In the fall of 1990, I was hired by the Department of Geeky Science at Mid-Size University. I was hired as the receptionist. It was my second real office job, an entry level position. I was so thrilled to finally be working for Mid-Size University - at last I could put food service behind me. Around 10 am that first day at work, a student came into the office, saw me sitting at the front desk, and stated - loudly so as to be heard by not only every person located in the Dept. of Geeky Science, but also over in the Dept. of StuckUp Geeky Engineering across the courtyard - "Hey! I know you! You used to work at Burger King!"
Well, so much for that.
Despite that embarrassing beginning, I grew to love working for Geeky Science (to be known as GS from now on). I enjoyed working with the students, and with the faculty, and eventually with the alumni. When I got up in the morning, I looked forward to going in to work. I loved the variety at my job, and I loved what I did. I was a young engaged woman when I started. I got married while working in GS, had both my children, tried leaving the department for two years, and practically begged to go back when my old position opened up again. They threw me wedding showers, baby showers, anniversary parties, and the occasional birthday shindig. And when I developed cancer, they rallied behind me and supported me, even though I disappeared on them for 4 months with very little warning.
A large part of who I am now is because of that job. It taught me how to multi-task, how to anticipate, how to delegate, how to be diplomatic, how to interact with people from all sorts of cultures and nationalities, and how to appreciate those differences. I grew from a nervous girl into a confident woman - secure in my place, happy that I had found my niche. I knew how lucky I was to love my job. I spent a significant part of my recovery worrying about my Dept. of Geeky Science because I knew I didn't leave anyone trained well enough to take over for me during my sudden absence. I couldn't wait to get back to work.
When I think of who I am, it's wife, mother, coordinator, friend. I love my job.
So could someone explain to me why I'm having such a hard time going to work each day?
The first few weeks, it wasn't a problem. I looked forward to going into work, and relished the challenge of getting back on track and catching everything up. It took me awhile, but now I'm working full time again, and am working on getting things caught up. I'm making pretty good progress on that. I have more good brain days than foggy brain days now, and I don't feel like it's a struggle to comprehend the various tasks I need to do each day.
Yet when I wake up in the morning, I hit the snooze button more often than I should. Once I finally accept that I have to get up, I then have to talk myself out of bed so I can get dressed to go to work. Driving to work is no longer the time I spent going through my to do list in my head and planning my day. Rather it's the time I try to pump myself up with enough enthusiasm to do a good job once I get to work.
I find myself thinking of how much longer I have until I can retire. Currently, I have to meet the "rule of 80" in order to retire with full benefits, and that won't be for another 5 years for me. I used to think that being able to retire at 53 would be awesome - I'd still be young enough for the hubs and I to really enjoy retirement. Then I was diagnosed - and now I wonder - can I even count on being around in 5 years?
I wonder if I really want to spend these next years working at a job where I don't have the same joy as I used to. Yet my family's insurance - including my own, which is critical now - is through my job at Mid Size University. If I left my job, there's not an insurance company out there that would take me on - not with a Stage IV ovarian cancer diagnosis. The hubs has his own health issues - he probably couldn't get insured either. So whether I want to stay working or not - I really don't have a choice in the matter. Perhaps that's why I've lost my joy. It's hard to feel joy in your work when you know you are basically trapped.
Or it could just be because I'm having a hard time adjusting to this life after treatment. You spend months fighting against a disease that wrecks havoc with your body, your mind, your family, your job - then suddenly it's over and you have to re-focus. Somehow it's hard to see setting up a new phone system as important after fighting for your life. Go figure.
I'm hoping this is temporary. I'm hoping I can find my joy again. I don't want to be that lady that forces herself to go to work. That scares the students and faculty because she's such a grump. I want to be the one who enjoys the people she deals with every day - who welcomes visitors to her office, and goes out of her way to help the students complete their degree, to help the faculty provide a top notch education to those students, and to help the alumni in any way she can. The one who makes her chair look good. I used to be that lady. It used to be effortless.
I hope that someday soon, it will be again. Until then - I fake it. I go to work, put on a smile and do what I can. It's all I can do right now.
Guess I won't be taking down that "Beware!" sign off of my door anytime soon.