I used to think that I was defined by my work. Regardless of what was going on in my personal life, my career accomplishments defined who I was as a person and how successful I was. To me, it was perfectly acceptable to sacrifice personal relationships in the name of vocational success.
My warped perception of success had its advantages; once I had cleared all personal distractions out of my life, I found great success in my career. I was able to devote myself to my work 100% and was continuously met with the approval of others who relied upon me. I was incredibly efficient and my passion and dedication were admired by my co-workers.
It also had its disadvantages. Because I was so immersed in my work, I was unable to have personal time. Even when I had nothing else going on, I was unable to allow myself to participate in any leisure activity that would remove me from my phone and email. If for some reason I did allow myself to relax, I felt guilty if I was in a situation that did not allow me to answer my phone or respond to an email with astonishing immediacy.
Additionally, several months into my job I was met with extreme burnout. I was physically exhausted and depressed and my dedication and passion for my job disappeared. I went from being completely immersed in my work to wanting nothing to do with it. Whenever I did receive and email or a phone call (especially outside of office hours), I felt angry and resentful towards the company and towards my co-workers, most of whom were not intending to incite any feelings of contempt.
Because I had ignored my personal obligations and built up my work life, I felt that I had nobody to whom I could turn for advice or a temporary escape from my career. My desire to excel in my career had spread through the fabric of my life like a cancer. Angry, depressed and alone, I was essentially on the precipice of a breakdown.
The breakdown happened last month, but it was nowhere near as dramatic or exciting as the word “breakdown” implies. In short, I had an epiphany that caused me to realize the importance of balance. Evidently, I am not the kind of person who actually gets satisfaction from working 24/7; I enjoy spending time with my friends and family and my hobbies make me happy. To continue being “on” all of the time would most likely result in a future breakdown that much more closely resembles those which occur in movies.
Most importantly, I was able to realize that the career that I had picked was not what I want to pursue after school. Although I’ve had the opportunity to work on wonderful projects with fantastically talented individuals, this was not the lifestyle that was healthy for me. I enjoy arts administration but it is not my ultimate passion. It no longer lights me up. And for that realization, I am eternally grateful. Although I felt that my world was imploding, I was ultimately able to come to an understanding about myself that transcended my mindset and I will be able to walk away in a much better place and with a much higher level of self-awareness.