102.4 fever, 88/50 blood pressure. At the doctor's office that morning I could not even sit up to have my blood pressure taken.
"We are sending you to the emergency room," the doctor saw how weak I looked. Most people worry about their health upon being told they will be visiting the emergency room, but I was preoccupied with the fact that I was supposed to present my AP English final the next day. I lay in a hospital bed with an intravenous drip, tapping away at my iPhone emailing my English teacher and applying for an internship. At a time where I truly needed to step back, relax and try to get better I could not tear myself away from my work.
One month later as I read the book, Thrive by Arianna Huffington, I began to reflect on my own lifestyle. Listening to Huffington's own health scare where she woke up in a pool of blood, I reflected on the extremity of my own work ethic. I am a senior in high school who drinks endless amounts of caffeine. Even in the summer I am extremely busy between a neuroscience research internship, volunteer position at a hospital, preparing for the next speech and debate season, completing my mountain of summer work from my four AP classes, writing for a number of publications, and getting ready to apply to college. That's a mouthful.
I have trouble relaxing, trouble stepping away and allowing myself a moment of peace. I feel a constant urge and pressure to be busy. I never unplug, never unwind. Recently, I have begun to wonder the true implications and impacts of my lifestyle choices.
I am busy in the pursuit of success, but what is success if I am miserable and exhausted all of the time? While wealth and power do traditionally create success, they do not guarantee a happy life.
At the age of 16, I find myself planning where I will be when I am 26. Many teenagers today have 10, 15, 20 year plans for their lives all before leaving high school. I may be a teenager, but even my decisions at this age are geared toward my future goals of attending a liberal arts school to pursue neuroscience, eventually apply to medical school, specialize in neurology, and then hopefully raise a family. It's a domino effect, because every step I take puts me one step closer to my dreams. But will I ever stop stepping and finally end up where I want to be?
It's time for me to learn to thrive. Over July 4th weekend I sat on the shallow steps of the pool, and just read for fun. I poured through Thrive in addition to Better by Atul Gawande, and Gifted Hands by Ben Carson. I stepped out refreshed, not just from the cool water but also from my ability to escape into the books. College, summer work and all my other stress melted away.
Learn to step away and just let go sometimes. Put down that iPhone, throw the summer work to the side, and stop writing that college essay. All you need is a little break (it's also a great cure for college essay writer's block). It's time to develop a healthier relationship with our work, before it's too late.