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Confessions Of A Recovering Workaholic

3 min read

It was the 5th restructuring at work in a decade. My typical approach had been to re-apply for a new role, usually a slightly bigger version of my existing role and crack on. After a couple of questions and answers about the new roles on offer, I went home and wrote out three pros and cons lists. One for a demotion, one for a promotion and one, for as ABBA would say, to ‘take a chance on me’. This time, the list that excited me the most was the ABBA list. A lightbulb had been switched on. My instincts kicked in and a few days later I explained to my stunned bosses that I would not be applying for the roles available in the new structure. I had got huge amounts of satisfaction from my job over the years. It was an absolutely massive part of my identity. And that was part of the problem. I fear it had become my only identity.

I started work in the late 90s when presenteeism was rife. I think I started just by trying to fit in. But before long I started turning down family engagements and going to social invitations as I ‘had to work’. The things that sustained me during my youth, like writing, art, music were all packed away into a box of things I used to do. Over the years, working cultures changed and presenteeism quite rightly got kicked in to touch along the way, exposing my working pattern as more of a choice than a requirement. Somewhere along the line, I became a workaholic, and here was my chance to break the habit.

I had no plan other than to take some time off. I joined a networking group. I joined an art class. I took several short breaks. I volunteered with Oxfam Glastonbury and Latitude festivals. I volunteered with the Brownies, Scouts, Tax Aid, and Teenage Cancer Trust. I was always busy.

The biggest and most surprising challenge I set myself was in signing up to perform at the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival. As I completed the application form Defying Gravity came on my shuffling playlist, so I called it ‘Fly’. I was trusting my instincts and leaping. I just had to write the show!

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Five months later, at the age of 43, I had written, rehearsed, promoted and performed a sold-out show, collecting a decent review along the way. As part of this adventure, I met other ‘proper’ actors and writers, who suggested I look at going to spoken word events, to get more performance experience. This opened up the most wonderful world to me and I now regularly write poetry and short stories for the joy of sharing them at spoken word events. I continue to volunteer and will be going back to Glastonbury with Oxfam in 2020. I have met more people outside of work in these last 12 months than I think I met in the last 20 years. I have much more to my identity and variety in my life from day than ever before.

I started a part-time role in back in tax shortly after my show, and have created a consultancy business for tax services. I’m one year in to my new lifestyle and every day I feel more and more like the true me. I compared it recently to being a school child where you are encouraged to tackle many subjects in a day, you don’t just have to be or do one thing. It is a wonderful feeling to get back and I am truly grateful for it.

About The Author

Lisa O'Hare

Tax adviser by day, spoken word performer by night. Recovering workaholic. Genuinely worked too hard in her 20s and 30s ‘to drown out other stuff’, Lisa decided to take redundancy in her early 40s and find new ways of living/working. She wrote and performed her debut solo show ‘Fly’ at the Greater Manchester Fringe in 2019, within 6 months of leaving her job, and now regularly perform spoken word alongside a part time role. She can often be found at spoken word events across the North West including Testify, Verbose, That’s What She Said as well as having work chosen to read at curated events at the Storyhouse in Chester and Home in Manchester.

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