As I sat in a plastic chair waiting for the doctors to decide what to do with me and for them to remove the plastic maple-syrup-esq tap plugged into my arm, I thought: “This is it. I’m done. It’s time to stop.”
And a little over a week later, I followed through on that promise and told my boss that I’ll be resigning at the end of this year.
(That is a sound of both joy and terror)
There’s nothing like a trip to the Emergency Room to make you reassess your life choices.
Admittedly, being in the ER made me feel more like 7 than 27 and I was experiencing slight shame for craving a parent to come take care of me. But even so, it was clear that I was overwhelmed, tired, and thoroughly fed up. The fact is, I had no reason to be surprised that I had ended up in the hospital. Later when I would talk to my doctor, it would become almost embarrassingly clear that I have been paving the path for this collapse for quite some time.
For at least two years, I have been feeling exhaustion all the way down to my toe hairs – and when I shave them, they grow back more tired.
Two point five years ago, I moved to the suburbs outside of Washington, DC for an administrative assistant job at a climate nonprofit. I had been working at a salon and spa for the nearly 3 years I’d been out of college and immediately jumped at the opportunity to leave my unfulfilled existence for a job that barely covered my rent. The other point of my desperation came from 8 months of chronic pain and fatigue from a genetic disorder I had recently discovered.
After so many months of feeling trapped by my health and a job I was uninspired by, the low paying but promising climate job felt like a millennial miracle. I was on my way to save the planet and had been able to skip over the barista prerequisite so many of my peers had been unable to avoid. Ultimately that experience, while valuable and eye opening, was not the right fit for me and aggravated the health symptoms I thought I had run away from.
So I quit, and no one was more surprised than me when I made that announcement. But, I knew there was a better fit out there and my gut was telling me it was time to jump.
For as long as I can remember, I have had this deep, guttural sense of direction. To be clear, not the type of direction that helps me when I drive, because it’s not a matter of if I’ll get lost, but an absolute matter of when.
That being said, there is some sort of magic compass somewhere in my center and when I choose to listen to it, it unfailingly points me in the right direction. I haven’t always been the most disciplined listener, but when I do, nothing short of magic transpires. And magic really showed up for me the summer of 2017 when I took an internship that transformed into an incredible job with incredible co-workers.
In the early days at this organization, I used to practically skip with pep on my way to the metro. I was zinged with excitement and the feeling of belonging. But in all that connection and despite working with – truly – the absolutely best people on this planet, there has been a steep price.
My health began screaming out at me this past spring, begging for a slow down, pause, or any other type of relief. Can you guess what my solution was? (Reminder: this story began with a trip to the ER).
I chose not to listen to that very cranky internal compass. After all, I was raised on the work hard and walk off pain idolatry and had no intention of breaking from tradition. The result, unfortunately, wasn’t just that my health plummeted, but the pep and zing for my job evaporated too. The lesson here is that when you don’t pay the bill, you also end up having to pay interest.
I largely ignored the growing fatigue and creeping aches because I felt that those things were temporary. My job, however, deserved my full attention and I needed to bring my best (and slightly overachieving) self to that work every day. After all, I am entering my late twenties and according to my fellow millennials (especially the DC ones) I need ambition, drive, and the ability to work myself past death in order to inch forward.
I was already known for being the first person in the office and the last to leave, but I never stopped to question what all of this work was inching me towards. That is, until I was in the ER.
Maybe it was the bag of fluids piped into me or staring at the blood drops sprinkled on the floor, but for the first time in what felt like months, I was motivated to think, reflect, and ultimately conclude that it was time for me to do what that compass had long been shouting – it’s time to stop.
Now, I am not saying that anyone else should follow my methodology – especially the ER part. But I do know that listening to that inner voice, compass, guide – whatever it is – is the key to wellness; at least it is for me. I believe that had I listened to myself a little bit sooner, I could have planned a more cohesive transition plan, rather than having to drop everything at once because my body is too exhausted to recover.
Since I first learned of this disorder, I have prioritized my career and have put my health at the bottom of the priority list. Whenever symptoms acted up, I tried to shove them down and push through.
I am giving myself permission to prioritize myself, which is something that still feels a bit awkward and uncomfortable. I still want a career – one that is fulfilling and one that requires a lot of heart – but I also want to enjoy my life and have experiences beyond doctor’s appointments, the office, and the metro I commute on.
Thanksgiving is in two days and I am (startled) to say that I am grateful for this crash.
It shouldn’t have taken health troubles for me to see the reality of my situation. If there is anyone else out there who has been ignoring their voice, quelling their inner protest, I hope that you will take the time (not in the ER) to listen.
I won’t lie – it’s a little unnerving being in this position and not knowing if I’ll have health insurance in a few weeks – but I am embracing the unknown and I think you should too. (Again – not a suggestion to quit your job).
To truly heal, I am starting a wellness journey. In this season of Christmas miracles, I am dedicating myself to healings on my yoga mat, on my meditation pillow, through energy healings, painting, manifesting tactics, reflective walks, and Hallmark Christmas movie marathons. The last one may not be healing, and I should probably be ashamed, but I love them.
Additionally, I am going to do my best to adhere to the wizard wisdom of “Spirit Junkie” Gabrielle Bernstein and “Mean Girl” master Melissa Ambrosini whose books, “The Universe Has Your Back” and “Open Wide” have inspired this quest to find spiritual and physical wellbeing.
If anyone has any wellness practices that have helped them, please let me know! I’m open to trying new things. And, if anyone wants to join me on this wellness quest and help hold me accountable (and remind me not to eat the whole bag of candy cane Hershey kisses), that would be spectacular.
I’ll end with a quote, because they’re mandatory per the laws of Pinterest. I’ve loved this one for many years and it never fails to spawn a little hope for an exciting and fulfilling future.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
Reflections of a Philosophically inclined Fitness and Lifestyle Blogger