First, an apology.  I know I’ve been gone awhile.  I know my last post was essentially unavailable.  These past few weeks have been a little crazy for me.  Last month I attempted (and succeeded!!!) a daunting goal for my jewelry business, and for the first time in 2 years, I am finally able to watch my business start to grow.  This is good for two reasons: one, it provides a fun hobby outside of my full-time  job, something that lets me escape the stresses and low points of the medical field.  As much as I love my job at the clinic, it’s not all peaches and rainbows, as everyone can imagine.  It’s nice to have something to do outside of work that provides a fun way to meet people and just chill for awhile.  The other benefit is, of course, the financial help, which has been a huge relief when trying to pay bills each month.

I recently had a very dear friend visit for a week, and it was so good to hang out after a year!  In today’s society, it’s so easy to think we are “constantly connected” to friends and family thanks to the internet, phones, email, etc., but in the end, what does it really mean to “be connected?”  I recently read an article about how the US has some of the shortest vacation allowances from work and how we are supposedly the only “industrialized nation” that doesn’t legally require employers to give vacation time.  Thinking about that article brought a lot of sad realities to life.  I tried to think about the last time I took a real vacation and, while it was fun and relaxing, it was short — only a few days.  I began to think about what I would do if I could just walk away from the office for 2-3 weeks, where I would go, what I would want to see…and realized that I don’t know if or when I will find out.  Most of my vacation time goes to conferences that I have to attend to keep my license active, so I barely even get to enjoy the places I am going.  What little time I have left might be allocated to a few days here and there, but as for a real lengthy vacation, it’s just not feasible.  Even the days when I take a half day off work I feel guilty for not being there.  I feel as I contribute little to housework for the simple fact that I am only home for a few hours outside of sleep, that all I want to do when I get there is nothing, and yet I feel guilty when I’m not at work.  It’s a vicious cycle, and in today’s workaholic society, it’s not something that is likely to change anytime soon.

What is it that makes us feel the need to work so hard?  Money is the easy answer, but as someone who is paid on salary and not an hourly wage, that isn’t the only answer.  What drives people (like me) to be at work for more hours than required, earning no additional pay, and taking as little vacation time as possible?  What is it that makes us go to work sick, exhausted, run down, and burnt out?  As easy as it is to point to a few extra dollars in our pocket, the truth is that most Americans fear losing their jobs if they show any sign of weakness.  From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense — show no weakness or the pack will eat you alive — but as the article pointed out, working ourselves into the ground is counterproductive.  We have little times left over for our families and households and even less for ourselves.  We are punished if we try to take care of our minds, our bodies, our souls, if it in any way can be viewed as a threat to some corporate bottom line.  I watched a classmate of mine be told that he would have to make up part of a rotation because he took 3 days off for the birth of his first child instead of the allowed 2.  Mothers are expected to pop out their children and return to work as soon as possible, which is just so insane its indescribable to me.

For me, there is a personal sense of responsibility to my clients and patients, that any time I take for myself is taken away from them, giving my boss more of a work load to carry, and ultimately creating a lot of hardship for everyone else.  I can’t take off time that is available to me because of what it will do to everyone else.  Perhaps it’s ironically selfish, to assume that I am so important and necessary that the clinic will collapse without me, that I am the only thread holding everything together.  But given the vast scope of this predominant belief, I have to ask where it came from.  What created this strong sense of guilt for wanting to take care of myself, for wanting to get away from the stresses of work and life for awhile and just enjoy being alive?  I look back on this year, how quickly it has already flown by, and I can’t help but ask, “What have I actually done?”  Is there anything memorable, anything that sticks out in particular?  I look at my oldest dog and cry when I realize that she is 10 years old now and that I have barely even seen her, that this beautiful soul I brought home from the shelter so many years ago has gone through life without me to watch her and love her like I think I should.  And yet nearly half a year has gone by and I can’t help but wonder how much quicker it will go before I simply run out of time to enjoy the little things around me.

I love my job.  I love where I am and I love what I do.  It wasn’t until I got into vet school that I realized how precious time is, how easy it is to watch it fly by as we pour everything we have into a particular task or job.  And now that I’m out of school, I still have yet to feel the pace slow down.  I give everything I can to my job, so much that when I go home I feel that I have so little to give to my husband, my pets, and even less for myself.  By the end of the day, I have nothing left, and yet the beat goes on.  If it weren’t such a staple of our society to act this way, I would think there is something wrong with me.

The day rolls on again.