From childhood, we are taught to (A) place on our plate only that which we can finish and (B) to finish that which we have placed upon our plate. In modernity, perhaps such a “rule” is no longer applicable or enforced?
The old ways are often from habits ensconced from experience — of the Great Depression where scarcity, and even the fear of it, perpetuated a need to be frugal; of limited supply resulting in a greater appreciation of delights, and thus of a punctilious attention to avoid wastefulness; and of a wider deference for fairness, that others should share in the bounty presented.
In older days, to delight in a bottle of coke (yes, those little vintage bottles placed in ice, where cane sugar was used and not corn syrup) once in a year was a treat, whereas nowadays many people addictively drink an extra-large coke every day, leading to the rise of diabetes and making this country the greatest exporter of obesity around the globe.
But back to the metaphor of the “full plate”: From childhood, we are taught never to walk away without finishing what is put on our plate. As we grow older, the metaphor of the full plate turns a different meaning — of the day’s work, the chores before us, the various responsibilities throughout the day. It has become ingrained in us that we “must” finish what is put on our plates.
This is similar to the idea that police officers retain, in error, that every encounter with conflict must be resolved then and there — often resulting in making decisions which, in retrospect, might have turned out otherwise had you just walked away from it and came back to the problem later. That is where modernity fails in its approach to life: Not every full plate has to be clean at the end of the day, both metaphorically and practically.
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are struggling to get through the day because of a chronic medical condition which no longer allows the Federal or Postal employee to continue in their careers because of a disabling health condition, that long-held sense of duty and responsibility that the “full plate” — a metaphor representing the sense that one’s job must be endured no matter what — must be finished, may need to be abandoned.
One’s health should always be a priority, in the end, and preparing an effective FERS Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may be the only and best option left. Yes, it is okay sometimes to not finish the full plate. Yes, it is okay to sometimes leave things unfinished. Metaphorically or practically, it is sometimes the best thing to do — to leave the plate unconsumed.
Robert R. McGill
Lawyer exclusively representing Federal and Postal employees to secure their Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.