This past year has been a trying one professionally and personally. I have been required to complete mandatory overtime each week since January. My typical work schedule is four ten-hour shifts, but that has increased to three twelve-hour shifts in addition to one ten-hour shift each week. There have even been a few thirteen and fourteen hour shifts that have snuck in there occasionally. These long work days have created quite the conundrum in terms of finding that elusive work-life balance. Monday through Thursday I workout, work, eat, eat one meal with my husband and go to bed. By the time Thursday evening rolls around my husband affectionately calls me as a ‘Walker’ – if you are familiar with the show The Walking Dead you will know what I am referring. Those who are not familiar – basically I have the look and the attitude of a zombie. Some days I’m surprised I haven’t drooled on myself and others I swear I can feel my brain melting and oozing out of my ear.
One thing about me, is that when I am a member of a team, I strive to be the best teammate, to a fault. I will dig deeper and sacrifice myself if it means that it is for the good of the team. But where has this way of life gotten me? Well lately, it’s been a one-way ticket to burnout. I had a breaking point last week, which I partly attribute to PMS, but I had a complete and utter melt-down on the phone with my mom. I am tired, I am tired of working so hard and for so many hours. I want my life back. I want some freedom. I expressed all of this to my wonderful mother and she encouraged me to share these concerns with my boss.
Just so happens that later that day I had my monthly scheduled meeting with my boss to review my progress and talk about anything and everything work-related and if I so choose, things in my personal life. Funny how things work out. I was so nervous going into that meeting, sweating bullets as I found the courage and the proper words to explain to my boss that I have been experiencing symptoms of burn-out for weeks and weeks, and they have finally taken their toll, resulting in me standing in a puddle of my own tears earlier that very day. I swallowed the lump in my throat and I expressed my feelings and concerns about the level of workload and the lack of life I felt I was experiencing.
My boss was beyond understanding and gave me a choice to stop working overtime hours. She told me I could think about it for a few days but as my Supervisor she strongly suggested that I take her up on this offer. I mulled over my options, and it really was a tough decision for me, even as I felt I had hit rock bottom earlier that day, I couldn’t just immediately jump at this opportunity. What about my team? What about the clients I serve daily? They needed me, right?
I shared the scenario with my husband and he firmly stated that I needed to stop working overtime. My initial reaction was that I saw red and became very defensive, NO man was going to tell ME what to do! Not even my own husband!
Yahtzee! That was the ringer, the absolutely straw that broke my back…here my husband, who has seen the toll my work schedule has taken on me, was only trying to help and I completely overreacted. It was time, time to focus on me, and do what was best for me. Because truly, how can I be not only the best teammate , but wife, daughter, sister and friend if I am not even close to being the best version of myself?
The very next day I rolled out of bed before the sun had a chance to peek out over the horizon and went for a nice, long, soul-quenching run, and immediately followed it up with an outdoor yoga class. During a particular challenging pose, the instructor challenged us to hold it just five more breathes, just dig a bit deeper, as this pain would pass very soon. At the end of the pose she told us all to drop to our knees and encouraged us to rest in Child’s pose. While resting and reflecting on my mat, the instructor spoke in her soothing voice and she said something that I absolutely needed to hear that day ‘Sometimes, we have to be brought to our knees’…
That morning’s run and yoga practice were the catalyst I needed to ignite that moment of clarity in order to come full-circle. I definitely had been brought to my knees that week and that’s okay, as I believe there is a lesson in every life circumstance if we allow ourselves to step back and see the big picture. I needed to push myself to the brink of burnout so that I could be reminded of what is really important in life, and figure out the kind of life I hope to lead in the future.
As I am knocking on the door of my 30th Birthday, I have come to realize what matters to me is my health, quality time with my family, and a career that fulfills me but doesn’t own me. I want a career that affords me the ability to make a difference in another’s life, touch another person’s soul, but not at the expense of my own well-being. I don’t want to sacrifice time with loved ones or myself, so that I can be the most dedicated member of my work team. Life is too short for that.
All it took was being pushed to my limits for me to find a voice and verbalize what was best for me. I am truly blessed to do the job that I do and to have a boss who is understanding. The supportive family members that I have are second to none and are willing to speak up and stand up for my best interests when I’m too distracted to rally for them myself.
In the last week a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and though I still have some weeks of overtime in my near future, the task doesn’t seem quite as daunting, as the light at the end of this particular tunnel has grown larger and brighter as the hours tick by. I am looking forward to the climb it will take to get back to my good, old self, but I have a feeling all it will take is a few extra hours of pounding the pavement all by my lonesome, followed by some quality time spent with my favorite people to get myself back into equilibrium.