If I had time to write this post earlier in the day, you would be reading a very different post.
You would be reading a post about how I love Valentine’s Day. How even if you’re single, it’s a chance to wish your friends/family/loved ones a special day. How if you’re a single, it’s a chance to pamper yourself and make the day all about the things you love. This morning, I sent Starbucks gift cards to my parents and my best friends, letting them know how much I appreciate them and wanted them to have a special day. Tonight, I planned to hit the gym for an extra long session, eat a healthy dinner, get a massage, and then take some time to relax with a book or some TV. That would pamper me more than any flowers / dinner date could, and I was pretty psyched about my plans for the night.
But then I started hearing rumors about getting dinner at a beer bar. I IMed the analyst who was coordinating the dinner, and asked if I could just meet up with them for a drink after dinner instead. I figured that was the best of both worlds – I could still do most of what I had planned, but I’d also make my appearance for a drink at the end of the night. unfortunately, it was then that I learned that this was not just some people getting together because they didn’t want to eat dinner alone. No, this was being termed a “team dinner”, aka something I was required to attend. (To be clear: “required” does not mean an actual commitment; rather, “required” in consulting means, “if you don’t do this we can’t actually put it in your review or yell at you for not doing it, but we will sure as heck never staff you again, and no explanation is needed to do that”).
Never mind that we have another official “team dinner” scheduled for tomorrow. In the interest of being a “team player,” I had to cancel my massage appointment, skip the gym, and eat bar food I really wasn’t in the mood for. I probably should have made the best of it and grabbed a brew that I hadn’t yet tried (they actually had a pretty extensive list). Instead, I had ice water, and I sulked (okay, not proud of that). I knew that we’d be going to a beer bar tomorrow night as well, and that tomorrow is likely to be a big late night, since it’s the rolloff party for one of our team members. But with that in mind: I’m sorry, I’m not 21 years old and fresh out of college anymore. I don’t want to go drinking every night – especially when it’s not because I want to drink, but because I have to follow the crowd.
I mean, I get why these team norms matter. It’s important to build personal relationships with your coworkers – it makes you a stronger team in the office. And it’s important to make your coworkers feel comfortable with you, and feel like you fit in. (Hence why I felt guilty about ordering water when everyone else ordered beer… and thank you to the waiter for poking fun at me for doing so. I really appreciate your calling the entire table’s attention to that). But when it’s 10:30pm and I have to be at work at 8am the next day, I do not want to go bar hopping just to prove that I am cool and can hang.
I hate that I’m judged not just on the quality of my work, but on how fun I am outside of the office and how many beers I can put back while still showing up for work the next morning. Once in a while, not getting hungover is a great skill to have (and it has saved my butt). But I don’t want to have to demonstrate that every night, as the circles under my eyes get darker and the tire around my waist gets bigger. I want sleep. I want exercise. I want healthy food. Those are the things that prevent me from getting burnt out too quickly – not drinking to “relieve the stress.” Because drinking? Is what often causes me stress.
So thanks, work, for being the worst Valentine ever. Can I have a Valentine’s do-over?