Many of us are on a treacherous path of overwork in the bustling world of career goals and the relentless search of achievement. In this story, I go on a journey to untangle the nuances of my own unyielding desire, a path that eventually led to a life-changing enlightenment during a relaxing vacation in the Maldives.
My story begins with a professional addiction, an obsession that stressed not just my personal life but also my marriage to my employer, who also happens to be my husband. The intense desire to constantly excel in the professional arena evolved into a self-destructive routine that endangered my health and well-being.
My turning point came when my boss-husband, frustrated by my inability to disconnect from work, ordered a vacation for me, a lovely retreat to a tropical paradise. While most people would envy my vacation, I found myself fighting an intense desire to stay linked to the professional world.
In a gesture of self-preservation, I chose to follow my boss's warning - my last chance before being fired. The dread of being away from work persisted, but I turned off my phone and hid it safely within our overwater villa.
The warm caress of white sand beneath my feet provided a little relief as I strolled along the immaculate shoreline. I couldn't get away from the gnawing loneliness that accompanied my solo journey. I have social anxiety, which is often misinterpreted as aloofness in my demeanour.
Instead of immersing myself in aquatic fantasy, I took a cosy area on the beach and attempted to read. The attraction of rest and mindfulness, though, escaped me. Even on vacation, my restless spirit desired the familiar ground of activity.
As I reflected on my inability to relax, recollections of simpler times flooded my thoughts. My childhood school holidays, when scholastic obligations were temporarily put on hold, felt like faraway echoes. My parents, both scholars, left me with a legacy of unwavering drive. Their sincere desire for my achievement turned into constant pressure.
I was raised to be an overachiever from a young age. The underlying expectation was perfection, and my parents' approval was contingent on my unrelenting dedication to greatness. I became a reflection of their goals, pushing for academic achievement while excelling in a variety of extracurricular activities.
My future had already been thoroughly planned by the time I arrived at university. My competitive spirit spurred me to professional achievement. The goal of winning absorbed my identity, and stress became my catalyst. Days turned into nights as I worked nonstop, driven by the need to outperform myself.
Years of unwavering concentration had finally taken their toll on my health. Debilitating headaches and mental confusion became my constant companions. Doctors warned me to take a break from work, but my addiction to achievement kept me there.
My body then staged an uproar one fateful day. Dizzy spells and a confused worldview resulted in an ischemic stroke that rendered me paralysed, with my right side bearing the brunt of the damage. Recovery was a long and difficult journey, but it gave me an unexpected gift: a stop.
As I lay bedridden, forced to confront the frailty of existence, I realised that in the obsessive chase of success, we often miss life's most valuable moments. The stroke, a horrible twist of fate, caused me to rethink my priorities and compelled me to live life outside of work.
Today, I am standing on the sands of a paradise island in the Maldives, revelling in nature's peace. My boss-husband has taken on the role of protector of my well-being, pressing me to adopt a healthy work-life balance. Though my competitive nature remains, I've learnt that putting one's health at risk for success is a pyrrhic win.
If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to be nicer and gentler in the persistent pursuit of goals. I urge all parents to nourish their children's ambitions with love, but refrain from burdening them with the weight of expectations.
To my fellow workaholics, I say: tread softly on your souls, seek balance in all endeavours, and savour the profound beauty of life's fragile moments. The quest of achievement does not have to come at the expense of our personal well-being.
For now, I ask you to reflect on your own journey, to recognise the value of balance, and to recognise that life's true riches often reveal themselves when we take a break from our pursuit of achievement and simply breathe.