by Donna Andrews
Ever want to get in a time machine and deliver a message to your younger self?
I have. I'd prod my college self to take more science courses--especially computer courses--because I'd have been good at them and would have found them both interesting and useful. And tell my post college self to start writing more seriously a lot sooner. And hint to myself at several ages that certain romantic disappointments weren't tragedies but lucky escapes.
This week I'd love to go back to my first few years of working at the day job and just hang around watching until I saw myself coming down with a cold. At which point I'd scramble out of the time machine, shake my other self, and tell her "Don't be such a martyr! Let yourself be sick, for God's sake!"
I've been sick lately--bronchitis and sinus infection on top of a cold. Getting better--almost well now, in fact. And feeling incredibly grateful that I don't have a day job to go to anymore.
Because when I had a day job, did I drop everything and take care of myself when I realized I was getting sick with a cold or some other minor ailment? Doing that early application of rest, fluids, and vitamins that sometimes averts a cold or at least makes it less severe? Of course not. If I succumbed at all, it would only be for a day or so in the middle of the cold, when I was utterly incapable of rational thought. And then I'd push myself to go back before I was really well, leading to relapses and secondary infections.
When I left my day job after many years I had weeks of unused sick leave. I wish now that I'd used every day of it. And I bet the people with whom I shared my germs during those miserable days at the office would echo my wish.
All this is running through my mind because right now the Northern Virginia area, where I live, is experiencing epidemics of both influenza and Norovirus. The CDC is calling this the worst flu season in 10 years. Maybe I should be glad all I've had (at least so far) was the cold/sinus infection/bronchitis whammy.
My theory, for what it's worth, is that a big contributor to epidemics is people like me, who won't just let themselves be sick. It's just a little chill, a little sniffle, a little cough, a little upset stomach. I can just work through it. I'd be letting people down if I stayed home. I'm working on trying to remember that maybe by not staying home I might be doing worse than letting people down.
I know there are people who have to soldier on when they're sick--because their bosses are mean and inflexible, because they don't have sick days left, because they don't get paid if they don’t work, or because they genuinely are doing something that cannot wait.
I'm not one of them.
So while I can't promise you'll never again see a cough, a sneeze, or a sniffle from me--I do, after all, have allergies--I hereby pledge that I'm going to work a lot harder at staying home when I might be contagious.
Wish we could make it a movement.