I’m back, after quite some time, with more new thoughts to tickle your brain. You know me, I’m always trying to help by sharing my experiences and life lessons, positive and negative alike. If I’m being honest, a lot of it has felt negative for the last little while thanks to our friend the pandemic. You all know I’ve written numerous topics about the pandemic and its repercussions. I can now gladly say we’re no longer in lockdown! Blessssssssss. Still, we may not be confined to our homes anymore, but we’re far from getting comfortable. There are still way too many unknowns out there and, to say the least, our lives have been turned upside-down permanently already. In the past I’ve recommended ways to keep busy, cope, remain positive, and so on, but to be honest, even I have failed in staying on course during the last year and a half. Burnout, depression, and anxiety are some of the major mental health issues on the rise almost everywhere these days. If you’re not careful enough to recognize it, diagnose it, and treat it, you can lose your way very quickly. Drinking. Smoking. Over-eating. Over-spending. Self-harm. These are some of the avenues people are turning to during these unprecedented times. Know this: you are not alone. Those words have been said to me numerous times since 2019, but even if I wasn’t listening, my eyes have seen it all; everyone is going through something and it’s the most challenging something they’ve ever faced. Family, friends, and strangers have all experienced loss because of COVID-19. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying to you or being ignorant to what is right in front of them. I say this because social media can make the best of us believe others are out there living the life while we suffer in silence; this is not true. Everyone suffers, but we ultimately have a choice when faced with hardship: ignore it or embrace it. We’re programmed to ignore it. Why is that? It’s because life up to this point has been about the non-stop hustle. We have to go to school, work, find a partner, get married, have kids, work some more, save up money, think about retirement, etc… There has never been time in between all of those things to worry about/figure out the real issues underneath the surface . Well, until now.
Let’s explore the topic of mental health. Over the last decade especially, conversations about mental health have been increasing all around the world. Initiatives close to home like Bell Let’s Talk have sparked nationwide acknowledgement of mental health issues and allowed people all over to come forward and share their struggles. A topic that has long gone ignored and shunned is now at the forefront of every business enterprise because more and more people are growing exhausted and are no longer suffering in private. Mentalities are also shifting because people who never believed in these subjects (the former me included) are now realizing they cannot run away from where their own minds are taking them. Frankly speaking, mental health is a topic no one can ignore anymore, which is why I’m saying that the time has come for us to deal with it while the world is listening. Does this mean there is no more stigma? Absolutely not. Parents, relatives, and older folks are amongst those who may not change their opinion in this lifetime, but the olden beliefs of a few cannot stop you from acclimating to where the world is moving towards (and it’s moving fast).
Here’s why I think you should take a break. While the stage is open to start discussing these obstacles, the schedule we all run on limits us and holds us back. Whether it’s school, work, family, lovers, friends, hobbies, errands, or a combination of all these things, we are always on the move and always going to find ways to plug activities into our calendar. That is who we are. Time is a valuable commodity that none of us have enough of, and if we are not productive for most of it, we feel a sense of failure. With that kind of mental stance, when will we ever put our emotional wellbeing first? I certainly was not prioritizing mine and kept going with the standard flow for years and years until I reached a point where I couldn’t do it anymore. That point came very recently in fact. Therefore, I did the only thing I felt I could do to help myself: I took a break, and here we are.
What do I mean by taking a break? Yes, it sounds remarkably vague, so let me clarify: I stopped going to work two and a half months ago and still have not returned. I know that sounds ominous, like I abandoned post or went AWOL, but I can assure you it’s not like that. When I felt like the walls were closing in on me, I made the decision to take a leave of absence. This, to me, is a taboo topic because going on leave equates to being weak, secretive, scheming, advantageous, manipulative, and more. I’ve thought those things about my colleagues in the past. Yet, here I am admitting to you that I’ve been without a 10-6 since June. You must be wondering how it feels? Is it like a giant vacation? Sleep all day and party all night? On the contrary, I’m convinced that not working is harder than just working. Maybe it’s the kind of life I lead that has me saying this whereas others would find it to be utter bliss, but I’ve never been more unavailable. You’re probably thinking I sound moronic promoting taking a break and complaining about it at the same time. The thing is… time is what you make of it. Taking time off could be a daily celebration, but it wouldn’t solve anything in the grand scheme of bettering one’s self. The reason why I took a break was to take a part all of the pieces of the puzzle of my unhappiness and figure out which pieces need to be exchanged, upgraded, or replaced. And that is exactly what I’ve been doing.
