I used to think I was an extrovert. I loved people. I loved getting together big groups of them and doing fun and amazing things. I loved having lots of friends, and knowing what was going on in all of their lives. I had so many friends that I couldn’t keep up with everyone, and I kinda loved that too, even as I was sad that even I couldn’t be friends with all the awesome people in the entire world. My capacity for social interaction seemed only limited by the hours in the day, and there were never enough.
Then, I dunno, something happened. Maybe it’s that I got older, or I grew out of my dramalicious, attention-seeking stage (maybe you never grow out of that one entirely), or maybe it’s that I started seeing the ill-effects of being quite that involved in quite that many people’s lives. I started learning how to set boundaries, how to keep myself from being so enmeshed in other people’s drama. My life got a little smoother, a little quieter, a little more sane. But I was still an extrovert, the girl who couldn’t wait to get off work so her real life could start.
Now I think I’ve hit my limit of socialization, the outer boundaries of my powers of extroversion, and I think it took an entire hospital to do it. You see, all day long at work I take care of people. I listen to their problems, their concerns, and their worries. It’s not just their problem with their benefits, or their questions about their paychecks, it’s the friend who just went out on her first date in a long time (it went really well), or the employee who cries as she changes her direct deposit form because a family member has turned out to be untrustworthy, or the young woman who just discovered she has cancer and needs help figuring out how to apply for Short Term Disability, or a hundred other things. Everywhere I go, there is someone who wants to say hi, or has a question, or needs something, even if it’s just my attention for a little bit. At the end of the day, I go home, and I’m tired. I don’t want to talk to anybody. I don’t want to take care of anybody. I want to go up to my room and curl up with my kindle, or in front of the computer, or with a sewing or knitting project, and not have to talk to or take care of or encourage or comfort or nurture anybody at all.
This is even starting to bleed over into the weekends. I feel like I ought to want more of a social life, but when I think of organizing events or trips or dinners out, or even just showing up for the things that other people have planned, instead of feeling excited, I feel tired. Even the effort of showing up to things that other people have planned starts to feel like a lot, and then I feel like a bad person because I don’t want to see my friends. I do want to see them, of course, I’m just, you know, tired. I know that if I just go, I’ll more than likely have a good time. But it’s taking more and more to get myself to just get out the door.
The sad thing is, I think this is only going to get worse. Not too long ago, I found out that because of various things, the position of my counterpart at our sister hospital is being eliminated. This isn’t as traumatic as it might be, since the lady who filled that position has been talking about retiring for the last two years, and is quite ready to move on. (She told me the other day that she has the worst case of senioritis you ever saw.) However, it means that, since they no longer have a support person there, I’m being asked to take up the slack.
So starting sometime soon, I’m going to be taking care of not one, but two hospitals. I’ll split my time between them (the rest of my team already does this), and… well, we’re not sure how the rest of it is going to work. Even though my workload has just effectively more than doubled, I haven’t gotten any overtime approved, so I’m going to be trying to do twice the work in the same number of hours that are already more than filled. My boss is working at taking some things off my plate, but so far the few things that are going to be passed off are things that weren’t actually taking up all that much of my time in the first place. If I think too long about the logistics of all of this, my stomach starts to hurt. I’m sure that things will work themselves out in the long run, but right now it’s just overwhelming.
On the plus side, at least when I’m at the other hospital, I don’t have to wear the lovely, lovely polyester uniforms. I can wear actually cute and comfortable clothes, which means I suddenly need nice, businessy summer clothes after all. This has prompted a great sorting through of patterns and project planning which may or may not result in a couple of nice shirts and maybe a few Alabama Chanin style cardigans before not too long. And today the lady who’s retiring took me over the other hospital, showing me what will be my new domain. I’ll now be the mistress of two more storage rooms, both on separate floors of the hospital, one of which requires a security escort to get to, both packed to the gills with boxes of old employee files, old holiday decorations, and random ephemera from years of HR. It’s rather fascinating from an archaeological perspective, if nothing else!
So, you know, I’m trying to look on the bright side. They say that the reward for a job well done is another job. By that metric, I must have been doing an awfully good job! I know that sooner or later I’ll find my equilibrium again. But in the meantime, I’m tired.