by Jamie Grant, C’98 GEd’99
I’m so glad to see the flowers blooming and feeling like spring is just around the corner….and I hope you are too! We have much to look forward to and celebrate, especially as we’re together on campus and COVID is taking a respite from disrupting our lives at the moment. But, in this renewed world sans masking requirements, I’ve not only had terrible allergies (achoo!) but also caught a cold! Earlier this week I took a much needed sick day to recuperate, and spent some time reflecting on how differently I’ve come to see the value of taking care of myself today so that I can be well tomorrow.
I’d been taught and practiced all of my life to SHOW UP no matter what (pretty sure my Mom still has my perfect attendance report cards somewhere in a box, haha!). We all know it takes a lot of tenacity, academic and personal work to get to Penn and do our best. I remember as an undergrad, as well as in graduate school, persevering just like my classmates and friends through classes, exams, presentations and more when clearly we weren’t feeling well…..yet being proud that I’d not “needed” a sick day. I just kept showing up despite whatever ailed me and wore my “perfect attendance” record, even as a working professional, like a sort of honorific badge.
But is there honor in showing up, however unwell we feel? As our friends at HBR term it, what does “presenteeism” achieve? Was showing up without being my best, healthiest self of any benefit to my work, my team (who likely caught a cold or two from me) and most importantly my students? I think not, nor did I get well any more quickly for not taking the time I needed to heal and rest.
In this new season of the year – and with all we’ve learned in the pandemic and keep learning about the changing world of work – it’s easy to revert to the mindset that we have very full schedules, list of responsibilities, and high expectations of ourselves and so we must persevere…..but Benjamin Franklin said it best in 1736 – “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – and that applies to self-care, too. Statistics also show how important any kind of self care, including taking a sick day when needed, is to your whole life – work, school, family, mental and physical health, spirit and more. I know I feel much better for having taken my sick day and *truly* rested to regain my health, and I trust my work is the better for it.