For nearly seven years, I worked at a non-profit in Philadelphia that served youth and their families who who were living in poverty. My role in the organization was to create enrichment curriculum that kept the children engaged in learning even after the school day was over. It was a tough job. I always kept my boxing gloves close by because I never knew when I’d have to battle it out for the children that we were serving. Because of my passion, dedication, and hard work, I became a valuable member of the organization, and played a big role in a lot of the planning and management of the programs.
Last week, however, my sister, who works at the organization, informed me that someone new was sitting at my desk. My desk. I wrote 7 summers worth of curriculum for over 1400 students at that desk. I counseled young adults that were trying to decide whether or not they were cut out for a career of service at that desk. I cried and fumed at that desk on days when I felt like there was no way my work could ever make a a big enough difference to truly impact the lives of the children that I was serving. I endured hours of ridicule over the mountains of paper, craft materials and recyclable items that covered my desk and the area around it 98% of the time. I put in work at that desk, y’all. For real, for real work.
And now, someone else is sitting at my desk. I mean…my old desk. After all of my years at the organization, my loyalty, my commitment, and they just let someone new come in and sit at my desk! It’s crazy! I mean, as hard as I worked, I thought I was irreplaceable. No one could fill my shoes!
But, I wasn’t irreplaceable. No one, in any job is, really.
That job, as much as I loved doing it, as committed as I was, as dedicated…it wasn’t my entire life, and it wasn’t supposed to be. There were times, though, when I felt overwhelmed and overworked because I let myself believe that I was the only person who would “do it right”. I stayed late, stressed out during vacations, and for a long time let my work dictate my entire life. It’s easy to get to that point when you care about something, and we should all totally care about the work that we do. What we shouldn’t do is let our jobs consume everything that we do. The company will not go under if you don’t answer every email within 30 seconds of receiving it. Don’t get mad at me, but you are probably not the only thing holding the company together.
There’s nothing wrong with being replaceable at work. Knowing that should help relieve some of the pressure of trying to balance the holidays with working. If your job says that you should take some days off (and you’re not hourly, and can afford it), take some days off. Don’t believe for a second that you are irreplaceable, and you have to work for the company’s sake. Turn off your phone. Close the computer down, and revel in the fact that you can be replaced.
So, now that I’m working somewhere new, I’m going to take my days off and really be off. No answering emails. No getting a jump on a new project. I’m not going to worry about whether or not the company is falling apart because I’m unplugged, because I know that it won’t be. This Thanksgiving, I’m going to focus my time where I could never be replaced. In my home, with my family, the folks that are truly irreplaceable.