Happy Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Posted by dirkgently1066
16th Jun 2015

Before being made redundant, I was utterly miserable.

Therapy helped me to understand some of the underlying thoughts and behaviours that had fed my depression but on a more practical, daily level, my work / life balance had disappeared.

Work become a daily endurance test but I thought I understood some of the issues. I was spread too thin; I took on too much; I didn't have enough staff; I wasn't fully trained; I had a vague job title; there was little support.

But all that changed. In my current role, I have a clearly defined job title; I have limited responsibility; we have a full compliment of team members; I have areas of defined speciality.

And I am...not happy.

Why? For a long time I put this down to a hangover from my redundancy, and there remains a grain of truth in this thought. I identified a feeling of loss associated with the ending of a long term relationship, exacerbated by the fact that I wasn't the one who ended it. I missed the status, the familiarity and even some of the responsibility that used to drag me down.

But there is more. I wasn't just unhappy at work, I was unhappy at home. In fact I would often find that I was happier at work, weekends becoming a slog to grind my way through, full of bitter self recrimination at my own parenting skills, or lack thereof.

Slowly though, the truth began to emerge. My old job had taken over my life. Much as I claimed to hate it, I would often work late in the office or bring work home. Now, I am out the door at 5pm and back at home before 6. I have more time than ever to spend with my family. My priorities have changed.

And therein lies the problem. Work had come to define me almost exclusively. My self worth had become tied up in how much I earned, what my job title was, the level of respect from my peers. With the transition out of therapy and back to work, I had the opportunity to redefine myself. My worth would not be judged by others but by myself.

Only I couldn't. I continued to look for validation from others but in it's absence found no substitute. I struggled to redefine my life goals and targets.

I had become a family man but didn't know how to be one. But this should not come as a surprise. As I learned to my cost, being given a title does not instantly make you that role. I had been designated an analyst, a team leader and a manager amongst others but that did not make me these things. I had to learn. I had to try and fail and try again.

And so it is as a parent. By definition I must now take the role of a family man.

But first I must learn how.

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