What happens if you’re a world class conductor and health problems prevent you from doing your job? James Levine, conductor of the Boston Symphony and the New York Metropolitan Opera is finding that out. He’s missed opening performances — and an indeterminate number hereafter — for surgery on a herniated disc.
And this isn’t the first time Maestro Levine has missed work due to poor health. In 2006, he was out for 4 months after falling on stage when he was responding to standing ovations (no kidding!) In 2008, he was out for the season due to kidney cancer.
The good news for him, though, is that his jobs, at least for now, are apparently not in jeopardy. Guest conductors have been scheduled to fill in.
Maybe it’s the work I do or the life I’ve led. But when I hear about physical problems and time missed from work, I’m curious.
I was buying a pillow today and the saleswoman was limping. Empathizing as I watched her seem to struggle to get around, I commented that it must be hard to be on her feet all day. She smiled and told me it’s actually a “bad” hip and today was a “good” day. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis and her hip has been a problem for several years.
Explaining that the doctor says she needs a hip replacement, she asked, “But who can take the time?” Obviously not a sales associate in a national department store chain, I thought.
She said that because of the RA, she ends up taking a few days off at a time every few months. Her manager has a sister with RA and is very understanding. She never takes vacation because she takes all her vacation time as sick time!
But surgery and a minimum of 6 weeks of recovery would be unpaid leave. And she can’t afford that. At least, “Not as long I can still walk”.
I’m guessing that Maestro Levine doesn’t have those worries – at least not to that degree. But, after 3 seasons of problems, does he worry what his employers think? Does he wonder if they question whether he’s a malingerer? That’s a response many of the people I speak with get when they have numerous health problems. (I really doubt it since you don’t get to his level of achievement without being very driven. )
Maybe he’s worrying they want to replace him for a healthier guy. I wouldn’t blame him if he is. But, I doubt this, too. He’s very very good at what he does and I’d guess, worth the wait. I bet they’re just hoping this headache will to resolve itself soon.
But what this must be like for him? To be at the pinnacle of your career only to find that your body misbehaving! It’s got to be tremendously frustrating. It must be jarring after a lifetime of activity and success.
My take away? Illness is never easy to manage when you’re trying to keep living your life. But it is easier to keep your job when you’re at the top or if you’re not easily replaceable.
But no matter how you slice it, it’s always difficult to miss the performance.
Is your employer showing patience with your chronic health problems?