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I’m not sure how many times I’ve said this since the beginning of this year, but these past few months have been, to say the least, suboptimal.
The world has stopped functioning in the normal way that we have grown used to, and the pandemic forced people to stay inside and abandon most, if not all, of our regular activities.
On top of the financial insecurity and fear over the consequences of the colossal pressure on our healthcare system that coronavirus has created, I have personally decided to add yet another distress to my mental health, just to see how much I can actually take before breaking down beyond repair.
The thought that has permanently taken residence in my brain is that, quite honestly, I am at a complete loss when I try to figure out who I am as a person.
Now more than ever, people are starting to understand that they do not need to dedicate most hours of their lives to a job or a career in order to achieve self-realization. The idea that productivity does not determine one’s worth is gaining more and more popularity, as our generation realizes that burnouts and always being “booked and busy” are not signs of a healthy lifestyle. Quite the opposite; if anything, they not only show how skewed our expectations of life are, but also how this constant human restlessness is harmful to our planet.
So, with everyone praising rest and recovery over nonstop grinding, I can’t help but wonder: am I a masochist for enjoying what we millennials like to call the “hustle culture?” Am I wired differently? Or am I simply a product of two decades of internalizing the idea that if I am not doing something, then I am not living my best life?
To be fair to myself, I have both the blessing and the curse of choosing a creative endeavour as my career path. My friends recently told me, “you are not your job.” But while I see where this is coming from, I simply have trouble applying it to myself. There is only one thing that I have been able to consistently commit to in my entire life, and that is my dedication to my career as an actor. There are no alternate versions of my life where I can imagine myself doing something else while still feeling happy and fulfilled.
For as long as I can remember, my entire identity has been so deeply rooted in my ambitions that when I am not able to actively pursue them, I lose my sense of self. I have always felt the most satisfied with my life when I was occupying my time with as many projects as possible. Now that this became virtually impossible, I started to see that what I have always perceived as a personal virtue and strength of character actually proved to be a rather big liability to my happiness. If I am not working, who am I?
I understand that the culture that taught me to enjoy not having any free time is causing a tremendous strain on my mental health. As I am forced to slow down and face my thoughts, I find myself floating in the abyss of existential dread, which is always easier to ignore when you’re constantly on the move. Despite the fact that the rational part of me understands that there is simply no work right now and that is not my fault, I still feel like I am wasting my time. I know that I have intrinsic value simply because I am a human being, a good friend, a good daughter, and, dare I say, overall not a bad person. Yet, I can’t help but drown in doubt and insecurities. What the hell am I doing with my life?
Writing this down and voicing my thoughts out loud helps me validate my own feelings, properly classify them, and put them on their respective shelves. While I was busy basking in the illusion that “if you work hard, you play hard,” I forgot to consider that qualities such as kindness, empathy, curiosity, and the desire to pursue social equality are just as important in building my identity, if not more. I was so focused on my one objective that I forgot the bigger picture. Life does not boil down to one end goal. It’s a beautiful and complex landscape, and I should definitely stop and smell the roses more often.
I’m still trying to find the perfect balance between loving what I do and loving who I am. I can see now that this process is not a destination, but rather a journey I am setting myself on for the rest of my life, however long that may be.
But if anyone has advice on how I can free myself from the shackles of the capitalist idea that my worth is directly proportional to my income or productivity, please let me know, because I am definitely open to suggestions.