Q: Everyone's always saying to be positive, so I am whenever I'm asked how I like my job. I make $70,000-plus a year, which is more than any of my friends, and I get to travel to interesting cities with fabulous restaurants. What people don't think about is how tiring it is to travel all week, every week. I make the phone calls and appointments; I pack; I drive or fly to the place; I unpack and then work 10-hour days. I pack again, drive or fly to the next place, and do it over and over and over. And I make the reservations and deal with the airports and hotels five to six days each week without help.
All of my friends, however, envy me because I am positive all the time. However, this leaves me with no one to talk to about anything I encounter that's difficult, emotionally trying or just plain negative. If I utter the tiniest complaint, friends respond with, "But look at the money and the freedom you have." I then feel guilty about having it better than all of them, so I shut up.
Sure I work independently, but I have to make everyone I call on happy with our product and service, because that's what sales is all about. I'm tired of everyone thinking I have it made. I'm human and I get tired and run down, and sometimes I even get a headache and need to rest, which I can't do in a job where I have flown hundreds of miles to be with clients.
What on earth do I do to maintain my sanity with no one to listen? This being positive is getting to me. I feel like hanging up on the next friend who tells me how lucky I am. It's work, and once I get home for the weekend, I'm too exhausted to do anything for fun, especially things that I have to do for work, like eating out in restaurants.
How do I maintain my sanity? Pick one friend to be honest with and tell that person to say nothing to anyone else? I don't want to send negative vibes out there regarding my job, but this positive approach is getting me down, big time.
A: You're taking the positive attitude beyond the point of reason. Being pleasant and friendly may come naturally to you, but no one is always in a state of sheer bliss. You're going to have days when things don't go well or days when you'd like to hibernate, but you can't because you've worked for months to meet a particular client who finally has time for you.
First, it's OK to not be "happy" on a 24/7 basis. Second, it sounds as if you are overbooking yourself on each trip. Downtime is your ticket to sanity. Seeing clients back to back throughout each day has to take its toll on you. You can't put a price on your happiness, and you can't buy back your sanity once you've reached the breaking point. It's your responsibility to know your limit before you snap at the wrong person, and with people's short tempers, you never know who that wrong person will be.
If your boss wants you to overload on clients because they are in proximity to one another, it's up to you to determine how much time to spend with each. If you have more clients than your time comfortably allows, consider staying and meeting the remaining clients that next week. The additional hotel costs minus the reduced travel time may be the price you have to pay for the rest you need.
Speaking up doesn't mean complaining or presenting your needs as a negative. Whatever allows you to do a better job is a positive. Seeing as everyone has different levels of social versus privacy needs, only you can determine what those needs are. This may not be an easy conversation to have with your boss, because you probably want him or her to think you're perfect regardless of the demands placed on you. No two people operate the same in the same job; it's in your best interest to propose working in a manner that's best for you. You can apologize your way out of a meltdown with a friend, but exploding at your boss if he or she happens to call when you're feeling overextended could be grounds for termination.
Lindsey Novak's weekly column, "At Work," can be found at creators.com.