The line of work in which I am employed has a significant amount of downtime. But no matter the number of projects my office currrently is or is not working on, I have to be at my desk from 10 am until 6 pm, 50 weeks a year.
Now when I have a project in my life, whether it be at work or extra-curricular, I am in peak performance. When I don’t, however, the small daily duties that are required of me seem a more colossal undertaking than controlling the sheer bedlam of my life with a big project. Unfortunately, I have many more days of downtime than bedlam.
Internal motivation is not a gift with which I was blessed—I work best under pressure. If it weren’t for the last minute in my life, things would seldom get done. Once I am to the last minute and have no choice but to begin, I finally work until what I am doing is perfect.
The cost of perfect
Most of the time I live in an untidy room because I know that once I start to straighten it, I won’t stop until every drawer has been reorganized, every CD re-categorized by genre, and every hair accessory wrangled back into its respective container. But living in a messy room doesn’t really affect anyone except my roommate; and then only when I leave my door open.
What my quest for perfection does affect are the periods of downtime at my job and in my life. A those times I can’t ever seem to remember the sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish a big project.
More importantly, I know that I am letting others and myself down by not being an active participant in life, not using all of the amazing gifts with which I have been blessed. When I consciously do not do the job that I can, I let my relationship with God be put on the backburner. It is much easier to choose to not face God with this image of myself than fix why I am ashamed.
I try to create the mania in my life that forces me to be productive. The two semesters of college that I received the best grades of my academic career were in the year that I took 41 combined upper division units, costume-designed five plays, baby-sat 20 hours a week, and waited tables on the weekends. I had absolutely no choice but to be organized—it would have been pretty awkward at my graduation party if I wasn’t a graduate.
As much as I hate it, I know I operate best with deadlines and the deadlier the better. Now that I have supported myself for over three years the idea of losing my job is one front that is a little too deadly to mock.
Most of the time my job is not going to give me the deadlines I need to perform the best that I can, but my job doesn’t have to be the only source from which I find my mania. I joined a nonprofit group and am planning a fundraiser; I am costume designing an off-off-Broadway play; and I am writing for a website. If I want to use the extra time I have at my job to work on these other interests, I just use my Catholic guilt to require myself to finish what I am being paid to do, before I start the projects that have finishing points.
God in the mania
In the midst of the stress when I can’t even remember to eat, I oddly become much more likely to do things like take 30 seconds out of my day to remember God and say a quick little prayer. And I know I have conquered an obstacle in my life and have presented to the world and God a person I respect.
We know we must look for God in others; taking action on this doesn’t just mean a smile and a friendly greeting. It can also mean making certain that I utilize my talents to the fullest extent, and respecting the people who depend on me.