Thursday, September 28, 2006

Putting everyone else first

Mr. Geeky called last night--as he has every night since he's been gone--to check in. He asked when I was planning to leave for the funeral.

Well, I said, I have a meeting at 3 and students coming at 4, so probably not till 5:30 or 6.

Are you crazy? he said.

Well, it's the students' first paper. I feel bad.

Look, he said, you're always putting other people first. Reschedule the meeting and the conferences and leave early so you're not driving in the middle of the night.

Okay. You're right.

And then we talked about some other things and we hung up.

He was right though. I often have a tendancy to put others first, especially in a work environment. I need to stop that. For one thing, I don't think it actually benefits anyone. I get frustrated because "No one appreciates what I'm doing for them." I don't have time to be proactive and put programs in place, etc. And then I'm burned out and resentful and I don't even *want* to be proactive. It's ugly.

Actually, Mr. Geeky does this sometimes too. The difference for him, though, is that some of that has paid off--in terms of getting tenure, a nice grant, and other rewards for his hard work. But some stuff doesn't always pay off. Spending hours with students is not always rewarded. All the little administrative stuff he does, the email lists where he helps people well into the middle of the night. The thing is, we both care about our work. We care about it in selfish ways, sure, but mostly, we want to help people and we want to make a difference, whether that's locally or globally. And so we keep at it.

But sometimes, you have to let go of that and take care of yourself and your needs. You have to put your own oxygen mask on first. I need to do that more often.