I thought that Lance’s recent post on How to Qualify a Relationship was excellent, and his description if himself as a “bursty” worker being one of the things that makes the quality time love style very difficult for him was a worthy insight. So worthy that it got me thinking about my own work style.
You see, where for Lance,
My brain gets really tired each day, way before my body or my emotional center runs out of energy. WAY before. I have a finite amount of this mind energy, and that energy runs out after 3-4 hours. After that, I’m basically a zombie mentally. Once I’m in this low energy state, I have to recharge, and I do that by napping, reading, watching TV, or otherwise fucking around in private.
I do not experience these types of creative energy spikes with any regularity. Sure, if I have a really long day at work or am under stress about something specific, then I might get emotionally/intellectually tired. But for the most part, I wake up fairly early and chug along at a steady pace all day (Lance would say it’s the Virgo in me).
In fact, it wasn’t until I read Lance’s latest blog that I realized how much I am not a “bursty” worker and that is one of the things I struggled with so much in graduate school. See, grad school is a very “bursty” environment – you teach 2 classes that meet three times a week each, and you take 2 classes that meet once a week each. Grading and paper writing all go in spurts. Then there are committee meetings, staff meetings, faculty meetings, graduate student meetings – all in generally infrequent bursts.
That is so not me.
I have been slowly coming to this realization for some time because I realized that I am happier in my 8 to 5 job than I have ever been. Part of that is really liking the job, and part of that is really liking the people I work with, but part of it – perhaps the biggest part of it – is that I get there at 8, leave at 5, and am at my desk in a long, sustained chunk all day, methodically working my way through a stack of projects. People talk about the entrepreneurial lifestyle and “escaping cubicle nation,” and I realize that that is the last thing I would ever want. I want the typical office environment, the typical office hours, the utter compartmentability both in terms of time (I put in my work hours and that’s it for the week) and in terms of space (I do almost all my work in my office and never at home – I don’t even check work e-mail when I’m not working).
Part of this hatching realization has been the knowledge that, knowing this, if things work out with the faculty position that I’m interviewing for, that just because the work can be bursty doesn’t mean it has to be bursty. Even if I only need to be on campus three days a week (for example), I can go in every day, from 8 to 5. I just have to break all my projects into chunks and work slowly and steadily on them all day. People who are bursty, on the other hand, are at a disadvantage because if your job/company expects you there from 8 to 5, then you have to be there from 8 to 5 – even if you’re not getting anything done during a lot of that time because you’re too drained. And then you have to make up the work on your off time to meet productivity standards that the steady workers meet easily.
What does this have to do with relationships?
Well, something I never realized until I started working Lance’s post over and over in my mind is that, for me, spending similarly large chunks of time with Jake doing nothing in particular (just being in the same room, watching TV, cooking dinner, or playing on the computer) is how I recharge. I get home before he does and have a tendency to pace around the house and so small chores like cleaning, dusting, organizing files, baking, etc. until he arrives for the evening, and it’s only then that I can relax. If he goes out with friends after work or doesn’t get back until late, I am all wound up way later than usual and don’t get good rest when I go to sleep. This sounds basically exactly the opposite of how someone like Lance works.
It’s easy to call my style needy, for example, because what I need takes a lot of time. However, I think about Lance’s style as potentially somewhat needy because it sounds like the time he wants to spend with his significant other is very active time, mentally and emotionally. So maybe the definition of needy is “someone who needs something different than you,” rather than some sort of definable absolute. I think another part of the definition of needy is when you’re not aware of what you need and why on any metacognitive level, because then you tend to have emotional (over)reactions to things and not understand why. OTOH, if you’re aware, you can approach your needs from an intellectual standpoint, distance yourself from them a little bit, and actively try to compromise with your partner in a productive way.
So, yes – when I was in college, the amount of quality time I needed came off as needy not because of the time, but because I didn’t understand exactly what I needed or how to work with someone who had a different love style or need. My frustration when my needs weren’t met manifested themselves as emotional outbursts. Now, however, I can “need” the same amount of time but am much more willing to take into consideration what my partner needs as well and come up with a mutual plan that we can discuss and modify as needed.
Oh, and here’s the quilt Jake’s grandmother made me (it arrived today!!):
(Pretty incredible, huh?)
If you liked this post about love and working styles, you might also enjoy: