Homesick Runner by Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel loved her career more than anything, she’s become so overworked and overtired that she’s losing faith in the job itself.
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Homesick Runner by Captain Marvel

We’ve all worked hard jobs before, right? Whether they’re backbreaking physical labor jobs, morally debilitating jobs in the service industry or extremely high-profile jobs that demand long hours after the office has closed for the day, the truth is that all difficult jobs add stress to your life. At best they keep you up worrying at night, and at worst, they can be so anxiety-inducing that it’s hard to function. 

Our client today works an especially hard job. She’s a self-described defender of the universe, and has about 8,000,000,000,000,000 clients across a million different galaxies. That’s a lot of work for one person, isn’t it? 

That’s what Carol D. — whose job title is “Captain Marvel” — thinks. In fact, while she once loved her career more than anything, she’s become so overworked and overtired that she’s losing faith in the job itself. These days, she thinks more about visiting her home and family than anything else… it’s been decades since she’s seen them, and she’d love a chance to reconnect and relax with those closest to her. 

If you’ve ever had a job that was so taxing you ended up hating it, keep reading… because this episode of Character Coaching is specifically for you. Let’s read what Carol wrote to us in her first journal entry and see what she’s struggling with, shall we? 

Carol’s first journal entry: homesick runner

Entry One:

“I love space. Feeling power coursing through me as I jet along the galaxy. The solar wind blowing through my hair… just kidding, that isn’t how solar wind works. Also I’m wearing a helmet out there. Also, I’ve gotten sidetracked. Point is, I love space. I just don’t love how much I had to give up for it. I go around protecting parts of space that other people can’t, because other people just can’t do what I can do. With great power comes a great workload. That means I don’t get to visit home much, and when I do, it’s because the place is basically falling apart. How’s that for power? I can handle supernovas but I can’t will myself into some paid vacation. Being the top of your game means you don’t get time to just… leave.” — Carol D. 

First impressions: overworked, overtired and oversaturated

One of the first things that jumped out to me while reading this journal was a question — and if you’ve been keeping up with the podcast, you know that I try my absolute best to not ask questions right away. Instead of assuming things about my clients’ situations and posing questions immediately, I’d rather get to know them better and uncover their true challenges before suggesting solutions. 

With that all said, I still couldn’t help but ask: “Don’t you think that breaks are important sometimes?” And obviously I believe that, and many people agree with me, but if I started out by asking that question right away, I might never truly understand what Carol’s struggling with. 

So, instead of asking that out of the gate, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to step back, remove my biases and assumptions about Carol, and try to gather some more information about her situation. In other words, I’m going to encourage a little info-dumping, if you will… 

The first thing I’m curious about is what a break for Carol would actually look like. What would she do with her time off? What things are valuable to her that she would engage in while not saving the universe? 

My next question has to do with her capabilities as a worker. She might very well be the absolute best at what she does, but does that mean nobody else is really amazing at that job, either? Is she truly the only person qualified to do what she does? And what’s stopping her from training a protégé who might be able to remove some of her workload down the road? 

I’m going to pose these questions to Carol now, and see what she comes up with. 


  1. What would you want to do with your time off?
  2. What’s preventing you from training someone to cover for you?
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Image Credits

Next: even the most important people take breaks 


“Sorry for the delay in reply, I think I have to get our planet to use better satellites. Although I’m used to getting my messages through a pager so who am I to talk…My best friend and her kid are waiting for me back home and I make sure to pop in whenever I’m around. They catch me up on life in their little corner of the universe and… well, honestly, it reminds me what I’m doing this all for….I’m going to be pretty irreplaceable until I can figure out how to make some space Avengers. I heard Gamora talk to you guys and her team is also pretty helpful in a pinch, but we’re at different levels of management, so to speak. Bad things happen when I’m not at my post and I cannot just drop everything on a whim.”

I appreciate Carol’s earnest  answer here. In her journal response, she’s basically saying that she’s irreplaceable until someone as capable as her comes along. And do you want to know something? 

Maybe she’s right. Maybe she really is the only person who can do things the way she does them. But there are other people who are like that, too. Doctors, rocket scientists, surgeons, firefighters and structural engineers are all critical parts of society, aren’t they? Without them, the very foundation of our social fabric comes apart. 

But, just like Carol, those people become less effective if they never take breaks. It’s part of the human condition to need rest, and failing to do so can lead to sloppy work and worse outcomes for clients. 

This just goes to show that the whole mentality of “I’m the only one who can do this” is a bit of a thought trap. Because the universe isn’t going to end if Carol steps away for a few days, will it? In fact, if Carol doesn’t step away for a while, the universe might be a little worse off for it. 

It’s kind of like how air traffic controllers and flight pilots can only work brief shifts at a time, and they need to be well-rested to do their jobs — what they do is so crucial that they can’t possibly complete their job functions without proper breaks and sleep. 

More than that, if Carol’s simply auto-piloting through life just to assess and solve one crisis after another, is she really living her own life? Or is she simply a bystander watching her own actions from afar? 

Lastly, I think it’s important that if Carol does decide to take a break, she should make sure it’s not out of “guilt” for being able to perform her job effectively. Is she enjoying herself when she’s on vacation? Or is it just another box to check?

Clearly I have a lot of questions, so I think it’s time to check back in with Carol and see where she’s at. 

Follow-up Questions: 

  1. Do you believe that being reminded of why you’re doing your job holds less/as/more important than actually doing the job itself?
  2. What’s the long term game plan… are you just going to be the only person who can do your job until you retire?

The check-in: finding work-life balance 

Closing Journal:

“Hey, I’m back in town and had a second, so I thought I’d post a reply. I’m working on training some new recruits to help with some of the smaller fires I put out. I’m a bit too used to being a lone soldier out there I think. Being at home is so nice. Cell-phones don’t suck anymore, so that’s fun. Everyone is growing and changing and here I am staying the same, stuck in some old habits. I’m going to try to find a better balance between out there and what’s here. After I catch up on about two decades of shows. I’m just starting this new one with thrones and dragons… hope that turns out well.”

Well… I guess I can’t really comment on how Carol’s new show is going to turn out, but if I could, I’d have some choice things to say… 

That all said, I’m glad Carol decided to take a break for the first time in a while. It seems like she’s realizing something a lot of us discover when we take breaks: that breaks are good. A lot of us get pretty comfortable in our work routines, and as a result we don’t take the chance to slow down, step away and see the world a little. When we do, however, we realize just how much we were missing by chaining ourselves to our jobs. 

And while Carol’s work is definitely difficult, I think there’s ways she could take more frequent breaks without worrying that a supernova is going to go kaboom every ten seconds. Instead of taking month-to-year-long hiatuses, Carol could reasonably take a week off here and there to recharge while putting some else at the wheel — maybe that Gamora friend of hers she mentioned?

Whatever the case, I think it’s wonderful that Carol has found a way to create some more infrastructure in her workplace that allows her to step back and collect herself. That’s a key piece of any self-care puzzle, so I’m happy she’s found a way to snap that into her own routine. 

If you’re like Carol, and you work a job that’s just a little “too much” sometimes, I’d love to hear from you. Your problems might not be quite like hers, but I guarantee you we’ll tackle them together. 

Unless, of course, your job involves closing black holes and preventing untold trillions from dying… that might be a little above my pay grade.