Work obsessed in my 30’s

Last night I went out with a few friends to a local pub for food and drinks. I met one of them, Tyson, early to catch up 1-1 before the others got there. We were talking and I saw his eyes glaze over and then all of a sudden he said ‘here you go bringing work to drinks again’ and it left me a bit dumbfounded. We’ve always talked a lot about our respective careers, mainly because we’re both ambitious and were in contract positions. He was offered permanency about two months ago, but I’m still contract and so my conversations are usually working out all the little ‘hints’ of whether my contract will be extended or not. Naturally, that’s what I was doing last night because I’d gotten a few ‘big hints’ about my future in the department – namely, someone at my level is going on maternity leave soon – so I was going through these things and using Tyson as my sounding board, as I always do. I was surprised to hear him so annoyed at me because I was talking about work! Maybe it was because now that he’s permanent he’s no longer as interested with the intricacies as I am? Or maybe I’m actually obsessed and talk way too much about work! I told him that I hadn’t realised I do it and he responded with ‘it’s all you talk about and honestly, it doesn’t even sound like you like your job’ which was another surprise: I love my job! At least I thought I did.

I think on my quest to attain permanency I’ve forgotten what I really enjoy about it. I’ve gotten used to it here. I know the people, I know the work, there’s always something new and challenging coming up – which I love… but perhaps that’s what I love and not the job itself? I haven’t stopped to think about it since I started here really. This job is so perfectly suited to my skills that I just naturally thought I loved it, but realistically, I don’t know what it is I love about it now that I was called out by Tyson. I love that I’m in a position to make a difference across the entire state, but recently I started looking into how much of a difference this office actually makes and, it turns out, it’s not much of one – which has been a depressing battle of mine since I figured that out, and it’s made me less excited to come to work every day. So, I tried to break it down into aspects of my job that I will either like or dislike:

  • nature of the work : like.
  • content of the projects : like.
  • background of the projects : dislike.
  • people at work : dislike (with very few exceptions).
  • office dynamics : dislike.
  • loyalty of managers to me : none, so, dislike.
  • efficiency of the Office : dislike.
  • managerial style : loved until my boss left and was replaced inadequately so, dislike.
  • job security : none, so, dislike.

The list could continue should I continue to delve into it, but as I go, I get more and more depressed about it. I really thought that I love what I do and now I think I may be wrong. I love researching and investigating and holding people accountable and being able to affect change, which are all things that led me down this path, but the background of anything I work on stems from child deaths, and I have to read into each one of them. It’s awful, sad and ultimately depressing. I have always been able to do it knowing that if I can affect change by writing my report and save even one child’s life, then it’s worth the struggle I deal with on a daily basis in reading about all these children for whom it’s too late to save. Recently (a few months ago) I realised that the reports I work on, thus far, haven’t affected change though, and that’s significantly more depressing. And forget the accountability aspect: it’s a joke! If something is not done that we’ve recommended, there’s no repercussions at all. It makes me wonder why I’m doing this at all. I hope that maybe there’s a difference to someone. Maybe the stats would have increased had it not been for the reports, and a brief analysis indicates that this is likely, but it’s awful to see the same numbers, or even rising numbers in some instances, across a range of issues that are ultimately preventable deaths.

Now I’m just starting to get into a rant about work and I realise maybe Tyson was right. Maybe I do bring my work home with me far more than I should. I guess it’s unrealistic to expect to read about a child’s death (and usually I have to read and research multiple) and then at 5:00 just leave it all at the door on the way out without any adverse effects on my mental health. I thought I was doing alright with the balance, but perhaps I was leaning too hard on my friend as a sounding board to get through the particularly rough days. I’d never go into details and I’d usually just end up complaining about my colleagues or a deadline or something, but still. If I take the nature of my work out of the equation for a moment and even look at job security in itself, the outcome is not much better. As I am on contract here, I can’t plan anything too far into the future and I never feel secure in my work. I won’t buy a house because I don’t want such an investment in the instance that I am not renewed. I feel like moving forward in my life is currently on hold. I’ve been here for two years now and watched several people made permanent in other teams, but for me, there’s no permanency because I’m in a requirement-based position. It’s frustrating to give heart and soul to a job and not have any loyalty shown to me. In two years, how has there not been a business case approved to make me permanent? I’m consistently told that I’m working higher than what’s expected of my level and that my work is very well done. I’m commended for my enthusiasm and I was even told last week that I’m ‘integral’ to the success of the project I’m currently working on. That’s my manager’s word, not mine, so how is it possible that I have not been made permanent?

I like to think that I’m making a difference and I like to think that my manager will continue to have my back in at least renewing my contract, but at the end of the day, who knows. I take pride in a job well done and I figured that the feeling of being drained at the end of the day (or midday on some occassions), and always wanting to indulge in more wine than I should after work, was ultimately a result of my work ethic and that it was just something that comes with a career; but maybe not. I had no idea how much ‘work’ I was actually taking home with me every evening until last night’s conversation with Tyson. It was a rude awakening and something I need to now seriously consider.

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