The concept of "Working Hard"

The idea and concept of “working hard” are fascinating to me. I simultaneously feel like I have worked hard for everything, and like I’ve never worked hard in my life. Both of them feel like they have truth to them, both feel accurate.

But I think that the ways in which I have worked hard are not the ones in which I feel like I never worked hard; the hard work primarily came from dealing with trauma, overcoming bad odds and having a certain amount of context awareness to make the most use of opportunities presented to me. But I don’t feel like I’ve ever consistently strained mentally, like I had problems where the most direct way to solve them was to apply effort and brain juice directly to the problem until it went away.

I have some of this now, with my hobby interest in Systems- and Resilience Engineering, but there is no concrete goal to be achieved here except for the satisfaction of intellectual curiosity. At work I seem to get by with, and get praise for, acutely working maybe 2-3 hours per day, and simply being available for the rest of it.

At some point it seems to have sunk in that most problems are best solved by not applying bain juice and effort to the problem until it goes away, but by finding a way around that being necessary. This realisation is seems to be very pragmatic, and it has provided me with a great career that is not super taxing and can be kept up during the worst of depression and PTSD spells.

Simultaneously that seems to be at least somewhat untrue as well, seeing as I’ve burnt out at least once, and probably at least got close twice more. Something inside me clearly was strained to the breaking point, but I’m not sure it was the thinking bits.

The concept of Working Hard is certainly lionised and idolised in culture, where it is made to be the measure of character. I feel that weighing on me, to a degree. There’s a satisfaction that comes with applying brain juice until the problem goes away, a feeling of triumph, that project-management-based engineering-around-the-edges lacks. I can’t tell to what degree my feeling of lack and yearning here is me imagining something existing that doesn’t, or if it does, does exist so infrequently that its idolisation is purely a means to inflict a feeling of insufficiency on everyone.

I think I’ll experiment with putting more effort into work, to make my time spent there more effective, and to see how it feels. Maybe I’ll walk away with more life satisfaction, maybe I’ll get frustrated by the lack of anyone noticing or the lack of any effects while coming at greater cost to me. This is a topic that feels important for me to have a grasp on, something that feels part of how I conceive of my own self-worth. It being this vague feels… disconcerting.