Before the pandemic hit, I, like many others, was slated to have a year of non-stop travel and fulfilling work adventures. I was scheduled to tour the country covering the 2020 presidential election and had developed a schedule to write a new book on the weekends. I thrived on the thrill of being consumed by “the hustle.”
Then, like everyone else in the world, my life as I knew it came to a halt. Everything stopped. As did my normal work days. I was no longer in a fast-paced office among like-minded coworkers. I was stuck at home in pajamas—and so was everyone else.
Little did we know the enormous impact the pandemic would have on working women; we are leaving the workplace and downshifting our careers at a higher rate than men, and bearing the brunt of balancing home responsibilities like childcare and caregiving. (Black and Latina women have been disproportionally affected.) Those of us who still have jobs report the increased stress and pressure to be “always on,” according to a study by McKinsey & Company and Lean In. And then there’s the ever-present weight of wondering how to climb the work ladder and prove our worth while—again—working at home in our pajamas.
It took me six months of working from home to realize something about that last point, something that completely changed the way I felt about my career, and TBH, my life: I had completely tethered my self-worth to my work.
I had completely tethered my self-worth to my work.
In the Before Times, I wore my achievements as a badge of honor. I knew that I had the chance to do something my immigrant parents never did—build a career that promised success and meant something more than living paycheck to paycheck. Being a TV producer and writer was (and is) a huge part of my identity, just like being an immigrant is, too. Having this career path is a type of privilege my parents never got to experience. For them, work was squarely about putting food on the table and making ends meet. For me, it was about finding my passion, being promoted, and excelling in every single way.
But right before the pandemic, I’d hit a breaking point of my own doing. I experienced uncharacteristic social anxiety, out-of-no-where uncontrollable crying sessions, and torturous acute vertigo that my doctor attributed to stress and inflammation. These were all symptoms of burnout that should have been clues for me to examine my routines.
But there was no time. Soon, we were working from home and I found that whole experience debilitating. I was confused and angry, wondering how to be me when I wasn’t answering emails on the subway while chugging coffee, or rushing to be on time for a high-stakes meeting, or jotting down a few to-do items for tomorrow before I finally went to bed. But then I also felt guilty and full of shame for even letting myself feel that way. I couldn’t stop thinking, For god sakes, my parents are essential workers; working from home is a luxury.
I was so used to the fight-or-flight response that helped me overcome hard times growing up, that I subconsciously started to seek out super pressurized experiences.
Like many others who are the “firsts” of their families, I’ve built my sense of self by rising above my own barriers. I feared that if I slowed down or didn’t have multiple projects in the works, I’d lose it all and become irrelevant. I was so used to the fight-or-flight response that helped me overcome hard times growing up, that I subconsciously started to seek out super pressurized experiences. I was piling on project after project without a sense of boundaries; on top of my day job I’d conceptualize and execute reporting pieces from start to finish, come up against writing deadlines and cram networking opportunities in every ounce of free time that was left. I was addicted to that adrenaline rush that kept me endlessly busy. It felt safe.
But the pandemic made me face the fact that this kind of attitude was wrecking my body and my mind. My “self-care routine”—a phrase my parents never practiced let alone taught me—was nonexistent. All those physical symptoms of burnout continued. Six months into the pandemic, I realized I wouldn’t survive if I kept going the way I had been.
During the pandemic, I’ve connected with other women who share similar issues. One member, a self-described former “workaholic,” (hello, same) spoke about an employer who fired her after taking time off to care for a parent. This was her “aha” moment. She started being proactive about what she wanted and found a managerial job where she made respect and work life balance part of her leadership style. She also welcomed her first baby.
This year has been full of stillness, which has given me the opportunity to ask myself what I want and how I want to show up in a post-pandemic world. For one, I want to avoid always being in survival mode. I want to make things like meditation and daily exercise a priority. I want to deep-clean my relationships that have become one-sided or draining. And I also want to replace guilt with gratitude.
This whole year has left me trying to remember that who I am is so much more than what I do. I may be a TV producer and an author, but I’m also a partner, a friend, a sister, and a daughter. Giving those monikers equal weight makes me feel so much better equipped to find my self-worth outside my career—even when I eventually will have to get out of my pajamas to go to work.
Source: Read Full Article