As far as lives go, mine has been quite a charmed one. I have loving and supportive parents who were able to give me the greatest gift that parents can give their children: a great education. I have a good job with people I enjoy working with. I have a close group of friends that I can always rely on. And I have all the material perks that I could ask for. It hasn’t been easy at times but rarely have I wanted something that I could not get. In other words, I have nothing to complain about.
So when I say that October 2013 was the most difficult month of my life, understand that I say that with a certain amount of perspective. Within the space of ten days, I lost a grandparent – someone I was very close with, and one of my parents was hospitalized due to a severe illness. In addition, I was also experiencing some personal difficulties during this time. These difficult events coupled with the geographic distance from my family succeeded in fragmenting the relatively sheltered life I was living.
I consider myself to be a somewhat reserved person (sometimes to a fault) and my response to these tribulations was to put on a strong face and internalize them. These were my concerns and nobody else needed to know about it. But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t shake certain thoughts from my mind and eventually they manifested themselves. Unfortunately, the one place that the effects made themselves most apparent was at work.
The more I tried to forget about my troubles and concentrate on my work, the more difficult it became to focus on any task. I found myself distracted, unmotivated and had a general couldn’t-care-less attitude about everything. What further compounded my problem was the fact that no one knew what was going on with me. People saw the quality of my work drop off and assumed it was because I had lost interest and was just generally coasting. What they didn’t realize what that I was so distracted by things going on outside of work, that I couldn’t focus on anything I was working on regardless of how hard I tried.
Today, a few months, a vacation, and one very happy family occasion later, I have been able to distance myself from that time and think about it objectively. What I realized, is that I should have handled things very differently at work. One of the greatest skills and assets that we can develop as young professionals is the ability to clearly communicate with our co-workers; to let them know how we are doing, what we are working on and when we need help. For some people (eg. myself) this open and clear communication is not something that comes easily, it’s something that we need to work on and develop constantly. In certain cases, especially when working in closely bonded teams, this communication is absolutely essential and lack thereof can severely impede the functioning of the entire department. In my case, internalizing my troubles and trying to deal with them on my own while pretending nothing was wrong was a mistake. In hindsight I should have spoken to someone. I should have asked for help.
As young professionals, life can be overwhelming. That being said, always remember that you can seek help either from those you work with and/or those you are close to. All too often, others have gone through the same difficulties that we are experiencing and usually they are more than willing to provide invaluable professional insight to help you move forward and manage your crisis better. Additionally, having this communication and building these connections with coworkers will greatly help the relationship and the functioning of your team as a whole.