7:00 on a Saturday Morning

Unbelievably, I woke up, got up and showered at 7:00 this morning — a Saturday. Gone are my days as a night owl; now I tend to wake up before my alarm goes off or, on days like today when I didn’t set the alarm before going the bed, before my alarm would have gone off on a weekday. And although I do sleep soundly because I’m completely drained when I hit the hay, all my dreams feature some aspect of work, be it the day job or the former job I’m barely managing on a part-time basis.

Yet this morning I just wasted. Instead of working as I should have, I caught up on blog reading and the news of the week. On the one hand, I feel guilty; on the other, I know that working constantly is no way to live. But as soon as I post this entry, I’ll finally get to work.

Thankfully, my supervisor at the day job is very supportive and understanding. She recognizes that I’m going flat out and, in fact, probably overdoing it. “Don’t burn yourself out or you’ll be of no use to me,” she frequently says to me. While it may not come across in the literal words she uses, she says that with genuinely caring tone in her voice. “Don’t lose any sleep and don’t worry about ‘that’ deadline” — the deadline we all know we can’t achieve but are collectively pretending is real. In truth, though, I’m not losing any sleep, for as I just wrote, by the time I go to bed, I’m so exhausted that I’m out like a light a few minutes after I rest my head on the pillow.

I still don’t know what awaits me after this contract officially ends. However, I do get the sense that some people who matter would like me to continue in one capacity or another. The only thing that worries me — although, again, not enough to lose any sleep — is that I might be urged to relocate in Toronto if I want to stay on. But the problem is that Toronto is one of the last places I want to be. My concern, therefore, is if I stand firm on this point, I might be pegged as someone who’s unwilling to “develop” his career. Yet in this day and age, especially given the work I’m doing, my locale shouldn’t be a problem.

Meanwhile, there’s the job I thought I’d be able to continue on a part-time basis. Reality is really setting in now. After working 9 …10 …sometimes 11 hours a day with breaks only to pour myself another cup of coffee or go to the bathroom, I can barely bring myself to make myself some supper, let alone consider working some more. Some days this week I tried to squeeze in a few hours on the part-time job before starting the day job, but I couldn’t even do that yesterday and Thursday. As a result, I’m keenly aware that I’m royally fucking up on the part-time gig.

Last night, someone kindly and confidentially gave me the head’s up on the possible impact of one of those fuck ups. Interestingly, aware of my fuck up, I had already decided not to bill the client in question this month (or send a bill for $0). What I find frustrating in this particular instance is that I tried so hard to prepare this client to be self-sufficient prior to starting my day job, but the client never grasped — and still doesn’t — everything I did for them on top of what I was formally hired to do. In fact, the way I over-serve my clients but don’t bill them commensurately is the very reason why I had to put my small business on ice. For that the blame rests squarely on my shoulders, not my clients’ (or my daytime employer’s, for that matter). I clearly see the pattern: I overextend myself over and over, and when I reach my breaking point and start dropping balls all over the place, clients get upset because they’re no longer getting the level of service to which they’ve become accustomed. I consistently get too involved with my clients’ business rather than sticking to my role of webmastering services. In short, I recognize that I’m the architect of my own downfall.

Several of my friends have advised me to just let the above client go. And truth be said, I’ve given it a lot of thought in recent weeks. But a few things keep nagging me and preventing me from doing so. I can’t stand the thought of years’ of work being flushed down the toilet and sending the client to start from scratch (although I would never really leave a client empty-handed). I also hate the thought of burning bridges, for if nothing materializes at the end of my day-job contract, what would I fall back on? And, additionally, I despise seeing what has been a good long-standing relationship — both professionally and personally — possibly coming to an end, ploughed under a wave of acrimony.

I’ve been mulling over some ideas in the last 12 hours that might allow me to save the farm in this case — an arrangement that would take the client out of the lurch it’s in while preserving my honour and reputation, so to speak. However, based on some of the things my informant told me last night, I can’t help wonder why I should be so accommodating. I tried to avoid this debacle, but the client didn’t comprehend that’s what I was trying to do……

When I think about it, I guess I’m finally figuring out what’s at the crux of my problem in general. I have what could be called a strong “work-identified” personality. It’s so strong that work is very personal for me. Too personal. It’s hard for me to separate the two. And when I come to a situation like this one, I find it difficult, if not impossible, to be cold and simply say, “Business is business.” Instead, I just feel numb and have a big knot in my stomach, and come as close as I’m capable of to crying.