Would you die for your work?

I wrote this draft for this newsletter about a year ago. I am sharing this here as is with a bit of present-day meta-commentary after.

Why? I have had a long few weeks at work and have been physically sick because of it and the cold weather. I did have two other drafts to share this week but I haven’t been able to complete them.

Then I remembered this draft, and as will be clear in the commentary at the end, it just seemed perfect to share today.


March 21st, 2021

A few nights ago, I found myself asking a hassled friend - “Why do you keep dying for your work?”

It’s not unusual for people in my peer group to use “dying” and “work” in the same sentence. Everyone, regardless of their employment situation, is overworked one way or another. Academic, corporate, development – no sector is safe.

Why though? Why is everyone working so much? Are they being adequately compensated for it? What even is adequate compensation for “death”? Do they enjoy their work? Does it fulfill their life purpose? What even is their life purpose?

There are a bunch of strands here. Let’s try to knit them together.

Consider these statements:

  1. I feel like I do very little “work” in comparison to my friends who are in more traditional workplaces.†
  2. I am told by these friends that in their reading I am not lazy by any measure.
  3. I am confident that I have the lowest income among all of my friends.

Now, here’s a conflict:

  1. If I am not lazy then why do I feel that way?
  2. If I am not lazy then why do I earn less than my peers?

Let’s explore the laziness question first. What I mean is that I feel I don’t work as much as my friends. I could attribute it to our individual working styles. I could argue that I am just remarkably well-organised and nifty with my tasks. And maybe my friends would agree (I have that reputation) but it’s not the whole truth. My friends are all smarter than I am. They all excel at their work. Positing that they don’t know how to organise their work would be untrue.

So why do I still feel this way? Look at the data, man. I see my friends pulling 40-50 hour work weeks and I do like 10-15 hours of work in a bad week. In a good week that’s like 5 hours. This used to be different pre-pandemic because I would travel for work for 6-8 days a month on average. On those days though I’d work 14 hours a day but it didn’t feel that way.

I think that’s where the answer lies. I didn’t feel like I was working even when I was objectively pulling 14-hour work days.

† My employment situation is non-traditional but not entirely uncommon. To be fair, professionally, it’s quite like a social media influencer. The work is nothing like it - but the contours of the profession are similar. I’ll probably write about this in another newsletter.


My employment situation took a massive turn sometime last year. I now have a job that demands a lot more work and throws far more responsibility and cash at my face.

I have worked all weekends this month. Like I said before, I have been physically sick because of this work-induced exhaustion.

I showed some symptoms last night and decided to get an RT-PCR test done. I barely avoided work through the day today and then when it became unavoidable, I spent the last two hours wrapping things up. I am supposed to join a meeting at 8pm but hopefully I will be able to get out of it. Oh and all of my bosses in the government know that I am unwell and awaiting my test results. Zero sympathy. Because they didn’t get any from their boss when they fell sick earlier this month.

Meta-meta commentary: I just received a phone call from work while I was typing this. Man, I did not sign up for this.

Anyway, my test result came negative. I do not have COVID. But I am genuinely considering telling my office that it is positive just so I can get a few days off. And you know what I am planning to do in those days? Finish some of my other pending work tasks and plan for upcoming ones.

I did not sign up for this. I mean, I did actually sign up for this but I did not think this is what I was signing up for.

I need a solid re-think on this issue. Share thoughts? Email/text is the way.

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Cheers! See you soon.

Last modified: Jan 29, 2022