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Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Danger of the "I Worked to Get Where I Am" Narrative

The next time I hear a celeb has passed out "due to exhaustion," I won't be so quick to cock a skeptical eyebrow. 
The past few months have been incredibly busy for me. Meeting copywriting and article deadlines into the night (and morning) during the weeks, zipping to different cities and states on the weekends shilling the book, and emailing countless pitches in between. Add appearances, fellowship and residency applications, and research for book number 3.

Last week, my body exacted payment for all this work.

Very dramatically, I collapsed. Blacked out and bumped my head. When I came to, like a movie, faces hovered over mine asking if I was okay.

I was rushed to the ER, strapped to an orange chair with wheels, rolled into the ambulance van, and given a battery of tests. The $5,000 prognosis? I was tired. Oh, and I need to drink more water.

I've spent the past few days doing major reassessment. I've always prided myself on "doing the work," and I've always believed the "I worked to get where I am" narrative. But I've come to realize that working yourself into the ground does not lead to success.

Work implies control. But the truth is, success is a confluence of so many factors, besides the work you put, in that are completely outside your control.

It's been tough for me to accept this. But I have to. I have bumped against this lesson my whole life, and particularly in the last year and a half as I've driven myself at dizzying speeds to get where I want to go faster. ("Faster," twin to "impatience," is my problem.) It's time to learn this lesson once and for all.

I'm working on it. Slowly.