Overworked Employee No Longer Certain What Happiness Feels Like

In a recent interview, Dino Industries employee Jennifer Wallace reported that it has been many months since she has experienced the condition others around her refer to as “happiness.”

“Sometimes I’ll be hanging out with friends or colleagues, and someone will say something like ‘Oh, that makes me so happy,’” said Wallace. “It’s a word that I hear used a lot, but every time I hear it now, it just confuses me. What are they saying about themselves? About their lives? I remember that the word “happy” used to hold meaning for me, but it’s been so long that I can’t remember what that meaning is.”

When pressed for details, Wallace cited her work as Dino Industries’s general manager of financial communication as her primary concern in life.

“My job keeps me busy, but every so often I have some spare time,” she said. “When that happens, then I’m able to do more work at home, too. It’s nice to have the ability to mix up my life a little. I can work from the office, from home, from the cafe down the street, from the library, from the hospital where my dad is whiling away the final days of his life—I really appreciate that flexibility.”

Work-life balance has always been important to Wallace in this way, but it was only recently that she realized she no longer connected to certain words used by those around her. In addition to “happiness,” other terms she struggles to remember are “joy,” “fun,” “relaxing,” and “restful.”

Frederick Miles, a friend of Wallace, offered some more insight into Wallace’s recent change in demeanor.

“I don’t know what is going on in her life,” said Miles, who has known Wallace since college, “but she asks really weird questions nowadays. We’ll just be having a normal conversation and I’ll laugh at something she says, and she’ll stop and ask me, ‘Why is your mouth curving like that?’ She tries to tell jokes, but the punch line is usually something off of her to-do list. And then sometimes she’ll stare off into the distance and mutter something about spreadsheets and the void of our existence.”

Daniel Burbury, Wallace’s boss at Dino Industries, presented a different perspective on Wallace’s recent condition.

“Jennifer has always been an average employee,” said Burbury. “She’s been working for Dino for years, and I’d love to promote her at some point, but she’s going to have to get to a point where she’s able to do all the extra work that I continue to give her. Until she is able to have completed projects on my desk before I actually assign them to her, she’ll have to stay where she is.”

When pressed about Wallace’s emotional state, Burbury added, “I hear that Jennifer spends a lot of time with colleagues during her overtime hours. Personally, I have always found that extra time with people to be relaxing. I assume that she derives pleasure from completing extra work while around others who are doing the same.”

Wallace herself also noted, “I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be around such great work all the time. I’ve heard that people often cry from happiness, so I’m going to go ahead and guess that that’s what I’ve been experiencing every night. It’s just weird not knowing for sure. Then again, have I ever known anything for sure?”

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