To say that I’m a workaholic is an understatement. Simply put, I am a perfectionist in the worst possible way. I triple-check my planner every morning, I skip lunch to squeeze in an extra assignment, and I think about deliverables as I drift off to sleep. Even as I write a personal piece like this, I catch myself obsessing over every word choice and doubting every thought.
I’m not proud of it. Trust me—I’ve already questioned my unattainable high standards before. It’s just that most times, my answers aren’t good enough. And sometimes, I even find it hard to believe that I wasn’t always this way.
I vaguely recall pestering my mom to buy me magazines at the grocery counter every Saturday, refusing to go home without getting my hands on the latest Total Girl issue. I’d stare at the glossy covers in awe on the ride home, then flip through the pages excitedly as soon as I’d reach my room. I’d promise that someday, I’d also write stories that inspire young girls.
I’m not sure what changed along the way. Perhaps it was a matter of greed and pride; Maybe the pressure to earn money got the best of me after graduation.
Whatever it was, my innocent childhood dream gradually turned into an obsession. To get this job, I had to get this internship, and to get this internship, I had to be an overachiever in school. During breaks in between classes, I would scour the internet for all kinds of career opportunities, desperate to find a shiny new title to distract me from my fear of inevitable failure.
Living through this obsessive cycle every day, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the very concept of a dream job is privileged. Not everyone has the liberty to actually choose a career path they’re passionate about. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to earn a living—a harsh reality that drove me to push myself even harder. Every time my body begged me for a break, I’d ignore all the warning signs and say I’d thank myself later.
Later never came. It was only until I ended up in a hospital four years later when I realized that I haven’t taken a single lunch break since my freshman year in high school. As it turns out, getting diagnosed with a chronic disease at 21 was the big wake up call I needed.
Even though I still have my moments of weakness, I’ve been kinder to myself since then. Now, I can completely acknowledge that my dream job simply doesn’t exist. It was certainly a hard pill to swallow at first: Isn’t it sad to think that you can’t do something you love every day?
Surprisingly, though, accepting this reality actually felt liberating. Here’s what they don’t tell you: Your job shouldn’t be the only thing that brings you happiness and value.
Yes, you’re allowed to feel proud when you do well in your career, but that shouldn’t be the only thing that lifts your spirits. In the same way that your work isn’t your entire identity, your self-worth should never be linked to your job. It’s not about what you want to be, but rather who you want to be beyond that never-ending to-do list.
So whenever I sense another impending existential crisis, I remind myself that I deserve to dream bigger than an impossibly perfect career that will never leave me satisfied. I take a second to remember that I deserve to love who I am outside of my job.
I’m a journalist and a recovering workaholic. But I’m also a curious storyteller, a certified skincare hoarder, and an avid fan girl who tears up when a SEVENTEEN song comes on. I used to dream of writing a thousand articles every day without ever feeling tired, but now, I just dream of being happy.
I hope you do, too.