After a year and a half of being out of work, I re-entered the 9 to 5 cult. You’d think I’d be well prepared and well rested for it… but then again, most people think being on chemotherapy makes you lose weight.

I was not prepared for people. I think that was the most surprising thing for me. The people and the collaboration. I had spent the past year and a half around people, sure, but mainly in my contained bubble. After all, germs were scary, and people carried germs, so it was best to not go near new people with new germs.

Somehow, not being around people and collaborating with them and, well, working with them, made me turn into a bit of a hermit. I was a little terrified to speak my mind or share ideas. While I had done my best to keep up with what was going on in my industry, I was still rusty – and I was a lot slower than my pre-cancer self. I didn’t feel like I belonged. I was having an extreme case of imposter syndrome and had to do my very best to keep calm, cool, and collected because I depended on the insurance from this job.

But it was draining. I felt like I was never quick enough with a joke, or I had missed out on some pop culture reference – but really I felt like I couldn’t relate to people anymore. It was lonely on the outside of a close-knit work crew.

After that job, I vowed that at my next job I would make more of an effort – somehow.  But it was a similar thing – my attempts/wanting to relate to people would affect my work, but if I focused on my work, then I looked like the asshole who was too good to make friends. So instead of continuing to try to make a square peg fit into a round hole, I focused on how I wanted to work.

I knew I could work with people and relate to people on occasion, but it was draining to do all day. Whenever I was working from home, I was always my best. At first, I thought – oh, I’ll just be a consultant and find clients. That will be great! Then I realized that’s an awful idea because then I’d have to find clients.

However – choosing my own hours and working from home appealed to me. It’s safe to say cancer brought out my love for sweat pants. So I did some research and learned I could work as a contractor and partner with agencies. I’d still make my own hours and work from home, but I wouldn’t have to find clients. While it may not be the traditional path I thought I wanted, it’s the one that works best for me. It allows me to feel like I can be sociable (a few times a month) and lets me focus on what I’m getting paid to do.

The morale of the story is: don’t feel like you need to jump in where you left off. Cancer changes you – embrace the change rather than fight it, and you’ll find yourself happier.

Learning to Work Again

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