Those of you who know me in real life know that I can be pretty wild. I know I’m considered an extrovert, like a drink or two, and have always been one of the last ones standing on a night out. I pretty much lived by ‘Go Hard or Go Home’. That is, until recently.
As some of you may know, I used to work in a restaurant. Scratch that, I used to live, breath and work a restaurant. I was there at least 5 days a week for a minimum of 52 hours a week, and said restaurant was 45 mins away from Cheltenham. On top of that I would go clubbing at least once a week (normally twice), see my friends at the pub at least once a week, as well as go to the gym and spend time with Jack having a meal out, or chilling in front of the telly with a few beers and a pizza. All this on top of running around like a headless chicken at work, stressing myself out over orders and reports and generally verging on the edge of loving my job and the people there, and hating every minute, freaking out about my bonus coming through because even though I was on a good salary I needed to make up the petrol money that I was spending getting to Witney as well as pay off my credit card (and of course funding my Black Milk habit). I then changed jobs and over the past 9 months my outlook on my life has changed.
I now work a fabulous job at the local university, have a decent salary equal to my previous but with a yearly guaranteed pay rise, with less hours. I work Monday to Friday. I have the option of overtime in return for time in lieu. I get my evenings and weekends free and there is always someone around to help me with any problems I have at work that I can’t work out myself. Its amazing. However, there is one issue. I have allowed myself to feel.
You may or may not be aware, but I suffer from a chronic illness called Endometriosis. Along with that, my mental health has been fairly up and down since my explorative laparoscopy due to them messing around with my hormones. When I worked at the restaurant, life was so easy to switch off. I had to ‘suck it up and get shit done’ – something it turns out I got quite good at. I’d maybe have a tear on the drive home, or take a little moment of fresh air because I had a bad pain in my stomach, but other than that, I worked pretty much hardcore and enjoyed it. However, since I now have a job away from the public eye, a regular job with shifts at the same time every day and an understanding boss who says ‘don’t come back until you’re 100% better’ if you ever do call in sick, I’m at a loss! In all my years of being an adult, I’ve never been ‘allowed’, let alone allowed myself, to take sick days. Ever.
And now that I have, I’m actually grateful. See before, I said it was an issue that I’d allowed myself to feel. But what I mean is, its an issue I couldn’t let myself feel before. I mean I loved working in hospitality, but this time out has shown me that its ok to miss out on a visit to the pub, its normal to feel unwell and take a day off, its alright if you decide you want to stay in on a Saturday night and knit in front of Jonathon Creek. Booking a holiday doesn’t have to be the ‘be all and end all’. I can actually have treatment for my endo now and its not going to mess up the rota and stress everyone out. I can exercise regularly and get a sensible amount of sleep. Its great!
Now I’m not bashing hospitality, its definitely what I would return to if this doesn’t pan out as a career, but I think what I’m bashing is the ability to switch off real life. I mean, it is a powerful skill to have, but it is also a dangerous one. I guess what I’m trying to say is, you need to take control of your life and look after yourself. If you’re struggling or sick, whether its a bug or a chronic illness or your mental health, please just don’t power through, living life to the max. You will burn out, and things will be a lot worse. I’m lucky I learnt before it was too late, but it took a career shift to see that for myself. So take care of yourself, ok?