Personal Life Not Allowed!

“Look at how simple this report looks! You have belittled the nature of the project by not using complex professional terminologies. This report looks like it was written for a secondary school student”, Josh said as he stared at the report I spent 2 weeks working on. Hurt and anger made my blood boil as he added, “No offence”.

No offence? Really? What do people mean when they assault the work you spent valuable time doing and then say, “Nothing personal”. Like I am supposed to somehow magically separate myself from the situation that is about me and my work. An out-of-body experience would come in handy in these moments; please send me Dr Strange’s number?

You know the statement ‘Don’t take it personal’ even though the situation is about you? Or how professionals advise you to leave your feelings and personal life outside the door before stepping into the office like it’s a jacket you can hang on the coat rack? Well, how is that going? ‘Cos I am struggling.

There were times when meetings, reports and projects kept me at work past midnight or even over the weekend; I barely had a social life and found myself making excuses not to attend events because I needed sleep. I rarely called family because of the consistent ‘When will you get married?’ Well, I would get married, as soon as, I have time to meet a girl! How about that?

On several occasions, I received calls from my ‘Boss’ at odd hours asking for progress reports/updates on projects or bids. Please, I have a question… ‘Am I a doctor?’ nobody will die if we talk in the morning! I often get the sense that my ‘Boss’ feels that since my salary is being paid by him, he owns my time: all 24 hours of it!

Annually, I caught a rare break, when my ‘Boss’ was out of the country on his family vacation. In those 3 precious weeks, I was free to take time-off, attend family functions and try to establish some level of human connection; as long as I completed all assigned tasks, of course! That was when I met my wife.

I have been in situations where I was not allowed to go on scheduled leave because some ‘Boss’ decided it was a good idea to call for project meetings or agree to business meetings that ‘conveniently’ coincide with my vacation. How do I cancel a vacation that we had been planning for months; imagine the conversation with my wife…

Recently, my wife’ EDD was looming and my ‘Boss’ vacation was weeks away. As is expected, I had applied for 1 week leave to stay and watch over my wife who was due any moment. However, I got called in to attend an unexpected meeting that lasted until very late. Thankfully, I had the foresight to call my mum to come over and stay with her. My phone was in ‘Silent Mode’ and by the time I checked it, I saw about 34 missed calls and a text message asking me to head to the hospital. Long story short, I missed the birth of my first child.

Back to the present – After going through all this, I am always expected to smile, maintain decorum and remain professional. It sometimes feels like I am the lead actor in a movie with scripts designed to torment me and suck the life out of my soul.

Instead of saying something I would regret, I decided to walk away, but my colleague and long-time friend, Tim, would not let me have my moment…

‘Jolaoye, Jolaoye! Why are you acting up? He only said what was on his mind; I’m sure he didn’t mean to offend you. It’s really not that deep’. ‘Not that deep!?’ I yelled in anger and frustration, ‘because of this job, I rarely see my wife and new born, I have zero social life and its starting to take a toll on my health and you say it’s not that deep?’

Walking away is not exactly an option, I have a young family to care for, and as I do not have a trust fund or a hefty bank balance; but staying is killing me slowly. How do I separate work from my personal life when one affects the other? Or do I park all emotions at the door, as I walk into an office that says, ‘No personal life allowed?’. I do not know how much more of this compartmentalization I can take.

I am at my wits’ end, do you know how to cope, balance, partition or walk away? Please help! Drop a comment, advise or even a prayer.

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