13. Certain professions are defined by how much work they require, and the workload of medicine is well known. For my second novel, “Joan is Okay,” a story about an Asian American doctor who works a lot, I interviewed my Asian American doctor friends. I asked them why they’d gone into this field. One said, “Because I consider myself a serious person, and a serious person does serious work.” Another, an M.D. physician-scientist, said something similar, but went on to call medicine “busy work,” meaning that it took time away from the real work, which, in her opinion, was research. But to both medicine and research, she, like the others, has committed nights and weekends. I saw the same behavior in college and grad school, especially among the most ambitious and those vying for establishment-level jobs. The tacit competition was who can work the longest, the hardest, and, in exchange, be the most self-righteous about it. Was there ever such a thing as a day off? No, and the more you showed up when you weren’t supposed to, the more respect you could earn. To overwork is both to self-aggrandize and to catastrophize. The former: no work is more important than your own, and no one can do what you do, not even another doctor. The latter: if you were not allowed to work, then what? A lack of structured demands on your time would induce anxiety, because, if you aren’t actively contributing to something, then why do you even exist?
14. The trick to balancing five jobs is to never, ever procrastinate. What you can do right now, you have to do now. When a new request files in, you address it immediately, like a burst pipe. Question from a student? Reply within five minutes. Question from your boss? Reply within two minutes. Grading papers? Start the moment they’re turned in. Other miscellaneous stuff? Squeeze it in whenever you can, but finish it by the end of the day. I’ve taken only a dozen or so yoga classes in my lifetime and, though I like the general process of stretching and flow, I feel a debilitating stress at the end of class, when I am expected to lie there for ten minutes, breathing, and thinking about nothing. I think about how many e-mails I could have sent in that time.
15. Oddly enough, I’m envious of those who can procrastinate. On weekends, when I tutor, I sometimes find my husband on the couch, with no laptop open, no electric guitar in hand, just on the couch, petting our dog. Wrong of me to, but I might ask, “Hey, what are you doing right now?” He …….