The Sick vs. the Workaholic
I’m off work today because I have a bunged up throat and I have a minor case of the sniffles. We are discouraged from working if we are even a little bit ill, because infecting others is not cool, and having a handful of people sick results in less productivity than just one person being ill.
I’m pretty stubborn. I got sent home a couple of months ago when I came in with a stuffed nose. Though let’s admit it was probably the giant scarf I was wearing that someone said looked like a bandage around my neck.
I was not very used to being sent home. I just wanted to work, but it certainly sounded inconsiderate to the people around me. Unfortunately, until this year, I wasn’t at all used to making the “I’m sick” excuse. Perhaps it’s also because I hear about people faking being sick and actually just going to the beach. Lying like that seems unfathomable to me – when Kim came to visit, I asked if could have a day off to hang out with a friend who was visiting. That was no problem at all. I can’t imagine calling in sick unless I am in pain and feel like the journey to work would be too much of a trek.
It’s about time I wrote a little bit about my previous job and my experience there. It’s been ten months since I left, and boy does time fly. For the most part, I enjoyed my time there, but looking back, I was less than happy about a couple of things. I won’t detail them, but one of them was about calling in sick.
I rarely ever called in sick. It might be because during primary school and secondary school, I had a grand total of being away from school sick for three days. Three. Out of about 200 days a year (you get five school days a week, roughly ten weeks a term, and four terms in a year)… I was in primary school and secondary school for thirteen years. That’s 2600 days in total. That equates to approximately 0.2% of my school life that I missed school because I was sick.
Yes, I did get 100% Attendance awards for my great feat.
Last year, I felt exceptionally guilty when I called work and said I would not be coming in because I felt unwell. I knew that if I came in I would not be very productive, I knew that I would probably not be able to make it to the train station without coughing up a lung. I knew all of these things, but I still felt less than impeccable, and felt like I had done something wrong by being ill and unable to work. I felt like I could have avoided it and it was somehow completely my fault.
It constantly crossed my mind that I had work to do, that someone else would have to do my work, or wait for me to get back, and I might have to catch up the next day. I was in zero doubt about catching up – catching up was not frightening in the least. I was a hundred percent confident I would get my work done eventually, whether I just happened to kick it all out, or stayed back an hour or two. It was just that I had to take a day off, that was simply it. That, in itself, upset me.
Sometimes I would still go to work even though I was coughing all over the place. No one ever said anything, no one even seemed concerned about catching anything from me. One time I had an incredibly painful stomach bug, I sat at my desk and worked and typed and coded and built and compiled and pushed code until I was almost unable to stand up. Why? Because I felt like I had a responsibility to do this work, right then and there, and get it done.
After being sick a couple of days in a row and having to visit the doctor after a pretty crummy domino effect, my university work was not being completed, and I was feeling stressed. I remember calling work one morning, saying I was caught up with my coursework, and the response was less than friendly. My employer told me that while calling in sick was acceptable, I should have given more notice if it was about university. I felt irritated; as I wasn’t employed on a full-time basis and came in when I was available (every day, mind you), I felt that surely this one-time excuse could have been, well, excused.
Pondering my position in the company, I realised that I was taking on a ridiculously large workload. Working full-time and studying full-time made me feel like a damned superwoman, it did. But even I am not superwoman. I was doing a lot of work for one person in a company of three.
It was then that I realised that I wasn’t just stubborn. I wasn’t just disappointed to be sick. I stayed at work until 8:00pm and took no lunch breaks. I was not just working hard. I was just an idiot, a complete workaholic.
In high school, one of the teachers had once said to me, “Your health is more important than any exam.”
It’s taken some time for me to really be nice to myself, but it’s a statement that is true for more than just exams.