Everyone’s Experience Is Different (Ain’t That the Truth)

Mike: I have powered through this week!

Logan: Yeah it sounded like you’ve been really sick? But you’ve worked so much. How are you able to do it? Like, really. I become non-functional when I’m sick, but you’ve worked full days.

Mike: You know, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a day to recover when I’ve been sick. I’ve always worked from home at all my previous jobs when that’s happened. So I guess, it’s like I’ve been trained to do it. Which sort of cancels out “the sick day” benefit I was supposed to get. I do not recommend this. Your benefits should work as they’re intended.

Logan: Seriously. You wrote something yesterday that surprised me. Confused me. You talked about being able to take a weekend trip with your boss’s permission if you worked on the plane ride? But: THE WEEKEND IS YOURS.

Mike: Well, I had to take Friday off to fly across the country. That was actually a terrible situation because I had planned that week to be in California months in advance. And then that week happened to be the week of a very important launch of a thing the team was working on, and my boss was like, “we need you here.” So, I ended up paying a $50 fee to change my flight to make my one week trip to the West Coast a weekend trip. And my boss said, “Okay, you can take Friday off if you work on the plane.”

Logan: UGH. I despise that. I despise that whole thing. Did you consider just saying no? I made these plans months ago?

Mike: You know, that’s just not in my nature, and I think people have taken advantage of that. People take advantage of the fact that I (unhealthily) often put work first.

Logan: I have before, which we’ve talked about. It can be easy, unfortunately, to be like, “Mike loves work! So I’ll just let him have a little bit more …” Which. Is. Obviously. Wrong.

Mike: Some of it has to do with the fact that yes, I am a hard worker, and some of it has to do with the fact that I really got my career going during a terrible recession and a volatile job market, and I’ve felt this need to show people why I deserve to keep my job.

Logan: I’ve worked with you for a few years, in different situations—as a coworker, and then you were my boss, and now we’re partners—and I can’t imagine anyone having any question about your worth or the reason you should keep your job. You are the hardest worker in any room. I’m sure you’ve worked harder than whatever boss didn’t let you take a vacation.

Mike: It definitely gives me a strong footing to fight for myself in, say, situations where I am negotiating a promotion. “I cut my vacation short to be here when you needed me. I power through and work from home when I’m sick. I am indispensable at this organization.” And you know, I’ve never heard any of my bosses argue against that.

Logan: That’s very true. I do wish you gave yourself a break more often though. Like, you were really sick this week! Half days would have been totally in order.

I considered saying, “I’ll do your posts this week, take some time off,” but I didn’t. I felt like, well, you’re an adult, if you wanted me to do that you would ask. But I do worry that you don’t always take care of yourself!

Mike: As much as I pride myself on how hard I work, I also consider it a detriment. I have zero work/life balance basically, and that’s an important thing to have to stay sane and prevent burnout. I’m lucky that I am young and single, but I wonder how I would adjust if I had a family? I would hope that my kids would come first. I would want my future kids to come first.

Logan: I think when you’re a dad that it will be natural that your kid will come first, and work will move to second. I don’t see you as a workaholic absentee father, at all.

Mike: Well, thank you, I hope that’s true. But now that I’ve transitioned from working for other people to working for myself, I think that’s more than likely. No more cutting vacations short!

Logan: Do you feel like your way is the “right way” to work? Do you look down on people who don’t work as much as you do? I, for example, have to check out for some hours each day. I. Must. Do. It.

Mike: No, I think that people have different ways of being productive, and that you just have to find the thing that works for you to work the most efficiently. I think that telling people to do things my way would be just totally crazy insane. I mean, one of the reasons I work so much right now is because I’m juggling multiple jobs, so in this case, it’s just natural that I work more hours than other people.

Logan: When do you relax?

Mike: Hahaha.

Logan: SERIOUS QUESTION.

Mike: Well, I try to do that on the weekend.

Logan: Have you instituted rules, like, okay, From 8 to 10 each night, I can’t look at the computer?

Mike: No. Haha. How sad is it that I’d need schedule time to unplug?

Logan: I don’t know that it’s sad. But you do tend to work all the time, and you know that about yourself, so I think it’d be cool if you scheduled in some free time. Sometimes we have to do things for ourselves that seem silly! Like: I had to give you my credit cards in order to stop using them. RIDICULOUS. But: I had to do it and so I did it, and it worked for me (“it worked for me!”).

Mike: Well, yes, I do! I don’t want this to sound like I have this depressing, workaholic life. I’m meeting friends for dinner tonight. My old grad school roommate is visiting from New Zealand for the next week, and I’m going to meet up with him. There are things that are important to me that I’ll make sure to find time for.

Logan: Oh, for sure you do that. But I’m just talking about ME TIME. Sitting around doing nothing. Or watching television shows. Wandering around aimlessly. These things are so important to my life—ha, really—that I can’t imagine not making time for them.

