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Yesterday, I cleaned out even more of the old director’s office. I cataloged all the different types of documents. Meeting notes. Agendas. The 2011 Sewer Comprehensive Plan. Great reading, that. But then I came across some other items that didn’t fit neatly into the categories listed in the Washington State Disposition Authority Numbers, all 189 pages of them.

The director kept records on a person who had my job before me, back in 2014. He kept copies of all the invoices she sat on for 2 months before processing. He wrote notes on them like “Jean – I needed this last month”. Some had crossed out totals. She did them wrong, something I do every once in awhile even now. Projects come with specific allocations, like 64% of the cost goes to the water department and 36% to the street department. All of this sat grouped together in a medium-sized binder clip.

Then I found another pile.  In this stack he had copies of Jean’s timesheets. Several months had a “time without pay”, meaning Jean had used up all her sick time. Other notes included: “Jean called at 6:17 a.m. Out sick today.” Another in green pen: “7:15 a.m. Jean’s cat is sick, and now Jean feels sick, too.”

I’d only met Jean a couple of times before she left, while I worked on the shelter project. She knew a lot about grants and projects, intimidatingly so. I cleaned out Jean’s desk when I moved into her space about 18 months ago. When you go through things a person left behind, you get a better idea of who they were. Jean had some great files set up for P.O.s and receipts. She enforced the small works roster processes and made sure she collected the requisite quotes for new items. She revised the Purchasing Manual. But then I found lots of articles on burnout. And her emails, also remaining, revealed a tone that said she’d had enough.

See, Jean had been fully immersed. She had run full-tilt when the City had tons of projects going all at once. She knew her place and how to get things done. Yet along the way, she found herself asked to do more with less. She got a new manager and they didn’t get along. She hung in there for a couple of years, cut to half time due to budget constraints. Then she moved on.

It costs something to submerge into a world. I have been Jean in a former life. I routinely deep dove into projects when I worked at IDC. I had to. I owned all the documents save the record drawings. Letters, telephone conversation records, RFIs, submittals, stick files, all ended with me. I tracked them and logged them, even cajoled engineers to return them to me in a timely fashion. I boxed the entire project up after the postmortem. I logged it all and shipped it offsite to storage for 7 years. Then, I started again with a new one.

I hit burnout, too. Only I didn’t know it.

When Jonathon got his first teaching job in Reedsport, I quit my job. We moved to a tiny town on the central Oregon coast. I didn’t work. I stayed home and watched TV on our one fuzzy channel we could get. I spun my wheels as the rain poured down. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was a human doing, not a human being. Took awhile for God to get my attention.

Total immersion is fun while you’re in it. I loved being part of a team and watching a campus of buildings arise and knowing I had a hand in it all. Just don’t forget who you are, and Whose you are. Because jobs end. Circumstances change. God’s love for you doesn’t.

 

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