Have you ever had one of those days where it felt like it was all you could do not to tear out your hair and scream at the top of your lungs? I’m sure all of us have felt like that at one time or another. For me, Monday was definitely one of those days. I woke up with a stuffy head and sinus drainage which soon morphed into one of those violent phlegmy coughs that seem to emanate straight from the pits of hell.
Being the good boss and coworker that I am, I didn’t call in. Some managers make it to the top of the proverbial scrap heap and see their lofty vantage point as a sign that they can take it easy, that other people can do the hard work while they sit back and relax a little. I’m not one of those managers. Since I took over my store as General Manager, I’ve been working harder than ever and sick days are all but out of the question. In a perfect world, lean payroll budgets wouldn’t exist and I could have enough wiggle room to accommodate about 20% more in labor that I currently do. But that’s not the world I live in.
My store has also been undergoing one of the biggest resets we’ve ever done. We’re eliminating some product lines entirely while expanding others and making room for other high-interest product that our buyers predict will sell better. They even approved the capital for new carpet(!) which I’ve been all but begging for for years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about creating efficiency in my store and assuring that what we offer is what people actually want to buy, but there’s also a not-insignificant part of me that is change-averse. That’s putting it mildly, actually. I avoid change like the plague.
Being a manager, though, especially one responsible for an entire store or division, necessitates that one be an agent of change as well as its champion. So let’s just say I’m working on it. Getting back to Monday, I knew that I had a bunch of markdown and repricing projects facing me so I wanted to get started on those when I first came in. I choked down some antihistamines and decongestants and soldiered my way in, hoping that God would see fit to give me an easy-ish day. No such luck.
First I ran out of some of the discount stickers I needed. I found some blank ones I could write on, and while not a perfect solution, it got the job done. Then I had an employee who didn’t show up. Now, this employee is usually (almost always) tardy. He’s great when he arrives so I try to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially considering his long commute. When he was over 30 minutes late, I called him. I’m glad now that I didn’t leave a sarcastic message in his inbox because he was in a car accident on the way to work. He’s fine, apart from a bloody nose and other minor injuries, but it shook me up. Out of all of my employees, he’s been at my store the longest, and I consider him to be a dear friend and not just a coworker.
I started writing this as I ate my lunch on Monday. I had to stop and get back to it at the end of my shift on Tuesday, which was my eighth in a row. Now it’s Wednesday, and while I didn’t have to work today, I was violently woken up from my late evening nap by my phone alerting me that we were under a tornado warning. I’ve spent the past few hours checking in on my employees and other friends in the path of the storms, and I’m exhausted.
Honestly, I just wish the universe would take a break for a little bit. Between everything that’s been going on with SCOTUS and the all-but-certain end of Roe v. Wade, to the ongoing pandemic most people are choosing to now ignore, and my own personal troubles, I am never not tired. And I know I’m not alone in that. I read somewhere once that even when life seems unbearable, the most important thing we can do, for ourselves and others, is to bear witness. To share.
Sharing what we’re going through shows other people they’re not alone in their struggles and the shared empathy created between people who make that connection makes the load easier to bear. And as much as I enjoy being a doom-scrolling latter-day prophet heralding the end times, I can’t help but be hopeful. There are so many good people out there doing good work and it’s always my goal to be among their ranks.
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