My parents instilled in my siblings and me the value of hard work. I worked hard at school, and when I started working in government labs I worked hard there. It paid off with winter break employment. Every time I finished off a summer job I would ask if they would like me back for the winter break. I heard “yes” every time. It did mean that I didn’t have much of a break, though. One winter this caught up with me and I had a manager, Dr. Gary Carter, who did something about it.
In the summer of 1982 I joined Gary’s group to help with building an ellipsometer. I worked that winter break and, then, the subsequent summer. My 1983 fall class schedule had no classes on Thursday. I suggested that I could come in Thursdays to work. Toward the end of the semester I became stressed about school, so I stopped coming in on Thursdays. Once winter break began, I came back to work over winter break.
Gary must have noticed something, and one day he called me into his office to talk. He mentioned stress and that he knew I was working hard, but perhaps I should take one of my earned vacation days and go have some fun. While I don’t recall my immediate reaction, I took him up on his suggestion and took a day off.
Taking the Metro to the Mall in Washington, D.C., I visited some of the museums. My favorite building is the East Wing of the National Art Gallery. The underground area between the East and West Wings has a window with a view of water cascading down from above. I felt better–so much better that I found a pay phone and called him. The exact wording of the message I left escapes me, though it probably went like this: “Thanks for suggesting I take the day off. I feel so much better.”
Balancing your personal life with the demands at work has been an ongoing process for me. This first lesson pointed out the need to pay attention to it because your overall well-being impacts your ability to work. Dr. Gary Carter knew this, and I’m eternally grateful for his observation and advice.
Have a Productive Day,
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