Mike: Me time is a little bit of luxury right now. Because when I’m sitting around doing nothing, I’m really running through everything in my mind that I need to get done. This is one of the things that happens when you’re self-employed. You think a lot about where that next dollar is going to come from. Also, I feel like you wandering around aimlessly is also you wandering around wondering where you’re going to find a place to live or what have you—stuff you’re dealing with at the moment.

Logan: How much of this do you think is your personality, and how much of it is that you don’t have a safety net? Like, I have moments of dread and panic a couple times a week, but it’s not always. Most of the time, I just sort of trust that things are going to work out. But yeah, that is a luxury for sure.

Mike: Yes, a lot of it has to do with the fact that my safety net is myself. Like yesterday, when you talked about how your “1 Thing” was to ask your parents to borrow $2,000 for moving expenses, I thought, “Oh, right, that’s an option that some people have.” But even though I depend on myself, I also know that I am lucky enough to have a network of people who would make sure I wouldn’t end up on the street. Like, I’m not going to be homeless. I have friends who would let me stay on their couch and help me get back on my feet if things ever got really rough.

Logan: You could stay on my couch! When/if I ever have a couch! And if I ever have any money, you can borrow money. (You have all my credit cards. You can use them.) I debated posting about asking my parents for money yesterday. I mean, I’ve talked about it enough and been very clear that I’m lucky enough to have parents who have the means and the desire to help me. They paid for my college, have helped me so many times. It feels icky to keep bringing it up—it seems like bragging almost, or in another way, it seems like I’m complaining (oh poor Logan has been putting off asking her parents for money even though she knows they’ll give it to her).  I KNOW that’s not everyone’s experience. I know it’s a privilege. It’s this weird line between saying, well this is my life and this is a thing I have to do, and being apologetic about it. I know I’m so lucky to be able to have my parents help me out. But it still doesn’t feel great.

Mike: And my experience is the opposite of yours, which is why we make such a good team. That is your experience, and this is mine. And I’m never going to be like, “Ugh, Logan, look how privileged you are!” Because we are all dealt different cards, and if you have good ones, you might as well play them.

Logan: I’m so appreciative that you have that attitude. And now I’m wondering if my telling you to “just relax sometimes!” is totally tone deaf to your experience. I get upset when commenters respond to some of our writers by just being like, “Stop complaining you’re life is perfect” or something similarly dismissive. None of us have any idea what other people’s experience is.

Mike: Yes, but people also like to call it like they see it, which is just how the Internet works, and I’m fine with that because I’d rather have a discussion about something than have no discussion at all. I’m not going to discount your experience because your parents paid for your education and have helped you out in your twenties, and I’ve had to pay for my own way. I’m never going to say, well, you don’t understand what I’ve had to go through in life as someone who grew up with not a lot of money, or as a minority in a predominantly white neighborhood. This doesn’t make my experience any more or less legitimate than yours. I think thinking in those frames can detract from our shared goals. We’re all striving for the same things, right? We want to reach parity, and have equal access to health care, and feel like we can all stop working one day and have a good life. Recognizing that we live different lives, but have the same goals is important to me. Unless, you’re evil and just care about having all the money for yourself—those people can shove off!

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14 Comments / Post A Comment

This is why I so love having a 9-5, versus freelancing: come 5:30, I don’t even think of whatever thing it is I have to do at work the next day. That and the steady paychecks and health insurance.

Kate (#1,408)

@stuffisthings I haaaated freelancing because it was non-stop motherfucking hustling. I really love leaving my work at the office every day.

A lot of the people I work with have NO work-life balance and it infuriates/baffles me, and sometimes makes me feel guilty. I mean, you are not getting paid overtime to stay until midnight WTF are you doing.

Sometimes I wonder if I were getting paid more, would that make it worthwhile? And what would that say about me? Or if I liked what I was doing more, would I stay later? Probably yes, I would … but at the same time I value my free time! SOooooooo I dunno.

Also I think there comes a point where privileged people (speaking as one) need to stop apologizing all the time for their privilege because I think it can come across as more obnoxious. I would much rather you just state your case. Don’t brag about it. Don’t be ignorant to the fact that other people don’t have the same privilege. Just say what you came to say and get out. I dunno.

@redheaded&crazy From my personal experience, it really is a case of believing in what you do. I once had a job where I was a tremendous slacker; the work took only about half (if that) of my skills and abilities, so I was able to phone it in all the time. My pay was crappy, so I didn’t have a lot of guilt about it. They got what they paid for (and a little more). Once I changed careers, I devoted so much more time, even to the little things. I invest as many of my resources as I can spare in my work. The trick is to find that drive; for me, it was feeling like I was adding something to society; for others, it may be a big pile of cash.

albatross (#2,020)

@Sunny Schomaker@facebook this is something i worry about at my current job. seeing that you transitioned to something you liked and used your full capabilities to turn it around makes me feel hopeful.

