Being Filipino-American, the stereotypical pressure on academic success was a huge part of my life growing up. I graduated middle school as co-salutatorian and then went to a nationally ranked high school where the focus was on doing well on Advanced Placement tests to earn college credits and get into amazing schools.
It was a strange high school environment, being surrounded by some of the smartest and most motivated students in town. It was intimidating. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life yet all around me my peers had lofty goals of attending Ivy Leagues and pursuing careers in fields that mattered and would make a difference in the world.
Though I ended up going to college in my hometown, I was able to find something I was passionate in; journalism. It felt so fulfilling to finally find something I could be good at.
The problem was I threw myself into it completely. Especially during my junior and senior year of college, all I was doing was living and breathing journalism. (I even had dreams about journalism – ones where I was frantically working against deadline or ones where I woke up convinced I had made a dire mistake in an article.) I was involved in student clubs and student run campus media and interning at local publications all while balancing a course load full of reporting classes with their own assignments and projects.
I didn’t make time for anything else and I didn’t make time to take care of myself.
Without journalism and school I didn’t really know who or what I was and that was a terrifying realization. When I suddenly found myself without it, I felt empty, like I was nothing and with no purpose.
Somewhere along the way, with all the hard work I was putting into my career, I had stopped putting work into myself.
I had tied so much of my personal happiness and satisfaction to my career that I hadn’t been taking the time to find things to make me happy outside of work. Without work, I was plunged into a devastating depression where I felt meaningless.
We’re often taught the value of hard work. But too often our own personal well being is pushed aside for the sake of success.
I learned the hard way that no matter how important a career is, there is nothing more important than yourself. Your happiness and well being are not worth sacrificing for a career.
So I’m taking my time getting back into professional journalism. There are times I panic, where I think that maybe I just need to throw myself back out there otherwise I’ll get stuck in this in between place and never get out. But I know in my heart that doing that would be disastrous for my mental well being. I’m not ready yet and that’s okay.
So instead, I’m dabbling, with this website, but I’m not throwing myself into it blindly. It may not make sense to a lot of people, but for my own well being and happiness it makes sense. And I’ve learned that that’s what truly matters.