For the first time in years, I have time for myself. Real, sweet, quiet quality time. I told myself that as soon as I graduated, I would take a week to be a total vegetable, and then after that I would learn to balance my life so I could spend both quality time working, and quality time chilling.
A year and a half later? I’m not doing so hot.
Turns out I was so ingrained with the hustle, the nearly-falling-asleep-in-public, that taking that out of my life equation so quickly sent me reeling. And while I expected that to happen to some degree (A couple weeks? A month?), I never expected to find myself in the midst of still-chilling-down-from-college a year and a half later. This unrealistic (and cemented) expectation for myself has also taken another unforeseen toll on me: the sensation of failure that vibrated down into my entire being. I didn’t consciously own a hard and fast deadline for my recovery, but subconsciously I did, and I had missed it by a million paces. My moods became volatile, and my workplace happiness became strained as I wallowed in my self-proclaimed inferiority to the people around me who ‘have their shit together’.
You see, I had been one of ‘those’ students. The ones who chronically looked one step shy from zombie, who were absentees in their own social groups, who were nearly always late to something because their calendars didn’t allow for proper prep time for anything. I was working full-time (thank heavens for the insurance that came with it, which is a story for another day) overnights, going to university during the day, and capping it all off with a cutesy part-time job in the evenings. Many days, by the time I was able to lay down and set my alarm for the ‘next day’, a little Android animation would remind me cheerfully that I only had four hours to sleep, if I fell asleep right now. I learned the art of napping, usually grabbing another hour of rest somewhere in the wee hours of the morning between getting off work and going to class, if I hadn’t forgotten to do my homework over my lunch period the night before. And if I were lucky, I could frequently grab an hour nap over my lunch period if I had already done my homework on the bus earlier that day. The weekends brought little to no relief, since most weekends were filled with extracurriculars, and those that were not were often spent spread out on a bed frantically catching up from the week previously.
In short I had become a work junkie, unwilling to admit to anyone at the time how frequently the world around me would slide through my vision with lazy abandon, the fatigue I felt starting to alter my senses. I made doubly certain to never let my boss know how forgetful I was becoming through sleep deprivation. One night it was so pronounced that I had forgotten what she had told me just moments after she started to walk away. She was still so near I could lunge and touch her shoulder, and yet I couldn’t remember a word she had said. I decided in that moment to let her go, and when I was done with my current task (likely after my lunch and nap), that I would feign a normal level of forgetfulness and ask what I was doing next.
Ending that part of my life was like cutting off a feeding tube. I was so dependent on work and working that I heavily considered taking a second job after graduation in order to fill that new void in my life. Maybe if I could work more hours again, I would no longer feel worthless or incapable. I only declined because I realized what an unhealthy addiction it had become, and I had also realized what a toll it had taken on my life in the form of disconnected friendships and general apathy towards both old hobbies and the people around me. I knew that chronic fatigue with little true entertainment wasn’t a lifestyle I really wanted to live out, so I had to give up my abnormal workload in favor of a normal one, even if it left me with too much time to think and worry in any given day.
And now I’m finally finding some space to breathe. I’m starting to relax more thoroughly at home, becoming content in my ways. I’m actually making an attempt at meeting up with a couple friends now and then, and I’m discovering just how much I enjoy having my own quiet little niche in the world. I’m very far from fully content. Most of my free time is still spent in an ever-evolving state of self loathing and disgust at my personal decisions, and frankly my moods when home still lean a little volatile because of it. But I’m relaxing, and each month I find myself becoming calmer and more accepting of free time. I’ve even set aside nearly a full week of me time, free from work obligations and social expectations. Hopefully relaxation is a lesson I can learn to embrace.
Live well, friends