It’s hard to stop and allow the world to go on while you hit pause, and the days where I don’t accomplish much makes me feel like I’m wasting time. One important thing I was taught during this time away is that taking a break means you need to LITERALLY take a break. There will be days where your biggest success is getting out of bed, and that is okay. It goes back to that idea of time being a commodity and if we waste it, it’s the end of the world. This is not entirely true. The second thing I was taught: it’s true that the world stops for no one and we must keep up with changes, but this does not apply to personal growth, and personal growth applies to everything. See what I did there? Society says we need to graduate from secondary school, go to university/college, get a job, buy a car, get married, purchase a house, have kids, work, and then retire. Let’s be realistic for a second. We are all raised differently and follow different paths. No two people will achieve the American Dream the same way, in the same order, nor at the same time because we are all unique. There are parents out there who are going to school, grandparents who are unmarried, young adults who are retired, seniors working past retirement, and more out-of-order combos. The point is that we all have to evolve and learn at the pace which is meant for us when the time is right. Taking a break might seem like it’s derailing you from accomplishing your dreams on time, but it may very well be a part of your journey to get there. Taking a break allows us to inhale a deep breath, recalibrate ourselves, and re-envision our goals. Taking a break rests our souls so we can get back into action better than ever when the time comes.
On the flip side, it’s up to us to foster our own personal growth sometimes, and once that break has been taken, we need to make strides because no one else is going to do it for us. This is where taking apart the puzzle comes in. It’s simple: stop ignoring the things you were ignoring and deal with them now. It sounds harsh, but it’s the reality. I always made the excuse that I was too busy working, until it became the truth. Let’s just say some jobs can drain all your energy, time, and peace. As a result, I’ve spent the last few months going to various doctors and taking my health seriously. With nothing but time on my hands, I’ve done every test in the book to make sure I get better and stay that way. I’ve been having conversations with my primary physician about my mental stresses and have been receiving great support. I’ve been creating and adjusting routines, such as doing more structured grocery trips, reworking my sleep pattern, and figuring out where to exercise. I’ve been educating myself by reading more and turning to self-help books (some of which I hope to share with all of you soon). I’ve been setting aside time for my hobbies to ensure enjoyment and enlightenment throughout the weeks. I’ve been making time to speak to and see the people who count and matter most. I’ve been cleaning up my social media followings and feeds to make sure I only see things that are good for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and what the next steps are in my career. I’ve been investing time into the house and my family, where I often took it all for granted before. I’ve been tracking my money more and spending in different ways than I was before. Ultimately, I’ve been putting myself first, using the time to say no to anything and anyone that doesn’t grow me or make me happy.
At this point you might be thinking I’m some badass given all of the above, but I want to assure you that there were days where all I did was sleep. There were days where the most I achieved was a single phone call. There were days where I said and did stupid things. And there were days when I undid all my progress. I’ve come to learn that it’s a part of the process and that no one is perfect right out of the gate. The one thing I didn’t cover above was the unexpected and completely out of my control fallout. You see, I did not realize that when I decided to take a break that the universe would also be paying attention to me. In fact, it was ignorant of me to forget that in general the universe is always watching and listening. They say you’re never sent any challenge you cannot handle, so let me caution you. When you’re in a routine, you tend to follow the same set of steps daily and encounter much of the same things daily. However, when you take this break and start opening all of these new doors that you’ve kept shut for so long, situations will come out of nowhere. Some of it will come in the form of personal surprises, while the rest will be more tangible (like financial oddities or unearthed family drama). I’ll spare you the personal stories this time, but know that when you open your eyes and ears, you’ll see and hear everything, even what you were not accounting for. This is why I say I’ve been busier than when I was working. It wasn’t a complaint, but more an understanding I came to throughout the past few months. It’s as if taking a break from one thing creates other types of work to keep you occupied. You could hate it, or you could view it as part of your personal growth. One day we’ll all look back and realize every event was a part of the bigger plan.
After all that’s been said, was taking this break worth it? I’m not going to lie. There were days where I asked myself if I made the right decision and if I was wasting my time. There were moments of hopelessness when considering the volume of things I felt behind with. This is where having a support system came into play. Those good friends, the doctor, self-help, and coping mechanisms. The first month was rough, but as I neared the middle of the second month I looked back on all of the things I managed to accomplish. While some days I felt I didn’t do enough, the collective all amounts to more than I’ve done in the years I was working. I can’t even begin to list them, but what I will say is that I’ve gotten the bottom of things I didn’t even expect. Like why I get so many headaches. If you know me, you’d know that’s monumental for Advil’s number one source of revenue, aka me. I’ve made decisions I don’t think I’ve ever made before. I even had conversations I never expected to have. The one thing I didn’t touch on is that I also had some of the most fun I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. It turns out there were some sleep all day and party all night moments along the way. There is just so much you can’t truly do and appreciate when you have this lingering feeling of having to return to work on Monday. This is why I’m going to end off by saying I am lucky enough to work in a company with absence programs and benefits. I know not every workplace has them, but if you are favored enough to be somewhere with these options, I strongly encourage you to consider taking a break while you can and when you need it most. Take from my experience, add to yours, and share with others. The next time you hear from me I’ll be back in the workforce and feeling more like myself. More stories to come!