When I was growing up, I faked many a cold or sore throat so that I could stay home from school. Grades 5th through 8th were some hard years for me, and I dealt with the uncomfortable and often snotty social situations of West Sylvan Middle School by avoiding them all together. Although it was a habit I slowly shook off as I got older and as I found my place in my school world, a piece of those days of faking remains with me.
These days, even when I am truely, justifiably, honest-to-God sick, I feel guilty about staying home. It’s like all those years of bending the truth and claiming a scratchy throat have left me feeling like I used up my life time allotment of sick time before I was old enough to drink.
I mention this because I am currently down and out with the nasty cold of June 2006. It started with a sore throat that traveled from one tonsil to the other. Then my chest started to feel heavy and congested and finally my nose and ears stuffed up. It’s been altogether unpleasant, and yet, I dragged myself to work on Monday and Tuesday, propelled by an overabundant sense of responsibility as well as a feeling that I wasn’t quite sick enough to call out from work. By Tuesday afternoon at 3 pm, I finally caved, told my boss there was no way I could make the deliveries around campus I was supposed to do and dragged myself home instead. I slept for four hours and woke up feeling incrementally better, and so very grateful to be at home as opposed to dragging myself through my work day.
Admitting to myself that I couldn’t work any longer on Tuesday was hard. I had to poke my head into a meeting to tell my boss that I was leaving, and I felt the censuring stares of the others in the room weighing heavy on my head. I was sure they were thinking that I was pathetic for being sick, or that I couldn’t possibly be sick enough to go home. As I slowly walked to the trolley I reminded myself over and over that no one else has the power to make me feel guilty (I do that all on my own) and that no one else will look out for me the way I look out for myself. It’s those thoughts that I will keep in mind tomorrow, when I make the decision as to whether to go to work or not. And if I’m still feeling crappy, then I’m staying home.