I have had a job since I have been legally able to work. I’ve endured the crummy hours, the long shifts, the underpaid positions where the male boss puts you in a corner (literally). And I believe I have a very strong work ethic. I enjoy working. I don’t like to leave tasks undone and I don’t like to disappoint (even though I will deny it over and over that I care what others think.) When I had my own school I only took days off when my dad was sick and dying or when one of my own kids was having surgery. I sucked it up, stayed on medication and worked until I thought my body would collapse. And I honestly never thought anything of it.
Until this year.
Work Before Self
I’ve found myself in the public school arena, among an entirely new petri dish, sick with whatever this crud is (flu and strep came back negative, but whatever), during the second semester.
And when I say sick, I mean miserably, knocked-on-my-tail sick.
Monday rolled around and I could barely lift my hand to reach my phone. I texted my principal that I wasn’t going to make it in. She texted back that she would call me when she got to school so she could pull my work. And she did. Just like that. And oh how guilty I felt!
Tuesday rolled around and I told myself that I had to be there. Feeling it or not, the world would come to a crashing halt if I didn’t place my foot in that school building door. So I forced myself out of bed, dosed up on an overload of meds, packed more for the afternoon and headed to school, head floating, body aching and coughing like I’d just lit and swallowed a package of cigarettes. I got to school, sat at my table to get ready and took a deep breath, knowing just how long this day was going to be. I prayed that none of my kids would run or need to be restrained.
I began my day in a fog, not a safe situation for any party involved. I also had lunch and recess duty, which is not pleasurable on a day one feels well. I got back to my room and laid down in my reading area, hoping to rejuvenate for the next thirty minutes to get through the last three hours of the day.
When I finally got up to prepare for the afternoon, I checked my email. I had one from my principal. It read, “I’m cancelling your classes for the rest of the day. When you feel like driving, GO HOME.”
Self Before Work
At first I felt so frustrated, thinking how weak I must look and that I couldn’t believe that she wouldn’t check with me first. After that initial shock, I thought a little deeper about how nice it was that someone made that decision for me. There would have been no way that I would have gone home on my own. I got my stuff ready for tomorrow, just in case, and told my principal thanks. And I went home and collapsed.
How many years have I worked under the premise of ‘work before self’? How many years have I had bosses griping at me or telling me to just take meds or to suck it up and come in? Most employers don’t look at the big picture of how that sickness affects everyone. Most employers are looking at the bottom line.
The problem is, it shouldn’t have to come to that. The principal shouldn’t have to make that decision.
The next day, I stayed home. And to be perfectly honest, I would have stayed home the day after that, except I couldn’t afford for my paycheck to reflect three days of no pay (that’s an entirely different issue for another article.)
So, as I sit at home this weekend, trying to recuperate from being sick AND trying to catch up on all the classroom stuff I missed doing while I was gone, and I have decided to readjust my perspective.
From now on, I REFUSE to work being as sick as I was this week. REFUSE. And I will be the one that makes that call. I am too old to allow a job to get in the way of my health.
Next I am reassessing my attitude toward my job. Am I happy? No. Is my unhappiness directly related to my job? Absolutely. Is there anything I can do about it? Yep, and I’m pursuing it. Had the answer been ‘no’ to this one, I would have needed to really take a step back and figured out where my power was. If my unhappiness were related to something else in my life, well it would have been time to hone in on that area and problem solve.
Finally, I’m checking the term limits on my frustration level. We all know that the power of positivity affects every aspect of one’s life, especially health. Over the course of four months I have become a complaining, negative, griping person, when normally I am the optimistic, everything-will-be-great, cheerleader. Again, is this linked to my current position? And again, YES. So, some changes are in order. If I don’t do anything else well, I’m one hell of a problem solver. Some big things are getting ready to change around here, and I am going to be the one who creates that change.
I don’t like to be sick. I don’t like to feel like my bones are being pulled apart in my body while my skin develops nerves on the outside of it. But I do have to say that if anything can come out of feeling the way I did this weekend, I’m glad it was the wake up call that I needed.
Here’s to optimism and the road to recovery!
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