For the past two months, a major transition has been happening at work; a change that is far beyond my control. I know that’s vague, but that’s because the particulars of the transition don’t really matter. What you need to know is that ever since this transition started, I’ve been sleeping less and working longer hours. I swear, it seems as if the bags under my eyes are deepening each day, becoming more and more difficult to mask with concealer.
These days, before I can even settle in at my desk and open up Outlook, the phone is ringing and on the other end is a client asking and—in many cases—demanding something from me. At work, there is always a problem to solve, a missed call to return, an email to respond to, a deadline to meet, a fire to extinguish. This, I’ve learned, is what customer/client service is all about: satisfying the needs of the customer/client—self be damned.
I am someone who overwhelms easily. Too many calls and emails within a short span of time and I have to retreat to the nearest restroom to collect myself. I have to stand still in the stairwell, hands pressed against the cold concrete wall, and take in a few deep breaths.
I have to remind myself that I am competent and capable and smart and good at what I do. I have to convince myself that this day will not end me. That I will and can get through whatever else awaits me when I return to my desk. There are days when these self-taught methods work to temporarily calm my anxiety. There are also days when they do nothing for me. Still, each time I somehow muster the strength to go back to the office and soldier through the rest of the day.
Eventually, Friday shows up and I can look forward to the weekend ahead. Two glorious days wherein I don’t have to have my eyes glued to my inbox, answer the office phone with a smile, go to meetings, or be expected to put out fires. I have the luxury of basking in nothingness, of being alone, of caring for myself.
About two weeks ago, I had an all-about-me-day; a day of self-care, if you will. And yes, it sounds as blissful and self-indulgent as it was.
It was a Monday, sunny and unseasonably warm at about 60 degrees. I had the day off work due to President’s Day. I dressed myself in a cute but casual outfit, put on makeup, and made it out the door by 10:30 a.m. My first stop was Panera Bread. There, I sat alone near a window and indulged in a toasted bagel slathered with plain cream cheese and a latte topped with whipped cream and caramel drizzle. I people watched, sipped my latte, and took in large chunks of my bagel.
Later, after my food digested, I walked over to Old Navy and combed through the clearance racks, leaving the store with new pieces for my work wardrobe in tow. Afterwards, I wandered around the neighborhood for a while, letting the afternoon sun soak into my skin, before stopping at Starbucks. Inside swarmed with other 9 to 5-ers who I assumed also had the day off work. I managed to score a table near an outlet. I pulled out my MacBook, plugged it in, and stayed there until the sun fell. I caught up on my favorite blogs and even got some writing done. I was able to finally press “publish” on this post (it had been languishing in my draft folder for weeks).
That day was a good day. That day, I’d put myself first, taken care of me. That day, I ate what I wanted and enjoyed my own company and didn’t ponder the worries of tomorrow. For weeks, I had overextended myself at work and at home, reluctantly mumbled “yes” when I should have given a firm “no” or “not right now.” I suppose the big changes happening at work are teaching me—slowly—how to become the master of my time, how to press pause more, how to say “yes” less, and how to finally put myself first.