industrious

Every time I see one of those books of baby names and their meanings, I look up “Emily,” hoping the root will be something different than in every other book I’ve checked. But it never is: industrious; to thrive or excel. I never really thought that suited me very well, honestly. I don’t know what would be more appropriate, but in high school and college, I didn’t consider myself particularly motivated, driven, productive, nose-to-the-grindstone—all things implied with industriousness.

But it suddenly came to me tonight—industrious is me to a T. I am constantly seeking tasks. Even small things and attempts at kindness become part of my to-do lists during the day. If I overhear someone wondering aloud about something, I make it my personal mission to Google the hell out of it until I come up with an answer. If someone complains about not having enough time to iron his underwear, well, I’m not too ashamed to offer, even though I know he’ll turn me down. Need a ride? I’ve got my chauffeur’s hat right here. Want me to make a list? I can do it in Excel, maybe a multi-page book detailing activity over the past few months?

I do have to wonder, though, if at the root of my industriousness is a plea for acceptance and friendship. If I make that amazing Excel list, will I become the list master, the go-to person for all things spreadsheet related? Maybe. But do I want to be that? Or do I just want to feel important and useful to someone?

Also, does my industriousness—my tendency to turn anything into a task—get in the way of my enjoying life? Do I turn potential fun into unnecessary work?

This new church I’ve been attending kept delaying my conversation with the woman in charge of their Web site because they wanted a chance to “give [me] something before asking something.” They wanted me to get connected with a small group and feel like I was fulfilled and part of the church before they said, “Hey, come spend several hours a week making our site look better.” But honestly? That’s what makes me happy. Sure, small group is nice. And it’s good to meet people and have them remember my name. But I like volunteering. I like working. I like having a purpose and a task and a reason to go to a certain place at a certain time. I rely on that structure in my life to fulfill me. My weekends are miserable not only because I have no one to share them with but because I love the week so much, the reasons to get up in the morning and spend 8 hours a day (or more) at my desk. I “accidentally” take my work home with me or send out e-mails all night long because I just can’t stop the flow of energy I have toward my work. And I’m so lucky in that respect, to love what I do and where I work.

But what if it’s too much? What if I miss out on things by being overindustrious, overdriven, overexcited about heaping more on my plate? What if I doom myself to fail by taking on too much and setting the bar too high for myself? I used to do it all the time when I worked my second job at STN.

So, “Emily” is industrious. Is that good? Yes. Is it bad? Yes. But most of all, it finally seems fitting. I can be just as lazy as the next guy, but I do thrive on activity and routine and assignments. I offer to do weird things for people, like iron underwear, just because I want to help and keep myself busy and make someone smile. I feel extremely down when I’m without something to do, without some way to occupy my brain and my hands. I’m fidgety and jittery and downright freakish when I have nothing to do. But that’s the way I am. That’s the way I was made. And that’s the way I’ll stay, for better or worse.

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