Confessions of an Overachiever (II)

Part I and Part III

It was 2009. I was conducting a study, analyzing data and giving job talks in a few states. The interview process itself was an unexpected stress. One interview lasted three full days. After talking with search committees in five states, I secured a position at a liberal arts college in Georgia. It seemed perfectly aligned with my vow to avoid stress.

There were a few challenges, though.

The institution promised to support my husband in finding a job. They never did. We still had our Florida house to sell. The girls lived with me; Dwight stayed in Florida. It was a three and a half hour drive. So while my job wasn’t stressful, the weekend commutes to have some semblance of normalcy was. For me, this meant packing up the kids and dog, and then trekking up and down I-75 every other weekend. We did this for two years. The cycle was relentless and taxing. I went back on the professor market.

To say I was desperate to move back to Florida is an understatement. My pre-teen daughters were well-behaved, but with the absence of a father, they had gotten a little lippy. We were also sustaining two households. But I didn’t feel as stressed as I had before. I mean there was no chair of a doctoral committee determining the balance of my life. As a matter of fact, I had lost weight and felt more energetic. Still, the situation wasn’t ideal and we needed to move back together, under one roof.

When the next prestigious university called me in 2012 and offered me a visiting professor line, I was overjoyed. However, I had no intentions of moving to Tallahassee. The point was for our family to reunite. I chose to commute.

“Tallahassee is a long way,” Dwight warned.

“I know. I can do it,” I said.

As I type these words, it feels arrogant. I know. I can do it. I can drive 320 miles twice a week. To be fair, droves of people I knew and didn’t know called me crazy. The truth is I really did think I could do it. It’s an innate part of my personality. I truly believe I can do anything I set my mind to. Or am I just an overachiever? The line is fine and sometimes the two collide to blur my judgment. Either way, I did it.

Royalty Free
The job was supposed to last only one year. It was visiting. Instead, they were soooooo impressed with me that they found a way to offer a tenure-track line. One year turned into three. Teaching classes, mentoring graduate students, advising a couple of doc students, serving on two committees, running into unexpected microagressions, conducting research, presenting at national conferences, writing, getting published in the “wrong” place, seeking grant funding, and getting rejected publications from the “right” place made for a stressful job. The out of town commute twice a week was just bonus stress. Some days I would cry all the way to the university’s parking lot. Other days I would pray all the way home for answers. In between, I looked for jobs. Nothing surfaced.

It was six years of doctoral work all over again. There was no chalazion or sleep paralysis. But I was ignoring other signs. Although I worked out whenever I wasn’t on the road, it didn’t matter.

“You run with your fists clenched,” a trainer observed. “Are you angry about something? You have to calm down and then work out. Open your fists.”

I hadn’t noticed it before. But now things made more sense. I had run a 5k, consistently practiced yoga and maintained a restricted diet, but gained 20 pounds in three years.

I made time for my family and me: movies, vacations, cookie baking, you name it. Life looked balanced, but it wasn’t. Not really. This was the most imbalanced life I’d ever lived.

But I ignored it.

Only thing about disregarding things is that they don’t really go away. My body had had enough. It was overstressed.

45 thoughts on “Confessions of an Overachiever (II)

  1. Kathy, I picture you standing up at an “Over-achiever’s Meeting” (similar to Alcoholics Anonymous – get the picture?) and saying: “Hello, I’m Kathy and I was an over-achiever. This is my third year and I haven’t over-achieved” You stand, smiling, brushing away a tear at your “achievement” while everyone cheers. well done – great writing. There are lessons here for everyone. It is good to challenge yourself, but you need to know your limits and you don’t need to kill yourself to prove your worth.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. lol – I get it Marie! I definitely have left all of my overachieving ways behind. I REFUSE to work harder than necessary. I know this might sound a bit weird in our overworked culture, but it’s just absolutely not worth it. Thanks for the compliment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome Kathy. Sometimes I think people push themselves too hard because of the culture but there can also be other deep-seated reasons rooted in past experiences. They then spend a vast amount of their lives trying to either correct or deny these issues by using over-working as a “medication”. I am not in anyway implying that this is the case for you, I’m just throwing something else into the pot! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I knew I was psychic! lol Did you see how I diplomatically couched that last comment? Seriously though, I’m pleased you’re not offended. I hate offending people on WP (or otherwise) with my well-intentioned advice. lol I’m glad to hear you don’t feel like “crap” now. You are amazing! Do you hear me?:) My birthday tomorrow, so I’m celebrating the “”eve of my birthday today. Why should Christmas have the monopoly on this? :))))

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Awww thanks Marie! I do hear you and I needed to hear it today 🙂 Listen, I’m all about birthday celebrations, like really. I celebrate my birthday for one full month lol
        What are you doing for yours? I just checked the time, so you should still be awake pre-partying! AND…HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Listen Kathy I’m pure mouth. lol Earlier today while I was still feeling energetic the pre-birthday, birthday celebrations were a pleasant reality. Now at 9,18 pm I’m about ready for bed. lol Maybe next year! Tomorrow I’m going to see two (yes two!) films and my daughter is taking me out for a meal. Thanks so much for the birthday wishes dear amazing person. x

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Parking lot crying is a true sign of stress and imbalance. Why is it that we think we can do everything? I suffer from that too, but still find it almost impossible to see I’m getting in over my head before I go under. Can’t wait to hear how the story ends!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I am tired from just reading your story. I don’t know how you lived it! lol I’m glad this is a story from the past which I’m assuming means that you’re not doing as much as before.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Phew! Sounds like a situation that could even drive one physically sick. Gosh, all that driving could lead road rage. I hope you work closer to home now, and that you have quality time for yourself. I feel like giving you a big hug:-)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Like another reader commented, this is the reality for many. We just keep going and going and it may look great to an outsider, but it is really taking a toll on your mind, spirit and body. And that can never be good, right?

    Still waiting to know if it was worth it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true Kelley! I’m glad you pointed out that all three are affected. So, I thought I was taking care of my spirit and body by meditating and exercising, but not if I was really pushing my mind and body beyond its limits. The short answer that I give in Part III is no, it wasn’t. But a more philosophical and realistic answer is yeah, kinda because it led me to be more creative, create a blog, etc., etc. In Kanye’s words “those same wrongs helped me write this song.”

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Interesting about the weight gain. I have gained weight in the last 2 1/2 yrs at my job. I feel like no matter what I eat etc I don’t lose. I have given up diets. I have thrown away my scale and all my diet books. I know it will come off easily when it is time. I continue to eat healthy and focus on being happy. Can’t wait for part three

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For me, the weight gain was the last straw…I’m so vain lol I wonder if you’ve gained due to stress? My weight stabilized once a put a few things into practice (in part III). Thanks for hanging in there, reading and posting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well part of it is quitting smoking, again. Lol. So that’s ok. I really think that part of it is the office. It’s like a subconscious psychological boundary.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aaah! Good luck with quitting smoking. I understand about the psychological boundary. I had a job once where I used to get physically ill every time I pulled up to the door.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. This is an interesting and thought-provoking read, and it is the reality of many. Overachieving is like climbing up a ladder and when you get to the top the stairs go up higher. Overachievers will always see the need to do more.

    Liked by 2 people

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