We live in a society where we are expected to do it all, to have it all, to be fueled by some mysteriously ever-burning fire that will propel us to new heights. We are told that if we do not hit the ground running then we are lazy. We are told that working over 40 hours a week is the only way to achieve those illusive dreams. We watch people who have their fingers in so many pies that they don’t even know what flavors they have stuck under their fingernails. We are used to pushing, to fighting, believing with the very fiber of our being that if we work hard enough, we will be able to achieve anything. This advice, while not wrong, can be somewhat misleading. We work hard hoping that someday we will play hard. We are so used to clawing our way to the top that we forget to look around.
There is a season for everything, we are told, and yet we are constantly attempting to reap what we have hurriedly sowed. I am no different from the rest of my generation. I work my ass off in the hopes that it will help me build my name, cement my reputation and get me where I have always dreamed of going. And then something happened that forced me to throw a flag on the field. There is a season for everything, and sometimes you have to remember your priorities. You have to pay attention to where you have run. You have to stop and take a breath.
On a Thursday night as I drove home I could hear my phone buzzing periodically as I listened to my audiobook. When I finally pulled into my driveway I turned off my car and looked down, seeing my siblings and mom’s names. I expected a group chat about something- perhaps about my brother’s wedding that was a couple of days away, or a reminder for a family dinner. Swiping it open, I was soon proven gravely wrong. My mom was on her way to the Emergency room, per the insistent instruction of her doctor. We didn’t know what was wrong, we didn’t know how serious it could be, we just knew she was scared and required immediate help.
We went to the hospital and waited with other family members in a surprisingly busy waiting room. We waited for some indication of what was happening, we waited for some word that would give us a direction. We waited and we waited. I eventually texted a few of my friends/co-workers, needing someone to talk to, someone to send good vibes our way. Immediately a close co-worker sent me a private message letting me know that if I needed to take the next day off, he would make arrangements to cover my work- something that I know is damn near impossible given the fact that we have been short staffed for far too long and Fridays are the busiest days of the week. Right off the bat I told him that I would be there, even if I didn’t get any sleep. It wasn’t until after I sent it that I stopped and looked at the words that I had typed. When had that become me? When did I become the girl who would drop family to go to work? When did I become the one that put everything else on hold? At what point in my life did I turn into the girl who would leave her mother in the emergency room to go spend over eight hours in an office?
In emergencies I am always the utilitarian one. I fall apart in private, I don’t like crying in front of people and I am not cut from the type of cloth that lends me to panicking easily. At hospitals I am usually the one with positive things to say who is taking coffee orders and reminding people to eat a sandwich, even if they don’t feel hungry. I am the one running through the list of items that the hurt person may need- do they have fresh socks? Will they need a pair of tennis shoes when they get released? Has everyone been notified? I find tasks for myself to do because I can’t stand just sitting there. I would like to think that my initial reaction to go to work during this crisis was something that fell into this category- this desire to keep myself busy. But I don’t know.
It’s true that I have the kind of job now where dependability is not an option- its not a box you can check one day and not the next. Calling in sick because I just don’t feel like facing a Tuesday is not an option, hell calling in sick because I am actually sick is treading on some thin ice. I am the coverage. I am the one that you call when you decide that you can’t face Tuesday. I am the one that has to be dependable when others are not. But that is not everything.
I came to the sudden realization that I don’t want to be that person- I have never been that person. I am the one who will drop anything for anyone. I have taken time away to get my dad to the doctor, I am the one that you call when you need help- I’m that kind of dependable. I don’t want to be the one that is so focused on climbing a ladder that I miss out on time with those that enrich my daily life.
Perspective is everything. There is a time to push and to fight, and there is a time to take a step back and recognize the things that make your light shine. I am nothing without the people in my life. My job will continue on whether I am there or not. I am replaceable. They survived without me before, and they could easily do it again. But I only have one mom, and as terrifying as the thought is, we all only have so much time we are allotted to spend with those that we love. My life needs to reflect my views and my morals. My job is not my life, my family is. And while I will always go above and beyond with my work, there are lines that should not be crossed. Sometimes it takes a terrifying moment to remember that.
Luckily for me, she is okay. There will be more tests, there will be more changes, but she will be okay. And I will be thankful knowing that I have more time to spend with those that I love, and a reminder that my job is not the end-all-be-all of my life. I can be a good employee and a good daughter. I can be there for those that need me when it is important. I can work my ass off day in and day out, I can leave my day job and come home to type away for my passion a couple of hours. But its important to remember the balance. It’s important to keep your heart open for those that need you, for those that you need.