When I first heard about a large company-wide trip, I assumed it would be a local excursion over a weekend. Possibly a “camp” nearby on the Cape or a few hours north or south of us here in Boston. Not long after finding out about the trip, a few coworkers asked if I would be heading overseas with the group.

“Wait, where?” I inquired. “Overseas?!”

I cried, so excited at the idea of “me time.” Time — for the first time. This trip wouldn’t be for me as “mom” or for any of my other co-identities. This would simply be for me — on my own. 

I was further excited by the place where we would be staying and the promise of getting to know my amazing co-workers better. The planned day trips looked spectacular. And the food — my goodness, the food.

As we got closer and closer to the date of the trip, a series of scheduled medical check-ins turned into additional doctor appointments due to recent health concerns. More tests, more bloodwork, more CT scans. This, naturally, led to stress with childcare and other home-based responsibilities. I questioned the timing of it all — was it really in my best interest to spread myself so thin?

I had recently come to terms with a whole host of necessary lifestyle changes due to my health. For a myriad of reasons in my own personal world — and in the world at large — I realized the timing wasn’t right, and it simply didn’t make sense for me to go on the trip.

“I gotta put me first! I gotta put me first!” That echoed through my mind, the virality of Cookie’s infamous speech to Lucious ringing true in the very innermost parts of my soul. 

I spent sleepless nights, thinking about the consequences and ramifications of saying “no.” Who would I disappoint? How would I manage all the things? How would this affect my work relationships? How would I assist in running everything from afar? The foundation of all my concerns was truly the invisible load, with all my many roles and identities colliding and making the balancing act impossible.

If I went on the trip, would I even enjoy it? Would I be able to relax? It is still a work trip, after all. In my current state, can I truly pull this off? Incorporating some new personal goals while balancing obligations that lived in my head and pulled me across the pond, in the direction of the trip, I came to my final question: Is it in my best interest to say yes to the trip? The answer was “no.”

Simply put, it wasn’t. Would it have been possible for me to attend the trip? Sure. Can I find joy in almost every situation? Absolutely. Can I ground myself and find the space to breathe, find calm, and relax no matter where I am? Of course. (Especially given the tantalizing surroundings associated with that “time away.”) All that said, though, the reality was this: If I wasn’t fully vested in the trip, it didn’t make sense to go.

The guilt at saying no weighed heavy. But after speaking with my manager I realized why I chose this company. I had received so much support and encouragement to do what was right for me — medical, and otherwise. I needed to put me first. Work and jobs come and go. Health is paramount, as is wellness — and, above all, family. Echoing Cookie’s words and sentiments, my commitment to me had to come first. “I gotta put me first.” Everything else will fall into place, in its own time.

Amber Michele
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Amber has lived in the Greater Boston area for double digits now. In previous years she spent her time commuting for auditions and SAG-AFTRA work between New York City and Boston. In May 2020, she became a mom to her daughter, who has kept her on her toes - and brings her joy ever since. Constantly on the lookout for "ways to elevate her every day," and yours too, she completed her yoga teacher training in 2021. An important reminder to find and create movement each and every day. Which is easy enough, with her love for - and a household full of music. From Biggie to Beethoven, to Billie Holiday and beyond, there's always sounds and dance parties to be had. Always keeping an eye out for creative adventures in and around New England, Amber will jump at any chance to visit the local farms to see the goats and simply be outdoors. Otherwise, she's often found by the window, calligraphy pen in hand, practicing her favorite craft. After enjoying a hiatus from the restaurant & hospitality industry while being a SAHM mom, Amber is currently working — and learning — in the world of tech. Amber will always hype: brunch and simply ALL food, dancing — even in the grocery store, travel and any chance to be at the beach. You can miss her with: cold wet weather (even though she was born in January?!) and horror movies. Look for more thoughts and musings from Amber at www.DivAmber.com.