I was reminded last week how quickly life can turn on a dime. As I was participating in a professional development session, I received a text message from my sister that her 12-hour-old newborn son was being transported to a children’s hospital because of some big health concerns. Being hours away from my sister and her family and feeling helpless, I was immediately distracted.
I was shocked.
I was hurt.
I was sad.
I was scared.
I was filled with numerous emotions all at the same time, and I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do next. Luckily, I was with a group of colleagues who helped me work through the shock of the news, and I knew after not to many minutes what I needed to do. I had to drop everything and go. A few quick phone calls to my sister and my ever-supportive husband took place, and I was on my way to help.
In processing all of this information, I made a bunch of split second decisions in a very short amount of time. One of those uncharacteristic decisions I made was to leave my family for an undetermined amount of time. I had no idea what I was going to encounter when I arrived to the hospital. I had no idea how long I was going to be gone. I cannot tell you how lucky I am to have such a loving and supportive husband to knew where I needed to be. They didn’t skip a beat at home while I was away, and deep down I knew they would be just fine.
Another uncharacteristic decision I made was to leave work. I just left. I never do that. It might be shameful to admit, but I rarely ever let go of work. I don’t ever want to let people down, nor do I want to disappoint or frustrate anyone with non-action. I knew by leaving that I was going to get behind in my work, and that drove me nuts as I thought about it on my long drive to see my sister. I thought about the professional development and learning I was missing. I thought about the meetings that were taking place without me. I thought about the emails that I was not answering, the phone messages I couldn’t return, and the people I was neglecting.
Then I arrived and saw this:
Suddenly, everything was re-prioritized and none of my worries mattered as much as taking care of my sister, brother-in-law, and that little boy. I needed to step in and help them cope with the news they were getting, ask questions of doctors they couldn’t think to ask, communicate with other friends and family not present, and simply keep my sister company while she sat and waited for test result after test result.
I think in all of the madness I learned an important lesson over the course of the last week: it’s okay to let go of things and shift priorities. Nothing is more important than your family or maintaining friendships with your close friends. In doing this, I had to realize that it’s okay to go without answering those pesky emails for a few hours or to miss a few meetings. I do not wish the last week’s worth of emotion on anyone, but I am thankful that this was put in front of me in a way that has caused me to pause and think about making some shifts. I have to come to terms with how I can be a good leader, and yet not be overcome with work.
…oh yes, and that sweet little boy…they are still working to find answers, but they found enough that he finally went home today. Life is good.