How far should you push yourself before you need to stop, rest, and take a break from it all?
More importantly, how do you know when you might be pushing yourself too far? All too often, we miss the warning signs and realize too late that we are going beyond our means.
Being an almost fully-grown and somewhat adult person, I rarely heed Mother’s advice these days. It usually comes with her own prefaced awareness that I will ultimately ignore it and disregard her words entirely, but with the note that she still feels that she has to mother me, to whatever extent is possible when we’re an ocean apart.
Whenever I bemoan her cautionary words which tend to disrupt our otherwise overtly friend-like relationship that often contradicts normal mother-daughter bonds, she maintains that her own mother still does the same thing, even though she will be turning 90 next year. It’s just part of a mother’s life, to worry about her children for her entire life, and to pass on words of wisdom, whether heeded or not, until her dying day.
Having dutifully ignored her 7,000 warnings this summer that I slow down with my workload and socialize (*drink) less, I found myself on death’s door last week.
I’m exaggerating in the sense that I wasn’t actually on the brink of death, but in truth, I have never had medical insurance in New York City, and this was the first time I felt I really needed it.
Every inch of my body hurt, my head felt like it was inside a bear trap, my throat was closing over, I couldn’t eat, sleep or stand up straight without feeling faint.
But, being that it was a key vacation point of the year, two of my colleagues were away so my workload was tripled and I didn’t have the time to stop, slow down and check in with my health. So I chose to ignore it, and just hope it would go away.
Eventually, I emailed the right person to see if my health insurance, which had been processing for quite some time, had finally come through. By the skin of my teeth, I was covered.
I dragged my body uptown where a doctor told me I was extremely unwell, and remarked that it was somewhat shocking that I had been able to get myself on a subway to her practice.
Needless to say, when I phoned my mother to inform her that she was, as always, right, she didn’t exactly hesitate to point out her rightness repeatedly before expressing concern.
Wasn’t it lucky that my insurance had come through just in time? What would I have done if it hadn’t? How can I be so irresponsible?!
All normal questions. Normal, and entirely unanswerable.
A very close friend of mine announced recently that she would be giving up alcohol entirely, until further notice, because working in the hospitality sector in New York was overwhelmingly strenuous, and the addition of a typical Brooklyn social life was breaking her -- both literally and figuratively.
I couldn’t help but wonder, is this becoming more common? And if not, should it be?
Why do we push ourselves so hard? Over here, we are so quick to attribute blame to the pace of the city, the stress of said pace, and in more recent times, the heat of the summer.
But perhaps we are looking in the wrong place for blame, and missing the source of where this immense pressure is coming from.
It’s far too easy to blame social media for it’s unrealistic depictions of success and grass-is-greener livelihoods with unattainable and highly contradictory levels of money and freedom. Snapshots that are captioned “tough day at the office” but portray a shining Macbook on a poolside table with a complimentary cocktail in the afternoon sunlight are the bane of my very existence. Your smug, sarcastic, humble brags are not a welcome presence on my radar, thank you very much.
That being said, our generation has an insatiable appetite for success -- but not the old fashioned kind. To go back to my mother’s endless words of advice, is to go back to her youth, her world as a woman my age.
At this point in time, if I were to match her, I would be married, living in a house with my husband and expecting my first child (me) in six months time. Safe to say I am a long way away from marriage, mortgage and motherhood.
Our parental encouragement for success in all of its shiny new definitions can move us in directions that aren’t as simple as what success meant “back in the day.” A solid job, a steady income, a sturdy home.
Nowadays it’s about so much more. It’s about breaking the mold, doing the things our parents never had the opportunity to do.
The days of doctors and lawyers being the main moneymakers of the world are long gone. You check in with your average college graduate group of late-20/early-30-somethings and you will find an extremely diverse range of forms of employment.
Especially in New York City. The worlds of tech, finance, advertising, social media and startups are but some of the pioneers of new ways to work hard and play hard.
Because we aren’t just working dream jobs: we’re living dream lives. We are out every night, eating at a new restaurant, catching a new show, attending an opening of a new venue.
And we are on vacation every weekend, going upstate, out of state, out of country. That is the dream life that we are all reaching for, and any fragment of it that we experience, we expose to the masses as if to edify our achievements.
But where is the time to rest? What happened to days off, in the very unexciting sense of sitting in your living room (bed) with a mug of cocoa (glass of wine) and watching a relaxing documentary (entire Netflix series)?
And when did it suddenly become so shameful to treat time off as time off? Not just from work, but from everything.
In a time when the pressure is on from all angles to be entirely present at work and at play, how are we supposed to find time to truly unwind, and to take care of our mind, body and soul? How do we withstand the heat in order to survive this particular kitchen?