The closest I’ve ever been to being fired was when I was a workaholic.
Usually we think that people get fired for not doing their job, and while that is most certainly the no. 1 culprit, I had a different experience.
Growing up, my parents had amazing work ethic. My mom had this grey-hair inducing schedule where she would work 12 hour shifts from 7pm-7am and then come home and sleep until I got home from preschool at noon. My dad worked through the week and because he is a pastor, he worked the weekends as well. I remember clearly the time we tried to go on a vacation, but when we arrived at the hotel we received a call that a member of the church had passed, so we got back in the car and went home. As kids, we learn from observation and I came to learn quickly the value of hard work and dedication.
As a young adult, work thrilled and inspired me. Staying active was – for me – was such a fulfillment, that any of the usual high school temptations seemed only a distraction from the life I was experiencing. When I went to college, I fell into business and fell in love with it. I determined to be the best businesswoman that I could be so I craved my own experience and the knowledge from the experience of others. As a young employee, I swallowed whole the motto: “Get the job done, no matter what it takes,” and put on my game face on to do it.
In my youth, I had some type of misconception that I could do it all, but that same misconception is what characterizes the young. We can be blindly optimistic and endearingly foolish. It can be a wonderful trait, but I was about to learn very quickly the value of BALANCE.
I said yes to every opportunity for a job or position, and because my activities were good things, I did not think any sacrificing to do them could cost me. The worst part is that what will soon be obvious to you was not obvious to me: my schedule was a form of self-destruction.
Please take in the glory of my foolishness:
- Employment: I worked 4 different jobs (Event Coordinator, Referee for college intramurals, Referee for local church, and babysitter for multiple families).
- College: 15 hours each semester pursuing a Bachelor’s of Business.
- Outreach: A significant time commitment, I served as an Assistant Missions Team Leader for an international missions trip and as an Assistant Outreach Team Leader for a bimonthly local outreach.
- Other: I was an avid road biker this year (almost daily), played the djembe for a weekly music set, and when I had time (ha!) I hung out with friends.
One day I was at work (the first job), and I felt suddenly lightheaded and sick. I was working late (again), had been up early to ride at 5 am (of course), and had not eaten since that morning (classic). I then had some type of “episode” similar to that of a diabetic and my boss helped me recover by spooning some honey into my mouth.
From that day on, my health took a downward spiral. My episodes increased in regularity and extremity. Because I needed more rest, it put pressure on my time and I spent energy I should have been conserving trying to catch up work. Not surprisingly, I did not get better.
When my health was at its worst, I had to be being taken to the emergency room due to convulsions. At its best, I was restricted to one activity each day. For someone who had such a busy lifestyle, this was almost unbearable for me.
Because of my poor health, my boss ordered me to not attend our weekly meetings that were held early in the morning. Stubbornly, I tried to come anyways, but with one look I knew I was in trouble, and in few words she immediately sent me away. The job that I had landed as Event Coordinator was on the line, and the harder I tried to hold onto it, the more it slipped through my fingers.
Eventually, I had to relieve myself of my 4 jobs, 3 volunteer positions, miscellaneous activities, and take 2 course “Incompletes” in order to finish out the semester. My health was precariously on the line. On top of these stressors, I was unable to find a doctor to listen to me. I received the following prognoses from different doctors: depression; not enough sunlight, and that I needed to eat Snickers bars…Snickers! I’m sure many people would love to be told that they need to eat candy to get better, but in my case this was not the solution I needed.
In time, I would get a more firm diagnosis, but in essence I had run my body into the ground by overworking myself. Landing my job as an Event Coordinator was huge source of satisfaction for me. However, because I didn’t understand the value of balance I was unable to keep my job.
Landing a job is a huge deal, but we must not forget that keeping a job is an even bigger one. How do we do that? My tip for young employees is to keep your work/life balance a priority. If I could go back, I would have committed myself fully to a few things, instead of spreading myself thin over many things. They were all good activities, but the truth is, not every good thing is something you should be doing.
Learn from me! Landing a job is not a big deal: learning balance and keeping your job is a big deal!
By: Katie Barnett