Years ago, I had a colleague who often gave me pause. She crosses my mind still, even though it’s been some time since I’ve seen her. Why?
Because the way she approached things at work had a big effect on me, and I still feel that effect from time to time, in my library job and in my writing. What could this person possibly have done or said to make such a lasting impression?
She sweated the small stuff. Almost constantly.
We all know the old adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” It’s how I’ve always tried to live. In other words, don’t worry about the little things. In my experience, many of those little things are often ones we can’t help. We might work harder or toil for longer hours or provide feedback to decision makers, but it doesn’t mean those little things that vex us will change.
When I met this former co-worker, I realized she was the sort who thrived on conflict. Every issue was blown up, and every conversation became a debate. I would walk away from our encounters completely exhausted and deflated. I began to dread running into her because there was never anything good to say about the day.
Her approach began to filter into my own consciousness. I began to, well, sweat the small stuff. It didn’t make me a better person. It certainly didn’t make me a happier person, or even a more efficient employee. It just made me miserable.
I had to learn how to tactfully extricate myself from those conversations. A few times, I even gently confronted her and suggested there might be other ways of looking at things.
But, as we all know, we can’t change other people, and certainly not if that person is receiving some sort of emotional payoff for acting a certain way.
However, I could change my approach and did.
Every so often, while writing, I sweat the small stuff as well. I torture myself with endless questions and criticisms. Very often, this sort of inner dialogue has stopped me from finished a manuscript. There’s really no point. I’ve learned the best thing I can do is finish the story, take a good breather and then give myself permission to analyze some of those little problems.
I had to remove that colleague from my consciousness and I fight every day to remove her from my writing as well. She shouldn’t have that effect on my writing, but her negativity certainly had an effect on me. As artists and creators, we must struggle against enough negativity as it is. We shouldn’t be adding our own voices to that chorus.
The small stuff will always be there and there will always be someone who feels the need to sweat over it.
I refuse to be that person.