Twenty-six years ago, I was just a little pipsqueak embarking upon a career that I had dreamt about since I was a little girl. As a recent graduate, I was young, naive, inexperienced and had none of the answers. Somehow, I possessed a University degree which stated that I was capable of entering my field of work, but I knew that I was unprepared. The problem is that I didn’t know just how underprepared I really was and my first year was a struggle to say the least. Let’s just say that a few tears were shed in trying to find my way. I spent countless hours learning and re-learning my craft and it took me upward of ten full years to feel that I had any sort of proper grasp of what I was doing. It was then that I finally realized that there was no way to do the job perfectly and that I would be continually striving to do better no matter how many years I had under my belt. It’s just who I am, how I’m built. It’s also in the nature of what I do.
The past few days of officially being back from my leave have been a weary blur and fury of activity like no other year I’ve experienced. I’ve had flashbacks of the extremely nervous twenty-one year old, blonde-haired girl who dressed in her cutest jean dress for her very first day of work, however the problem is that I am now two and a half decades older and I do not the possess the same energy that I had back then. Not even close. Part of feeling like I’m year one all over again has to do with my being off for so long and simply not being used to the ten billion demands and the ridiculously long hours. And the other part of it is that hardly anything about what I am doing now is familiar because COVID-19 has changed the scene and my working conditions considerably. I guess I feel a lot like an old dog trying to learning new tricks whose parameters have reached heights higher than one ever thought possible and lately especially, I find myself asking: Is it worth it? Do I want to invest the kind of time that is necessary or am I past that stage? Do I keep forging ahead to or do I simply cut my losses and leave it at that? My work will always require a certain amount of dedication and it always has, but maybe, maybe just maybe I’ve outgrown it age-wise. After all, there was a time when I didn’t mind giving up so much of myself and my time, but after realizing that one’s health is MOST important this past year, I’m not sure I want to continue to sacrifice all that is required. I’m not making any hard and fast decisions right this minute… but I am thinking on it more seriously.
Yesterday, in particular, was my most trying day work-wise so far. I swear that I felt every emotion known to man/womankind. Anxiousness, sadness as well as a sense of loss, excitement, anger and weariness all rolled into one. I was and am happy to be amongst my colleagues and such again, but the work itself felt somewhat foreign and for someone who likes to have control over situations, I didn’t fare as well as I’d have liked after my decades of experience. Then again, when things change by the minute and questions don’t have clearcut answers, you just have to try and fake it until you make it. The pandemic has likely created those same circumstances for many people out there, it’s just that I am a little late to the game because of my extended recovery period. Hats off to those of you who have already gone through something similar—I sympathized with you back in the spring, but now I can totally empathize with how you folks must have felt.
What’s new for me as well that most of you have likely experienced in a return-to-work, post lock-down scenario is that I am around more people and touching more surfaces (shared ones too) than I’ve had to thus far. I’ve always been a germ-aware kind of girl to begin with—now with the virus, that awareness has been amplified exponentially. Rationally, I know that a person can only be so careful and then you have to let it go; unfortunately, the OCD part of me finds the ‘letting go’ part a little more difficult to do, but I will adapt. In time. I keep reminding myself that these are unprecedented times for all of us and that we, as individuals, can only do so much. It is a bit nerve-wracking to have the notion of COVID lurking around every corner, but life goes on and I’m doing my best to follow the set protocols as much as is possible.
While part of me is glad to be out of the house after being held up for so long, our house was and is also a safe zone where I could easily take refuge if need be while I was off. Now, it’s not just grocery stores and the like that I need to be extra careful in; I also need to be cautious in my daily working life. My office is no longer the refuge that it once was wherein I could close the door and it would be my space, my sanctity, and the common areas where my co-workers and I once congregated have a different feel and limited capacity. We can’t all be together to share in the camaraderie and one another’s hardships in the same way that we used to, which makes what we do all the more challenging. Everyone knows that it’s the people at our workplaces that can make or break things for us. Thankfully, despite the times, we are making the best of it and we are still a team. We are all in it together, much like the world is with respect to the pandemic. And, tomorrow is a new day. A new opportunity for growth and acceptance and for letting go of fear by replacing it with hope—hope that things will get better as this old dog learns how to navigate new territory.