Work is hard. Get over it. If you’re fortunate enough to have a job in this economy, you’re probably doing more with less, and it does get hard. Some of the people I work with talk about about bailing out. Some of these people are 30 years old. This is where having gray hair comes in handy. We’re tough to kill.
Maybe we are what they call slow burners. In it for the long haul. That’s me, but only because I reinvented my relationship with work. It’s all too easy to succumb to pressure and stress. I feel it, but I also practice letting it go. Over and over. I tell myself it’s not healthy to sweat the small stuff.
And it is small stuff. Having cancer and getting over it gave me that perspective. Right after I was diagnosed, I visited a counselor. I thought we’d talk about my disease and dealing with the possibility of death, but we ended up talking mostly about work. I had no good role models. My father was unemployed for most of my childhood, and my mother worked at a minimum wage job she hated.
The counselor helped me strike a balance. Work will always have a very high priority in my life, but it doesn’t define who I am. For those of us who missed the day on self-esteem, it takes a little while — like maybe half your life — to get comfortable in your skin, but after that, everything else snaps into place.
Once you stuff your demons in the trunk, you can turn your focus outward and use your talents to elevate the enterprise. I find it energizing to engage with an eclectic mix of people and help my team stay sane while they solve challenging problems one bite at a time. That’s good stress. But I also know from experience that the stress of constantly comparing yourself to others or taking every little slight, snub or dysfunction personally is destructive.
The find-your-passion people can keep looking, and I wish them well, but I subscribe to the theory of last man standing. In this model, I give it everything I’ve got and do my absolute best to add value every minute of every single day. But I don’t imagine that my job will fill an empty hole inside of me. We’re business partners not soul mates.
That’s my take on it, anyway. Roll with the stress, make it to the end and enjoy a rewarding career that pays the bills. Draw strength from the human interaction as much as the work itself because one day you will be in a room by yourself wondering where everyone went.
Donna Pekar’s blog Rock the Silver is a writer’s personal perspective about life, aging and cool gray hair. A cancer survivor and Army veteran, Donna works as a communications professional for a Fortune 100 company.