Wednesday, November 12, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: Sacrificing Health for Work

Danielle Sills

We've all heard the term "workaholic." But what makes a person qualified to fit this title? Is it a certain amount of hours in overtime? An unwavering need for perfection? A will to keep going when it feels right to give up?

I don't know the answer to these questions. But I've personally seen people who fall under the category of "workaholic." These extra-hard workers I've seen aren't just in movies or on TV; they exist in real life. At times, it seems like these people will keep going and going... to no end.

So where do you draw the line and decide it's time to stop working?

My Neverending Dilemma
I woke up feeling awful Monday morning. Must have been the usual end-of-the-quarter blues. Every time finals week approaches, sniffly noses crop up all over campus, and boxes of Kleenex are in higher demand than blue books. I was having one of those days where my throat was dry and itchy, and I knew it would only get worse as the day went on. That seems to be how it works. Mornings are bad, nighttime is worse.

9:00am, Monday morning - time to decide story assignments for the day. Perseverance! "I will beat this sickness," I mumbled to myself. I hoped for a good story. And while some of my fellow classmates and reporters would die for a breaking story, I would rather cover personal reactions to a historic event , find out what goes into a charity event, or explore the music scene in Athens.

I just love the personal connection that these stories give me a chance to experience. I love when I get to learn about someone's life passion or love. I love getting learning about people. These are some of the best lessons Athens MidDay has taught me.

Cloudy Skies (and Sinuses) Ahead
I waited to hear what I would be covering for my last story of the quarter. When I learned it was a city council meeting, I temporarily felt my heart drop. City council? I have to wait until 7pm to start my homework? (That's prime itchy-throat time.) And can you get any less personal than a story about a meeting? But then, I suppose my job was to take a part of that meeting and make it personal.

The meeting was long. Very long. I sat through three hours of city budget discussion. The topic I was focusing on - the fire department - was covered in the first 10 minutes of the meeting. I knew I could go home after that. But... in snuck the workaholic in me. No! This was my last story of the quarter! I was determined to make it a good one.

I waited around until after the meeting so I could personally talk to the mayor and a council member. By that time, my head felt like a cannonball, my throat was swollen to the size of a melon, and my eyes were as dry as the desert sand. But I got those interviews, and I was on to something.

The Fog (In My Head) Clears
The next morning, I slept in. I knew I needed lots of sleep to feel well enough to finish my story successfully. I went through all my video and interviews, and arranged a skeleton story before trotting off to the fire department. My interview with the fire chief fell through, and I was groggy and upset.

Yet, when I got there, the nicest lieutenant ever answered the door. He followed me around as I got some great video of fire trucks and the station. All the while, we talked about what the department struggled with on a daily basis. We talked about how the firefighters do all their own maintenance. We talked about how their budget gets cut every year, and how every year their equipment falls apart a little more.

I learned what it was like to live a day in his life. And I think that's what is so incredible about my job. I seriously get to walk in someone else's shoes every day. How many people can say they do that? Even in a story that seems so far from personalization, there is always a way to find how people are being affected. I love that. Love it.

Workaholism vs. Health
Life's really just a big balancing act, isn't it? Maybe we can have both. Maybe I can work until my legs scream for me to stop, and maybe I can catch a few extra winks in between. Maybe I can eat a doughnut and then run a couple miles. Maybe I don't have to choose.

It's something I haven't quite figured out - where to draw the line. Because every day, that line is changing. And every day, I am making decisions. Maybe I work too hard sometimes. But what I do know is that I have to follow my passions because they are what make everything worthwhile. If that means putting in the extra effort, I'll do it.

Some call it perfectionism, some people call it crazy. I call it me. And I'll settle at that.

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