I have a godmother who I consider the consummate workaholic. She runs a care home, which is a demanding job as it is, but she lives as though there is no such thing as a spare moment—not as though there is always something to do but as though there is always something that needs to be done.
I have never seen her sleep. When I would visit her in Stockton with my family and we would return to her house after a late night, she would be immersed in some manner of household chore while we were readying ourselves for sleep. I would pass out on the sofa watching her shadow on the ceiling in another room—the only room in the house still lit at that hour. In the morning, she would be at the care home or running errands or otherwise occupied. The full breakfast she cooked and laid out on the kitchen table was already cold, and the more perishable items would be back in the refrigerator.
During those visits, I felt that I was lazy in comparison, and for whatever reason, I felt that she regarded me an inferior person because of it. Somehow, I felt that I would not live up to her standard if I did not also keep myself occupied in necessary labors at every waking hour. Towards the end of my high school years and into college and afterwards, I did not join my parents when they visited her on long weekends.
Although I had not seen her for a few years, when she heard from my mother about my move to Washington, she sent boxes of pots, pans, lamps, soap, toilet paper, ramen noodles, and so forth. I called to thank her, and she asked how I was acclimating to life in my new city, how I spent my days. I told her. She said I should go out and meet people. She advised me to do something besides work.
Originally published 22 May 2007.