Tuesday, January 25, 2011

ON FAMILY ~ How A Cat Taught Me To Prioritize...


At the age of 45, writer Regina Brett wrote a column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer listing 45 lessons that life had taught her thus far. As a breast cancer survivor, many of those lessons were learned the hard way. Five years later she added five more lessons rounding her list up to 50 and turned her popular list into a book called God Never Blinks. I found her list to be entertaining, inspiring and thought provoking. I thought I would go through each of her lessons learned and write about how that lesson has or has not come up in my own life, now that I am 40 and feel old enough to have finally learned something.

"Your job won't take care of you when you are sick, but your friends will. Stay in touch with them."
~ LESSON #32

When I was just out of college, I learned the important lesson of priorities. I had my first full-time job as a temp at an insurance company. I did everything that a salaried full-time employee did, except I didn't get any of their benefits. I worked my tail off - because that is the only way I was ever taught. My thought was that I should do all that I could to improve things in my little part of the machine and perhaps someone would notice.

I showed up on time, offered to learn new things, tried to suggest and implement improvements and got to know as many of the folks in the company as possible. I also found that more and more tasks were finding their way to my desk. Because I hate to be overwhelmed, I put in longer hours. Eventually I started coming in on Saturdays, hours that I did not get paid to work. Before I even realized it, I was factoring in that Saturday time into my daily work process.

One Saturday, while working away at my cubical, my roommate called frantically to tell me that my beloved kitty, Petey Cat, had escaped and was on the roof of the condo and wouldn't come down. He told me that I needed to come home ASAP and get Petey because the cat wasn't responding to his efforts. I told him to just figure it out and I'd be home once I'd finished up the report I was working on.

Well. My roommate was somehow able to corral Petey and get him back safely inside. But it was certainly by some miracle that he did - especially since Petey did not like him one bit. Petey did not go outside and we lived near a very busy route filled with constant traffic. None of this even occurred to me until I got home and saw my unhappy kitty - and an even more irritated roommate.

I was so blinded by my job that didn't even pay me for all of the time that I put into it that I had forgotten that anything else in my life could possibly be as important. Don't get me wrong. I needed that job. Badly. So that my cat and I could live in that condo instead of at home with my parents. But when Petey needed me, I wasn't there for him. He escaped because he hated that condo. He got no love from my roommates and I was never there.

Lesson learned. I stopped working weekends. For free. I stopped volunteering to do anything that needed to be done. I focused on what I needed to do and did the best I could with the time I was paid to put in. And then I went home at the end of the day. To my cat. And my roommates. I even found time to touch base with my parents every now and then. I went out after work with those co-workers I'd made such an effort to get to know. And remembered that you can't always love your job, but you should always be able to enjoy your life beyond it.

When I moved away from that temp job and started working for my next employer, I had no idea that I would still be working for him 17 years later. But I am. And I do not work weekends. I do not accept work related calls at home. When I leave the office, I leave it all behind. Nights & weekends are for staying in touch with friends and family. But when I am in the office, I still work my ass of to get the best job done with the time that I have. I have been lucky in that my employer actually would take care of me if I became ill. I've taken care of him when he battled through cancer. But that isn't because of work. That is because of the loyalty of friendship developed over 17 years.

Work is necessary to have the life that I want, but work should not be my life. My cat taught me that lesson a long time ago. Thanks Petey - another reason why you will always be The Best Cat Ever.

12 comments:

Lin said...

Thank goodness for Petey. Some folks don't get a Petey in their lives and they waste their lives working and living for the wrong reasons. Rarely is work that rewarding that we should give up our personal lives for it.

Petey Rocks! (rocked?)

boliyou said...

Go Petey! Sometimes we need these important lessons.

As an aside: I have a blog award for you at endomental.com.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I love the story, and it just is another reminder that you and I are so alike. I was the same way out of school - I threw my attitude and ethic into my job, and would embrace whatever they told me to do, even shredding papers. It's no accident you are where you are. It is easy to carried away though, and cats do have a way of jerking us back on the path! (My kitty Hope used to pee on things if I would leave her for too long...)

kaye said...

it's good to learn important lessons while you are still young--sounds like you did. Very insightful article :)

Margot said...

I love this series of life lessons. This is a very valuable one best learned young.

stacybuckeye said...

Petey was obviously a very smart cat to teach you such a good lesson :) I'll have to see if I can rig up something similar for my hubby who is gone 11 hours a day! (which never seemed so long until we had a baby)

Apryl said...

Wow! I love this post. It is amazing what our furry family members can teach us. I'm sharing your post with my husband. We both tend to get caught up in projects that are insignificant but seem so important at the time.

ds said...

"Never become so busy making a living that you forget to make a life." Petey knew what he was about!
And you were clever enough to realize it. Good for both of you!

Susan said...

That is a wonderful lesson you learned and it sounds as if it has served you well over the years. Pets can teach us many lessons if only we open our minds and our hearts to what they're trying to tell us.

Very nice post, Molly.

lovesmukiwa said...

YAY Petey!

Kathleen said...

It's all about balance and your post is reminding me that I need to find more of it myself!

cash advance california said...

This is a good example on how you can manage your time in your personal life, career and business. Giving time to one another is a great idea. Keep focus from time to time.