Since I was 16, I’ve rarely held less than 2-3 jobs at one time. Whether it was Fast Food and Babysitting or working in the Church Office and helping with my boyfriend’s family business, or working for 3 different library systems at once, I was what you might call a hustler. I paid for the majority of my college tuition on my own and tried to ask my parents for as little as possible once I graduated high school. I didn’t want to burden them with the choices that I was making if I could help it. So, I worked and worked and worked. When I got this full-time job, I decided that maybe it was time to stop hustling and see what its like to be a normal, 40 hour-per-week American. Well, mostly, since I am on a 9/80 schedule (I work Tuesday-Saturday: 8-10 hour days, 1-9 hour day and have every other Saturday off in a 2-week period).
Quitting that last on-call librarian job was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I almost contemplated keeping them on retainer “just in case”. Just in case I needed more money at Christmas. Just in case I got fired. Just in case. But my ever-wise husband reminded me that I probably would not want to go work another reference desk shift after being at work for 10 hours in addition to my 2-hour minimum round trip commute. So, I quit. And dove head first into this position with a thing I’d only heard about in myths — benefits.
As a part-timer, I wasn’t really entitled to health benefits or benefits of any kind. The exception was when I worked for County of Los Angeles – our union had won 20-hour+/week part-timers health benefits. But when I left county, those benefits went with the job and I and my husband were left paying for insurance out of pocket (on 2 hustler-part-timer salaries).
So imagine how excited I was when this job had health benefits! and eye benefits! and dental benefits! and SICK LEAVE! and VACATION! and this magical thing called Floating Holiday leave that if I didn’t take, would expire at the end of the year – basically meaning that I kind of HAD to take days off.
I’ve always been the kind of worker that will show up sick to work. I can count on one hand the number of times in my working days that I have called out or left (or been told to leave) work early. It averages into about once every 1.5 years. Vacation for me is a little more lenient (I would often arrange my schedule for 3-day weekends or a few days out of town here and there), but in the end, my not working translated to my not getting paid. This held for conferences, vacation, and sick leave. So I was more than ecstatic to watch the hours piling up of holiday time and sick time. Not that I was taking it — because I was still in the mindset that not being at work equals not getting paid, but I was enjoying the idea of eventually being comfortable enough to take the time.
Now that I’ve been here a year, I’m starting to use my time and seeing the benefits of taking days off to re-charge. Last year, I of course used up my floating holiday leave because it was use it or lose it, and while taking it, I felt like I was getting away with something. Last month, I used my first half day of sick leave because I had a terrible migraine. I left work at lunch and went home and slept, but on the way home, I felt like I was being bad, like I was cheating the system. Even though I was in extreme pain and that 60 minute drive home was hell, I was/am still in that extreme hard work-ethic mentality. Although I suspect after my first real vacation using vacation days in August, I may be cured of the guilt trip and just accept the fact that thankfully I don’t have to hustle anymore — at least for now.