Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Overdraft

I can't really tell how tired I am. And yet there doesn't seem to have an end to what I have been doing for about three weeks.

I have been on an alert mode almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not to mention the overtime work through the weekends. It seems that now I have come to point where my threshold was transcended far beyond what I originally expected of myself. To my surprise, I have no headaches, the notorious problem that has been haunting me since teenage. I can sleep - though not very well, of course - but still better when I was suffering from mild depression two years ago. But I'm not sure how long my seemingly good shape is going to last.

There are always two sides of a coin, indeed. I lost three kilograms in three weeks without any workout in the gym. My loins have shrunk and my appetite has dropped to record low. Carbohydrates and meat are no longer my favourites - at least now I seldom want to have them together.

While everything seems fine, I can't help wondering how long the positives are going to last. I am getting more and more worried about my ability to keep up the standard of my work and, more importantly, the quality of life. A colleague was right by saying that there seems no end to what we have been doing together. New things keep happening that require not only immediate attention but also careful planning and implementation. I'm really concerned that the quality of work will be compromised at some point due to my physical and mental overdraft. This unprofessional and unfortunate scenario is the second last thing I want to see.

The ultimate thing is, apparently, a physical collapse.

I don't need another major problem somewhere inside my body to remind me of the importance of health. Hepatitis A was bad enough. I know it is not good to skip lunch for work, but I simply do not have time and appetite. I was really surprised that I didn't feel dizzy or starving when I stepped out of the client's office after a 90-minute meeting. Perhaps I was right when I joked to my colleagues that I have a more than sufficient reserve of body fat mass that would sustain me for another three or four weeks without food.

Unfortunately, compared to many others in Hong Kong, I have the least privilege to complain. Thousands from the grassroots are struggling for more than 12 hours per day for shameful wages paid by the leading corporations and multinationals. They are doing this not only to make their ends meet but also to stay away from the Government and the community's wrongful perception that receiving public financial assistance is a shame that represents laziness, dependence and incompetence. It is no longer news that middle-aged fathers and mothers die at work due to exhaustion and overdraft.

Compared to those hardworking and respectful people who are doing jobs that most people do not want, I am certainly one of the lucky ones. I should be grateful and yes, I am. But from the perspective of maintaining social justice and sustainable development, nothing should justify ever-increasing hours of work that take everything away from people's life but push their physical and mental capacities to extreme limits. We simply cannot afford having too many people suffering from grave illness that sustains the vicious cycle of having fewer people working to support a growing dependent population. Something should be done urgently to break the cycle.

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