I’m a crier, always have been. When tear ducts were handed out, I must have grabbed more than my fair share. It doesn’t take much to set me off and I think my eyes are cleansed multiple times each week for sad, glad and mad reasons.
I’m also a professional. I work in an office and deal with a variety of colleagues. I am fairly well paid and do my job effectively, efficiently and professionally. Most colleagues who I only see at work would probably not know I am a crier. As a rule my work generally doesn’t involve much emotion. It’s all numbers and spreadsheets and black and white decision making.
But…a few weeks back I cried at work. It wasn’t a few discreet tears, it was tears pouring out of my eyes and unable to stop crying… the type I usually reserve for a something particularly sad. Without going into detail of the circumstances too specifically I’ll try to explain what happened… I had been asked to attend this meeting at another location to my workplace…it was still part of my workplace but a different site. It felt ominous. I was in a meeting that was video linking to other meetings across the country so all staff in similar circumstances to me could attend simultaneously. In the room I was in, there was a colleague I see a couple of times a year and a Senior Manager who I knew but didn’t work with and a HR person with a reputation for only being at meetings when there was bad news….and there was bad news. It affected me and all of my colleagues and the minute the news started coming through I just knew that my working life as I knew it would never be the same…and the tears came. I didn’t choose to cry. In fact, if I had my time over I definitely would have preferred that the tears didn’t come. It felt weak and stupid. I stared at a black dot on the white board as hard as I could, trying desperately to stop the tears, and then someone in another room and in another part of the country would ask a question and I’d hear their voice wavering, the emotion right on the edge of their words and the tears kept coming. And I didn’t want a comforting pat from the HR rep and I didn’t want anyone to look at me and no I didn’t want tissues. I just wanted to stop crying and I bloody well couldn’t.
You see, crying comes easy to me. I can sit here typing this and be reminded of numerous occasions when I cried, both specifically and generally. I often joke that I would have a weekly Thursday night cry as a young girl watching ‘Little House on the Prairie’, it was almost a given. I recall seeing the movie ‘Gallipoli’ when I was younger with my grandparents and remember this as the only time I ever saw my Poppa cry and seeing him cry made the movie even more poignant, so I was a mess.
I recall happy tears too. I distinctly remember taking my eldest daughter to see Hi-5 on stage. She must have been about 4 and as we sat in the audience and Hi-5 came on stage she looked at me with such awe and wonderment as if to say ‘Mum, they’re really there…not just on the screen’ and tears slid down my cheeks because I knew she was so happy and it made me happy.
Some of the best tears are the laugh out loud until you almost can’t breathe variety and I recently had one of those moments with my Mum and sisters. We laughed so hard we were doubled over and just about rolling around. Tears were streaming out of our eyes and we couldn’t even speak and then someone would say one word and we’d be off again. They’re the kind of tears I love… and the memory of them brings a huge smile to my face… You are possibly wondering what it was that set us off and to be honest the re-telling of the story wouldn’t do it justice. It was one of those ‘you had to be there moments’.
Driving to work today, Chrissie and Jane on the radio were talking about Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the tears she shed as she brought NDIS legislation to parliament. Hearing them discuss workplace crying is the reason I decided to write this piece, and I bloody well cried listening to people call up with their stories; the lady who cried singing the goodbye song with her pre-schoolers, the celebrant who had to perform a wedding for a bride whose father had died the night before. More tears slid down my cheeks for people I don’t know… My tear ducts just react to things like that.
When I heard that Julia Gillard had cried in Parliament yesterday I didn’t even need to know what the subject was to know that she would be judged. I saw tweets suggesting they were ‘crocodile tears’ and a newspaper report that the stress of the budget had got to her. It annoyed me no end. I have great admiration for Julia Gillard and have always thought she is one tough cookie and more than capable. I see some of the things she puts up with and can’t believe she doesn’t just throw her hands up and say “for f*cks sake”. I think that’s what I would do. I’ve since heard snippets of the tearful speech she was making and thought about how monumental it was. I have never done anything that affects hundreds of thousands of people’s lives, and not only affects them, gives them opportunity and hope. It makes me glassy eyed to think of how that must feel to know that you are involved in improving the lives of so many. Politics gets pretty nasty and petty and mean spirited and fighting over this road or that railway and then something like NDIS comes along. To legislate something like that into law, knowing it will change so many lives for the better would overwhelm me. It must have felt like a moment of ‘this is why I do what I do’ and I say kudos to the Prime Minister. Emotion can be strong and all encompassing. It doesn’t mean you are less of a person or weak, it means you are human. And it doesn’t mean you are more or less equipped to perform your job.
After my meeting where I cried I was concerned I would be seen as weak or unprofessional but seeing the Prime Minister cry reassured me that tears in the workplace are not weak or unprofessional. Tears just show that things mean a lot and you care about things that happen in your professional life. We spend a lot of our life at our workplace. I’d prefer it if I had more “laugh out loud tears streaming out my eyes” type events at work and less of the “shit’s hitting the fan and life’s about to change” type tears. The person you are during the hours you work is the same person you are in your non work time. I’m a crier, and occasionally, I might cry at work…