Earlier today I called my husband in tears after a negative interaction with a colleague. He listened to me talk, and then confessed that he was really concerned about me. Over the last few weeks I haven’t really been eating, and my insomnia is back with a vengeance. He said that he wasn’t just concerned about my health, but about my life. He has seen the toll stress has taken on some loved ones, and he doesn’t want to lose me. My call to vent turned into a wake up call. I hung up and thought about what he said all afternoon.
I’m Used To Hard Work
Before I moved to California, I worked at an educational non-profit in inner city Philadelphia. The work was exhausting. Although my official title was Education Programs Manager, and my job was to write curriculum, my real work was advocating for the students in our programs and the volunteers who mentored the children . I spoke up on their behalf anytime, any place, and refused to back down when their best interests weren’t being served. People knew that about me, and they either really loved me, or really hated me. I was cool with that, because I wasn’t being paid to make friends. (Even though I was really fortunate to make some amazing ones!)
Now, I work from home for an up and coming private company. This job, surprisingly, has some similarities to my previous position. I’m still speaking up on behalf of folks who need an ally inside of the company. I’m still counseling people, and mentoring. Just like my last position that was developed specifically for me, I’m serving in a role that was created for me based on my ability to listen and relate to folks. People are my thing. Taking care of people is my thing. My former job and the work I do now are alike in that way.
The biggest difference, however, is that back then, in that non-profit in Philadelphia, I was up against life or death situations. The work that my coworkers and I did to teach children social and academic skills was critical to their well-being. Going into the neighborhoods where they lived to serve them was paramount to making sure they gained a sense of importance, which leads to self-worth, which ultimately leads to them respecting others. We had battle school administrators who were playing politics with no regard to the needs of our students, and we had to keep the kids safe in environments where children shouldn’t even be.
Every Battle Is Not The Same
What I do now, the challenges I’m up against, they’re nothing compared to what I’ve been through. It’s nothing compared to the things that my friends are still going through. Last Friday, while I sat on my couch having meetings via Google Hangout, my friend, an old colleague, was trying to resuscitate one of three children who were killed across the street from the non-profit.
I don’t make this comparison to diminish my current job. The work I do now is still important, but it’s important in a different way. I’m not a firefighter or a missionary.93% of the work that I did today was focused on a candy bar. Yup. A candy bar. Kind of makes me feel silly to think about how tense things got between my coworker and me when the foundation of our misunderstandings had to do with chocolate.
I have to start sleeping again. I need to start eating regularly. Most of all, I need peace. So, I’m going to try to remember to look at my work with a more realistic lens, rather than put so much weight on things that, in the scheme of life, really aren’t that deep. What do y’all think? Am I being crazy? How can I do this without folks thinking I don’t care about things, but rather that I’m just caring appropriately for the situation. Help a sister out! What would you do?