Kate (#1,408)

It occurs to me that I also could have left a comment relating to the post.

allreb (#502)

Re: things with privilege and family, I think a big thing when discussing it is to keep in mind *why* people might be calling it like they see it, or might find it annoying. It’s valid to discuss — this site is great and useful because it does discuss, very frankly, things like Logan’s debt and spending. But it can still sound like tone deaf, total privileged people problems, to someone who grew up without a lot of financial security and essentially no parental help post-college (ie, me, in this case).

I think there’s a lot to say here about jealousy and anger and resentment that I’m not really articulate enough to express. There have been posts here that I’ve found very hard to read because I’ve had a hard time sympathizing with stories of people who’ve frittered away windfalls or sent themselves into debt over non-crisis situations. As someone who has no safety net beyond what I’ve got in the bank right now, I sometimes want to gripe about how life isn’t fair, how some of us don’t have the privilege of making bad decisions because no one’s there to bail us out, etc etc.

Those emotions are very real, and very visceral, and hard to overcome. But they’re not pretty or something I’m proud of, and I don’t think they’re all that useful. One thing this site has done for *me* is help me start to process and get past a lot of that resentment, just because it *is* so frank in the discussion of “here’s how I got here, here’s how it effects me right now.” Of course, I’m nowhere near as zen about it as Mike Dang, but hey, I’ve gotta have something to aspire to, right?

(For work/life balance, on the other hand, everything Mike described is waaaaay too familiar to me. Mike, take a sick day when you’re sick! That’s what the day is for! And you will most likely get healthier faster if you take the time you need to recover, and then work more efficiently when you’re healthy to make up for the lost time. It has taken me ages to get over my internalized feelings of “but I could be being productive right now!” and really take the time I need.)

allreb (#502)

@allreb ….man that was long winded and I think I lost my own point, which was meant to be: I think it’s important that people HAVE these conversations, even if there is anger and calling out, because it helps people from all over the financial spectrum to discuss these things, INCLUDING privilege and how it effects people’s financial decisions. (And I’m thankful to Logan for sharing.)

You know what’s a thing for me? I actually get anxious scheduling vacation time. I don’t know why it happens since I have zero guilt about it.

Anyway, just wanted to post a gushy message saying thanks for the site. For my 1-Thing Thursdays I finally signed up for mint.com to try to be a little smidge more financially responsible.

Megano! (#124)

In spite of never having (paying) work, I really like to work, and I have to be really, really careful not to make it everything my life is about, because it is really easy to burn myself out and get sick. Like, depressingly so.
And I kind of feel like, if you’re getting a salary, you shouldn’t have to put in extra hours if you’re not being paid for them, or you actually believe in the project enough to want to do it. Like, salary should only cover MAYBE 50 hours a week tops? Because people need Me Time! And also b/c employers take advantage of it.

@Megano! Lol I’m actually replying because it’s 10:30 pm and I just got home from my salary job. Anyway, in the future you may run into something called comp time. In most places it’s an informal agreement that if you work over a certain amount of hours they’ll give any extra time as additional under the table vacation time. I worked one place where they formalized it as any hours over 50 in a week. My advice is to keep track of this stuff since bosses tend to conveniently forget.

Also an hourly wage slave aside: I worked for an American company that got bought out by a British company. Our time sheets went from 40 hour minimum to a European friendly 35 hour minimum! Then a week later HR found out and raised it back to 40! And checking the intranet showed we also had 1 week less vacation time. Ugh to American worker standards.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@Megano!
One thing to also think about from the boss’ perspective (a paraphrased quote from my Father In Law who is a company CEO):

“The guys in my factory are paid by the hour. At the end of their shift, I have them go home and I pay for their hours worked.

The guys in my office are paid by salary. When their job is done, they go home and I pay them their salary. When they go home depends on when they get their job done. If they finish their job early, they can go home early and that’s cool with me – I pay them their salary. If they go home at 5pm and their day’s work is not done, even though they have technically put in their hours, I get really pissed off because they are wasting my time and money by being unproductive. These are not the employees I hang on to.”

I think that’s a pretty fair way to look at things (I am a salaried receptionist/admin assistant, for reference).

ThatJenn (#916)

I had a really useful epiphany a few years ago, that, at least with my immune system, if I take a day off/a half day off when I am starting to get sick, I don’t stay sick. Sometimes if it’s the flu or something it will stick around for a day or so anyway, but with colds (even really nasty ones – and a lot get nasty for me since I have asthma and they settle in my lungs) and even some flus, taking that half day or whole day means I’m easily 50+% more productive the rest of the week, since I’m well. And not just productivity for productivity’s sake – but good, quality work I won’t have to recheck and possibly redo when well. Taking some time away from the more automatic, less creative work I “can do” while sick allows me to be able to do ALL of my work better in the upcoming days. Just a thought, Mike Dang.

ThatJenn (#916)

P.S. Get and stay well, Mike. We need you! (& also <3 you.) We need you to feel well and happy and able to do the creative work you do here, which will always be better when you take care of yourself well. (Which is not to imply that the Billfold’s content suffered this week or anything, just – you’ll probably be happier with what you put out when you feel 100% while creating it.)

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