Working Girl

I’ve been thinking lately that I work too much.  Way too much.  Even the job title itself seems pack mule-ish:  Producer.

For years I worked on staff at various ad agencies and lived and breathed each production. Freelancing, it’s even worse.  I’m always thinking that whatever project I’m working on will be my last, so I never let myself take days off or have a proper vacation.  And, I never say no.   I have to work while I have it, I think.  And it turns out, I always have it.  (Must knock on wood!  Can’t jinx it!)

Financially, it’s great.  Life-wise, I’m not so sure.  I actually love what I do, so it’s not a drag, but there comes a point, when I’m putting in yet another hour, that I have to wonder if all this is worth it.   I used to joke that when I died, my epitaph would be “She had a great reel,” but these days those five words don’t seem so funny.  Even loving what you do, how much work is just too much?

A few years ago I was going through a particularly rough time and a friend recommended I go to a psychic she knew.  I managed to remain tear-free long enough one cold winter’s day to do it.  The guy was amazing.  He told me a lot of stuff about my past that was completely accurate and I had no doubt that he was for real.

Yay!  I was excited to hear what he’d have to say about my future.  Things would have to get better.  And then he pulled the rug out.   “You will never worry about money.  Ever.  But you will never find love.”

What?!  How could he say that?  Even if that were true, didn’t he want repeat business?  Who would ever go back to him after hearing something like that?  I was in a fragile state as it was, but this news just made me crumble.

He continued.  “Oh, don’t let that bother you; you can always buy a bauble to distract yourself.”  Whoa.

As soon as I left his place, I burst into tears.  And two seconds later, I hailed a cab up to Tourneau and bought myself a watch I had been stalking for months.  And he was right; it did make me feel better.  Sort of.  It’s the perfect watch – so beautiful, so simple and I love its weight on my wrist.  But I look at my watch a million times every day and there is at least a quarter of a million times every day that my heart stings a little.

Constantly working allowed me to buy the thing that was supposed to distract me from the fact that I didn’t have anything in my life really worthwhile outside of work?  Hmmm.

This wasn’t the life that I was supposed to have.

When I was four, I went to day camp.  Being a Montessori run one, it was pretty cool.  One time, right before Parent’s Day, they gave us each a large piece of wallpaper and some pen and ink and had us draw what we wanted to be when we grew up.  It was a pretty advanced art project for a bunch of four year olds.

On Parent’s Day, they laid out all the pictures with our names covered up.  There were probably 20 or so paintings on the ground.  There were firemen and ballerinas.  Astronauts and police officers.  Baseball players and office workers.  There was a lot to look at.  My mom asked me which was mine, but I refused to tell her.

“Which one do you like best?” I asked.  She tried to tell me numerous times that they were all great, but I was having none of it.  “Which one do you like best?”

She knew there was no way out and pointed to one.  “I love this, but I’m not sure I understand it.”

“Wait, you knew it was mine!” I said.  But I realized she couldn’t have.

“I love it,” she repeated. “But can you explain it?  What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I remember thinking that was such a stupid question.  She was looking right at it. It was a girl, outside,  holding  flowers.  How could she not tell?

She asked again.  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  This time I answered.


She still has it framed in her bedroom.

The older I get, the more I want to find a way to reconcile the workaholic me with the four year old me.  But, I don’t know know, maybe, just maybe, I’m not as far off as I think.  My work does make me happy, so perhaps I should aim for just a little less happiness in my life.  You know, get a bit more balance.

I’m going to make that painting my desktop image – as a reminder.  Hey, it’s a start.



5 Responses to “Working Girl”

  1. chris Says:

    gosh. bittersweet, lovely and helpful. thanks

  2. Robbie Says:

    Lovely — you, not the watch. And true.

  3. sorrel Says:

    wonderfully expressed. i remember saying the same thing – “to be happy” – when i was young.

    now the question seems to be, when are we officially “grown up”?

    and, perhaps more to your point, what does “happy” actually mean? i wonder if “fulfilled” or “content” or “engaged” haven’t become better descriptors?

  4. Connections « Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things Says:

    […] Tourneau, who sent it off to Switzerland to be fixed.  As you can probably guess if you read the previous post, I was really on the fence about fixing […]

  5. felix sockwell Says:

    nice margaux! you know john lennon answered “happy” too when he was a kid

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