In a prior post, I wrote about a friend’s father who yelled at me during a little league game, while also acknowledging I deserved it. I had run to second when I wasn’t supposed to, I was slow despite my medium build, and I’m not even sure that the score of the game necessitated a stolen base. I don’t remember if we were up by or down by a lot, I just decided it was the right time to go.
Earlier this year, I was helping that same man unload a few items from the house his family would soon vacate forever. The plan was to go to both the Missions of Deeds and a consignment store in my hometown, and then I’d be off to work. It’s such a laborious process, moving out of your child hood home. After all, I had done it 6 years before.
As the two of us cruised up Main Street, which always took longer than it should, my friend’s father asked me about my job. I told him that I had given my two weeks notice, and that I was hoping to put more of my time into the organization I was interning for on the side. It was a gamble, and I wasn’t even sure it’d result in a job, but the experience I’d gain would be worth it, and if I left for greener pastures, I knew they’d give me an even stronger recommendation. For once, I had a plan, even if it wasn’t fully-formed.
I don’t know what I expected the reaction to be, but I’ve always heard from people, “You shouldn’t quit a job until you have one.” I understand the logic, but I also love the idea of leaving a job because you’re done, because you have nothing left to give. I didn’t quit this job purely for that reason, but I was okay with not having anything waiting for me when my two weeks notice was up. I had several career paths I was considering, and they all intrigued me.
I guess I expected a stern reprimand, but that same man who had ripped me apart from the dugout years early offered me something I didn’t expect; positive reinforcement. “The work you’ve done for those two organizations, and the volunteering, you should be proud of the things that you’ve done.” There was more to it than this, but that’s what stood out to me. I hadn’t expected validation. I can be my own harshest critic, and tend to underemphasize anything I accomplish. I get uncomfortable if anyone says anything positive about me. Sitting in that car, I heard words that I didn’t know that I needed to hear, and was blown away.
Those words were everything I needed after an emotional couple of weeks. I know that I already wrote about my last day on the job, but I’d been feeling rundown for some time. It’s been a strange summer in so many ways, and even though I was still making a difference to families by dropping off equipment and whisking people away to medical trials, the miles I was logging and the time spent in the cab of the minivan were taking a toll on me. I was mentally exhausted, ready to get off the road, ready to stop driving all over god’s green earth, or at least greater New England. I don’t know how my coworkers have done it for years on end, I only knew that I was at my breaking point.
I beat myself up when I first wanted to leave my job because there’s still so much that needs doing. So many families need help, and it’s inevitable that more people will get an ALS diagnosis somewhere down the road, but I knew it was time to step away, to support the mission from the sidelines. I needed to find a position that activated and engaged me, that got me firing on all cylinders. It was so tough to want to pull the trigger, and I spent months dragging my feet. I know now that it’s the right decision, that my position was never going to lead to anything else, and that it was time to move on. Still, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work for and meet the families that I did. The mission still means so much to me after all this time.
I’ve never thought of myself as someone who needed validation, but I found myself needing the words that my friend’s father spoke. I needed that recognition that I haven’t been wasting my time, even though I knew that I hadn’t. You’re never wasting your time when you’re helping people, which is why I love public service, and why I hope to work in that sector for the rest of my life. My friend’s father let me know that I was doing well, and that after all this time I’m finally moving in the right direction, at least the right direction for me.
There’s a cowbell in our office that we ring when something big happens, although today was the first time it’s been rung in a while. It’s loud, but it’s also an important reminder to stop, if even for a moment, and appreciate the victories, be they big or small. As people, we’re so hard on ourselves. We nitpick even when something is a net-positive, and we tend towards negativity and pessimism. I know that I used to, and still do from time to time. The perfectionists among us never talk about what went well, only what could have gone better, and while this can be useful, it’s important to recognize the positive aspects too. I’m not saying you have to have a wild party and celebrate every accomplishment, just take a moment for it, drink it in, bask in it for a short while, recognize that it occurred.
Take the time to compliment someone for a job well done, for something that they’ve excelled at, that they’ve poured their mind, body, and soul into. It may not make that big of a difference to you, but it will for them. I guarantee you it will. You may change someone’s day, week, or even his or her life with a few positive words to let them know that they’re doing something right, and that you’ve noticed it. Thanks for reading.