I can do the job — how to prepare to go back to work

betty ming liu Inspiration, Money, Writing how-to's 19 Comments

This is only my second full week as a full-time reporter. Yes, very exciting. But getting back in the game after 16 years is exhausting too. So when I saw my shrink this morning, I was relieved to learn that my feelings are normal. There’s even a special phrase to describe my experience.

Work hardening.

For those of us rejoining the work force after an extended hiatus, employment is about more than hard work. To succeed takes a level of endurance that I don’t have — yet. I’ve gotta toughen up, baby! There’s definitely a stamina required to wake up early every morning, go to a job and keep running for at least the next seven or eight hours. After that, there’s getting back home, dealing with chores and family, making dinner, washing dishes, unwinding for two seconds (is this why people watch TV??) and organizing for the next morning…

I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes right now because I am such a wimp. Of course, some day, I will look back and laugh at myself. At the moment though, I am taking stock with renewed appreciation for both working folks and my 16-year break from the grind. Hopefully, the respite has fortified me for the mission ahead. Dammit, I can hold down this job, come up with meaningful stories, brandish cutting edge journalism skills and put my kid through college!

Whoa, where did that energy blip come from? Actually, I’m too tired to think of a witty transition that will wrap up this post. Plus, I just burned the carrots that I was cooking as a side dish for dinner. Well, maybe I can fill the space here with a definition for “work hardening” that I found online. It comes from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries website:

Work Hardening is an interdisciplinary, individualized, job specific program of activity with the goal of return to work. Work Hardening programs use real or simulated work tasks and progressively graded conditioning exercises that are based on the individual’s measured tolerances. Work hardening provides a transition between acute care and successful return to work and is designed to improve the biomechanical, neuromuscular, cardiovascular and psychosocial functioning of the worker.

Is that a scary chunk of words of what? My shrink says that the work hardening process will go on “for months.” And during that period, I should be prepared to feel “bone weary.” Ouch.

So that’s the new reality. Now I need to say ciao. Or make that “chow;” gotta throw together a quick dinner (stir-fried bok choy with tofu and quinoa). Then it’s off to an 8 p.m. public hearing on environmental issues. Afterwards, I will walk the dog before jumping into bed asap.

Because tomorrow is another day. xo.

 

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Comments 19

  1. Elizabeth W

    Brava and congrats on the new job! You’ll power through, I have faith!

    Meanwhile I’m heading to grad school, starting classes in a week! Whee!! Library science!!!!
    And looking for a job (something admin-ish to make a few bucks while I study)

    Hooray 2012!!! It’s going to be busy but I have faith in us!

  2. HapaMama

    I’d say you were pretty tough to begin with, Betty! And you will only get tougher. As they say, “What doesn’t kill you…” (oh, maybe I shouldn’t say that. But you know what I mean)

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    betty ming liu

    i’m back from the meeting. dog is walked, kid is fed. and i’m in bed typing this before i collapse. how nice to find you here with your comments.

    ivan, if i’m like students after the summer break, then this could be tricky. most of them come back fresh with high expectations. but then they crash because the work is so hard. the whining begins and they start dragging their butts around, which means i have to motivate them….oh. i see. hmm, this could be rough on my editor too.

    elizabeth, good for you! this is exciting. sounds like you’ll have big adjustments to make too. but as you say, we can do it!!

    and hapamama — haha. thanks. when i make it past this stage, the rite of passage will do wonders for my confidence. yeah, i know exactly what you mean.

    okay. it’s 10:38. i need to get some sleep. the wonder drug. good night and see you all in the morning. :)

    p.s. — covering the meeting was pretty interesting. it’s fun being out there again.

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    betty ming liu

    mj, look for me to start watching more tv. i’m already hooked on “modern family” but i need to expand…

    and laura, attending public hearings is standard fare for beat reporters. when you cover a town, territory or topic, those municipal-scheduled meetings are a gold mine. yeah, they can be incredibly boring because there’s so much local detail. then again, if there’s a controversial local issue, the meetings are terrific opportunities to do super-efficient reporting because everybody who’s anybody is there to speak out.

    when i was young, i HATED covering public hearings. but everything’s new again. i’m different too. i’ve married, divorced, bought and sold a few homes, and become a parent of a kid in public school. all these factors have me interested in budgetary, policy and infrastructure matters, which is what these meetings are usually about.

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    betty ming liu

    by the way, hope i made it clear that work hardening doesn’t go on forever. this is a stage, like exercising and getting into shape (which i need to do too). at some point, life will stabilize — on new terms. :)

  6. Diane

    Betty, congrats on the new gig and thanks for posting this entry, which is entirely applicable to my life right now. I’m also gearing up to return to work after taking a buyout from the News and being home with the kids, something I haven’t done since the three were born! Being home with them has been awesome, but now finances compel me to return to the job market, even if my head and heart aren’t quite there yet. A dose of ‘work hardening’ is something I’ll need! Thanks again for your wise insights.

  7. toby

    Betty: I sympathize! I’ve just been offered an adjunct post, teaching Western Civ 1 at Mercer College. I haven’t taught that in years so there’ll be a lot work hardening (or hard work) to do to at the outset. It will be fun though. Guess we both will be running a sleep deficit for a while.

  8. patty

    Betty,
    I know you, and my guess is you are trying to do it all! My advice: Just don’t do it! Also, it’s not like you were sittting around eating bon-bons for 16 tears….you wrote two books, published articles in newspapers and magazines, taught at like, what, three or four colleges, plus redid an entire house and you are raising a daughter as a single Mom. Sheesh! Give yourself a break. And BTW, I have no doubt you can do the job! Once a reporter, always a reporter!

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    betty ming liu

    so it’s the end of the day and i’m back home! i have to get used to the idea that i can’t be commenting on my blog on the company dime. but before i go to bed, i just wanted to check in with you all…..

    murielle, how did the job interview go? good luck!

    diane, when i quit the news, i swore i’d never go back to journalism. i really got to like being at home too. but we’re lucky because at least we had a chance to be full-time mommies. some parents never get that opportunity, right? like you, working — first teaching and now this new gig — is a financial reality. being back in the game has helped me realize one thing: as long as i’m learning new stuff and growing, meaningful work is worth the effort.

    toby — congrats on the new gig! when i stopped teaching, my shrink said that when he stopped teaching and went back to teach psychology, he enjoyed it more. he also taught differently because he was different. so hopefully this will be wonderful for you. but teaching, as you know, is indeed exhausting as well. as for sleep deprivation, i can’t do it that way. i’m already a wreck! it’s 9:58 p.m. now and i am determined to be in bed, lights off, before 10:30!!

    charlotte, thank you. i’m so glad that this “work hardening” post is helpful. good luck with the job hunt — and lucky you for having flex time now. :)

    patty, you know me too well. and i have taken your advice to heart. today, i just kind of threw up my hands and found one little thing to do at work, one project. bird by bird, right? and it helped. in that online class i took about getting organized, the instructor said the same thing: don’t try doing it all. so thanks for reinforcing that point — and for believing in me. it’s true, these past 16 years have been intensely busy. teaching is incredibly demanding and left me plenty exhausted too (as you well know, being such a great prof yourself). i already miss the flex time that it offered. but oh well, it’s onto new adventures. xox

    and now, i’m going to brush my teeth. good night!

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