100 days

Two of my former co-workers notified me that our office instant message service has declared that it has been 100 days since I logged in. That means, I have not been to work in 100 days.

With my anthropology background, I find it interesting that the 100-day mark caught their attention and that they both contacted me about it. One friend suggested I look up the significance of 100 days; the other friend suggested I write a blog post to commemorate the event as a possibly therapeutic process. I’ll do both.

The passage of 100 days is significant to people around the world, but I did not find analysis of why it is significant. My guess: the number 100 is important mathematically and mathematicians were crunching numbers prior to the Babylonians and Egyptians. Mathematicians have likely been teaching the general population about the significance of the number 100 since before recorded history. Look around and it’s not 100 days that are significant, but 100 anything. 100 degrees Celsius is water’s boiling point, 100 kilometers above sea level is the end of Earth’s atmosphere, 100 years is a century, and the number 100 is an easy-to-remember emergency phone number in multiple countries, like 911 is used in the US.

Focusing only on the significance of 100 days, I see that my friends were dialed right in. I made a list of some of the ways in which 100 days are significant:

  • Buddhists have a prayer ceremony 100 days after a death, and this also may be a long-lost Catholic tradition.
  • Schools celebrate 100 days of learning.
  • 100 days following a bone marrow and stem cell transplant is a milestone.
  • Napoleon’s final military campaign in 1815 was called The 100 Days.
  • The 100-day moving average is a method of analyzing the health of a particular stock.
  • Chinese babies have a celebration when they are 100 days old.
  • American zoos wait 100 days when naming baby pandas.
  • Films called 100 Days include a 1991 Hindi murder mystery and a 2001 film about genocide in Rwanda.
  • There is a book called 100 Days in which a teenager has a rare disease and 100 days left to live.
  • People set goals of 100 days to bring awareness, to do art projects, to lose weight, to make money.
  • The first 100 days of an American Presidency is considered a landmark.

The question I ask myself today is “How are my first 100 days away from work significant to me?” Honestly, until my friends pointed it out, I wasn’t even paying attention to the timeline. So in that sense, not significant at all.

I miss my job. I love the job. I miss figuring out the puzzles every day. I miss both having a tight enough knowledge of the law that I can recall the regulations from memory, and I miss searching through the laws and court cases till I find exactly what I need. I love writing my decisions. I love finding new medical evidence and pointing it out to an overworked doctor, putting the pieces together for them, so all they have to do is recognize what I’m trying to do and either agree or disagree. I like volunteering for the totally confusing screwed up cases that have been ignored for two years because nobody can figure it out. I miss serving people.

I’m still mad at myself for failing at my job. I left for medical reasons that are not my fault, but I still feel like I failed. Because. I did.

Yes, people I used to work with still love me, and probably nobody blames me for forcing them to take over work I was supposed to do. The fact remains that I can’t do my job while other people can. Just because my decision was valid doesn’t make it comfortable. It sucks. It’s hard for me to tell myself “Well, I’m sick, I had to leave the job,” because that feels too much like blaming my problems on something else. Also it’s very hard for me to accept that I’m sick. I don’t want it to be true.

Either I’m sick and that prevented me from doing my job, or I’m not that sick and I simply failed. Both options bite.

I suspect that once I’ve found my new path/career/plan, I’ll be able to put my last job into the right context. In 2003 I left my job after 11 years as a weather forecaster with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to go to University for the first time. Once I embraced my role of student, I was glad I had left weather forecasting. In September, I left my job as a disability benefits decision-maker with the Department of Veteran Affairs after 11 years. Eleven years must be my auspicious number, rather than 100 days!

I have remained the same person during the past 100 days. I adore my same friends, I get excited over visits with Tara, I nerd out about all the same nerdy things, I still go for walks around my property, I can’t stand grocery shopping, I love my kitty, I whine about the cold, I drive into Portland to catch shows, I plan future travels. Without the job, I am the same woman.

So just maybe…maybe a word like “failure” is much too grand for my story, and the truth is merely that I used to work there, and now I don’t. After 100 days away from work, I’m marking that event by recognizing that who I am might inform how I do my job, but is not shaped by what that job is, or whether I even have one. I am grateful that my friends told me about this milestone and prompted me to think about it. It’s no great ceremony, but it does give me hope and confidence.

21 thoughts on “100 days

  1. Wow! 100 days not slogging through a day of emotional turmoil. There are so many jobs that have an incredible turnover and burnout. Eleven years is a long time to be run through the ringer no matter how great the cause and it was a worthy cause. You did good work while you were there. No need to beat yourself up because you have a heart. I felt very much the same after giving up on a marriage of 24 years that was sucking the life out of me. Yes, felt like a failure but I could do absolutely nothing to fix what was broken where I worked. Very much like a bad job. Sometimes you just gotta walk away and save yourself. Be proud. You still have time to do so much good work once you restore. Giant hugs. Now, go celebrate your freedom. 😉

    1. Marlene, I LOVE your analogy. It’s like a marriage that isn’t working anymore. Yes, you can stay, but if it’s sucking the life out of you…why would you stay? It was the same in my job. We were not a good match for each other, even though we gave it a good, long try.

      Three cheers for freedom!

  2. My Dearest Cousin,
    We’ve been taught from an early age that a job uncomplete in a failure. I ask those that taught us that, how can we complete a job that has no end?
    The number one priority in your life is you. Take care of you and all else will fall into place.
    Love you dearly.

    1. I hadn’t thought of that, how our perspective is challenged with a job that has no end. I’ve gone and others have stepped in and it has made no difference in the minds of the customers. And when those people move on, others will step in, for all eternity maybe. 😉 So when is the right time to stop in that case? You are right that our culture has not trained us for that.

      I am taking care of me, but I can always use more love. Thank you for your neverending love. Hugs. (I hope to see you guys very soon!!)

  3. “I used to work there, and now I don’t.” Yep, this rounds it up just right. Happy new 100 days, and then another, and then another, until the year is up and the new one begins. Or better, happy moments that make the days. I know that you know how to enjoy them.

  4. I don’t think you failed. After 11 years you got your life back. With more than 22 years work experience, I’m pretty sure you will soon have another better offer. But of course there is always that brief moment of “blank mind” where you kick yourself a bit and ask “what next?” It’s normal. You will be fine.

    1. Add 4 years in the Air Force and I have 26 total years of federal government service! Only a few more years to retirement. I’m in a good place.

      I appreciate your reassurance. I will be fine. Thank you.

      1. “Retirement” is just a word that means the labour dept thinks you’re tired. People who are passionate never truly retire. With an Anthropology degree, there are opportunities in many private international relief orgs/ngo’s/development agencies etc.

        I know I will work into my 80s.

        N: I have sent you an email.

      2. “Retirement” to me means I’ll get a stipend and am free to work wherever I want to, instead of plodding along with nose to the grindstone and not worry about whether I’m earning enough to pay the mortgage.

  5. I left a couple of jobs in my life where I felt like I had failed, Crystal, and burned some significant bridges along the way. Still, life goes on. There are always new challenges and new places to make a contribution. I think of you and your work with the Cherokee. My closed doors have always led to new opportunities. –Curt

    1. Thanks for your optimistic support, Curt. I also have found the same thing in my life when a door closes. It makes me start looking in other directions, and viola! I spot another open door.

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