You Have To Show Up

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Most of you know this about me: my mother and grandmother have been sick several times. Those stories aren’t mine to tell, thank goodness, but I have qualified for and exhausted my FMLA eligibility several times in my career.

And I always complained about whatever I faced in my private life. I’m high-verbal like that.

The one thing that has become apparent to me, over the years, is that someone else always has it worse and still managed to keep it together, show up for work and keep their private lives private.

  • I have worked with men and women who had adult children in rehab. When I found out, I was like, “You have adult children?”
  • I worked with a woman who’s alcoholic husband verbally abused her until one day she left him. I remember saying, “Jesus, I liked that guy. I thought they were happy.”
  • And I worked with another woman who had her adult mother with dementia living at home along with her ADHD daughter — and this woman suffered terrible pain from endometriosis that eventually lead her to have a hysterectomy and then struggled to find coverage to care for her mother. That’s when she asked for help.

In the last bullet point, I remember asking, “Why didn’t I know that your mom lives with you?”

My colleague said, “Because it never came up, I guess.”

Yeah, that’s so true. Much of real life doesn’t come up at work. And we only know what our colleagues want us to know.

How many of our colleagues face incredible challenges — day in and day out — and still manage to show up for work and do a good job? How many people do we know that have horrible situations at home and come to work every day with a smile and a positive attitude? And how many of our coworkers were victims of abuse in their lives — as children or adults — and yet choose to define themselves in other ways?

Resilience is amazing and reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.

Remember that, even when you are fighting a hard battle, you don’t really have to talk about it. Sometimes, work is a space to forget about those tough challenges (and life in general) and focus on something (or someone) else.

And even if you are struggling through a difficult time in your life, you still have to show up for work.

That’s what adults do. We work.

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