“There’s no crying in baseball.” Tom Hanks' cranky coach declared in "A League of Their Own".
The phrase resonated with me for years. I wanted to be one of those female pioneers taking on a world where you needed to be tough and make life work.
For me there was no crying on Broadway. I took my punches early in my career and I sucked up whatever negative emotions I was feeling daily.
When I went through a difficult part of my personal life, I hid it like a squirrel hides their nuts. I took shelter in my job because if I couldn’t be good at my life, dammit, I could excel at this excel spreadsheet. I worked through many things in retrospect I wished I hadn’t. I wish I had just called it and been real about how I felt.
I cried the day I found out my mother had a stroke, but I also worked late that night before I drove home to be with her. While gone, I continued to check my email. Also, I was sure to to be back at work the next day. I will remember that day I spent with my mom in the hospital forever. I cannot for the life of me tell you what the hell I was working on before or after.
What was I so concerned about that I needed so urgently to wrap up that I couldn’t fully be in the moment at my mother’s bedside?
Why are we asked to hide the parts of us that are the most human when we are at work? Would being openly vulnerable ruin our chances at a successful career?
I once asked my boss, Cynthia, whose emotional stability I continue to admire more and more, how she handled crying at work?
“Go through your day. Be professional and kind. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated and occasionally shut your door and cry when you need to”, she told me, offering sage advice once again.
I agree with her on many levels. But I have no door to close right now. I work in an open office and recently cried on a balcony. The balcony is a common area we share, in our shared work space. Why I was crying is a little irrelevant. I think I was stressed and exhausted and was having a moment. I had tried to disguise the streaks of tears from peering eyes, but honestly, I am super pale and it's a battle I will always lose.
A co-worker noticed and checked in on me yesterday. Immediately I felt embarrassed. Then I thought, “This isn’t baseball”. Then, I did something revolutionary, I told him the truth about what I felt and how I was doing. Immediately, I felt better.
Look, we all have those days where we feel frustrated or sad. I understand why it’s important to be professional and neutral on many levels. But it should also be ok to be human every now and again.
I have never thought less of anyone for shedding a tear. I will say the constant showing of intense emotion is concerning. You can be your own judge. Keep yourself in check as needed.
Crying is nothing more than a release of what words cannot say. It’s something that comes when you least expect it and has occurred when I have been both happy and sad.
Every day at work (and in life) is a new chance to be better than you were the day before. Just remember to be true to who you are and how you feel.
Someday we will all get to be genuine in the workplace, just know that that may require tissues.