. The rest of college was spent bouncing between retail pharmacy chains working 10-30 hours a week, picking up shifts whenever other interns had tests or plans. When I was on rotations I kept up the pace and at one point worked 63 consecutive days between rotation and my real job. When people ask me if I am afraid of burning out now I say no, because once you have been through what seems like the worst situation its all downhill from there.

Once I graduated I was thrown right into the fire and worked overtime during my first week as a pharmacist. From there I picked up a overtime shifts like a maniac. For the first time in my life I was making good money and was caught up in a whirlwind of greed. During the first few months I paid off my credit cards and my car while putting money away and starting in on my student loans. At that point it was pure greed that kept me motivated, over time it became a habit instead. During the first three years I worked more than 1000 hours of overtime, plus worked a per diem job on the side. That may not sound like much on paper, but that is roughly an extra 6 months of work during a 36 month period.

Now that I have reviewed my history it is time to review the potential reasons why. As I said I am often motivated by greed, either in the short term or in the long term. I work extra to support a lifestyle that allows me to enjoy myself whenever I have time off. I find that whenever I have days off I spend a lot of money. By working extra I not only make money, but am able to save whatever I would have spent. I took a pretty big pay cut when I left retail, plus I gave up all the overtime that I wanted, and my per diem job. When I switched jobs I wasn’t able to adjust my finances and kept trying to save and pay off debt at the same rate. Obviously this wasn’t possible, but I started picking up per diem shifts at Rite Aid to make up some of the difference. I was also offered a position working one or two days a month at the independent in town. I felt that this would be a good option to branch out and decided to give it a shot. These extra jobs allow me to bring in almost as much as when I was working retail full time. While I admit to greed I don’t feel that this is the whole story, there have to be other reasons.

Every work week I have more professional variety than most pharmacist have in their entire career career. Some days I work split shifts covering both the long term care and the inpatient pharmacy. I also work retail on two different pharmacy systems, often in two different states, and deal with approaches to the practice from both large chain and independent pharmacy perspectives. I like working for Rite Aid because I am comfortable with the system and since they were very good to me after I left Walgreens. If I hadn’t have taken the job working LTC then I would probably still be managing the same store I was last summer. Whenever I have to work a shift it feels comfortable, like putting on your favorite pair of boots that you haven’t worn in a while. Working at Marble Works is completely different, it is a whole new setup and a new computer system, and frankly a whole different ball game. Independents have to play differently, and with 3 stores, a DME store, and a mail order facility I am able to see a lot of different aspects of the profession. When I first became interested in pharmacy my goal was to become a pillar of the community, and working just half a mile from my apartment finally puts me in the position to help people within my own small town. Since everything is new and different I feel that I am able to step outside of my comfort zone and grow more on top of satisfying my need to diversify. I don’t know if I will be able to keep up this variety for much longer, routinely making the changes on computer systems and styles takes a lot of energy, but for now I am going to take that ride and see where it goes.

Maybe all it boils down to is compulsion. I grew up watching my dad get up every morning and drive an hour each way to do a job that he didn’t like. He kept up an attitude that at least it was better than what he did before and he tried to make the best of it. What I am doing isn’t perfect, but it sure beats working in the salt mines. Maybe that plays a role in it too, what I do is mentally taxing and high stress, but it pales in comparison to the manual labor that millions of Americans do every day. Working so much is a cure for idle hands and keeps me motivated and pushing forward instead of sitting around and letting my worries get to me. I like my life better when I am busy and accomplished, when I have downtime I tend to fall apart. I am an example of inertia, I am the energizer bunny personified, as long as I am moving forward nothing can stop me.

From mowing lawns to managing pharmacies my path to absolution has always been through work. People may call me a workaholic, but I wear that badge with pride. I still find time for the things that matter in life and feel that I have more to me than just my job. By diversifying and trying new things I am able to grow as a person and as a professional, plus the money doesn’t hurt either. I may be exhausted, but I am not burnt out. Even if I was then I know from experience that the cure for burnout is a three day weekend and a few drinks with friends and I will be ready to do it all over again. This is my life, and as crazy as it can be I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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