To become an actuary, at a minimum you need to spend two years post degree working full time and studying. Very occasionally, people do it in less, but it’s a very vocational piece of study, so you are much better off working at the same time. Most exams have pass rates lower than 50%, so it’s hard work, for people who are not used to failing exams.
So you live with a subconscious feeling of guilt at all times – I should be studying, while I’m sitting here enjoying myself (or washing the dishes). When you know that you should be studying, you end up doing little things – reading trashy books and magazines – rather than getting stuck into something really enjoyable in your spare time. One of the best things about qualifying as an actuary is losing the guilt.
I realised that over the last 10 years, I’ve got back to that feeling. I constantly feel guilty for not working. I’ve got more to do in my work than I can get done. There are always things I’m not doing. And the downside of leaving work between 5 and 5.30 every day and taking work home if I need it is that every evening, I know that I could do some work.
I know that I am effective in my work. Generally I make the right calls about the things I do, and the things I let slide. But the gnawing feeling of things I could do more means I always have some guilt in the back of my mind.
I’m starting to wonder whether that’s why I’m not reading literature with a capital L these days. I used to think it was because I was too tired – a combination of a full-on full time job and two small boys at home takes a fair bit of energy. I think it’s also because I feel guilty somewhere in the back of my mind of spending serious intellectual energy on something else.
I’m going to have to work on compartmentalising my time a bit more. The guilt is draining my psyche too much.