Work-Life Balance As The Key to Long-term Happiness

Hello friends! It is currently 2:31pm on this Monday afternoon– MLK day– as I begin this post.

This past week has been such a fun one, in so many ways! As you may know, I auditioned for a hip hop team last Wednesday. It’s been nearly a week since the event passed, but I’m still reeling over the fun my friends and I had auditioning in front of– and effectively shocking– the directors of the team. Performing is my element. I simply love it. Every time I get out on the dance floor, I feel such an indescribable exchange of energy between me and the audience… it’s unreal. I think that’s why I love going out to clubs or dance parties so much. I get to show off my moves in the center of the dance circle, driven by the whoops and cheers of hyped-up watchers. On Saturday night, my friends and I headed out to frat row, where we went frat hopping. There was one frat house that had a pole in the middle of the room. Courageously, I hopped on top of the platform, where I performed a completely improvised pole dance amidst the cheers and flashing phone cameras of entertained partygoers. What fun. If, in high school, you told me that I’d one day be the life of the party, I would have shaken my head in disbelief. It’s funny how a little bit of confidence can change a person.

Beyond dancing and partying, I had a great time with friends last night, when we headed to downtown Santa Monica for outdoor ice skating. I enjoyed showing off my very, very limited arsenal of skating tricks, including the “lunge”, and my very own move– the “fall into middle splits gracefully”. After skating, we went to Sloan’s for ice cream sundaes. I had the “Flower Pot” sundae– three scoops of ice cream, topped with whipped cream, Oreo bits and a cherry on the top.

I guess you could say I am enjoying my college life thoroughly. This– sharing memories and conversations with dear friends– is what I will remember most, after my college days have long passed. I’ve definitely changed from the hardcore pre-med student I was at the start of my college journey. I was highly disciplined and focused, yes. But also very limited in my scope of life’s wonders. Then, grades were my only form of validation. Without good grades, I was nothing. My hopes and dreams depended on a perfect GPA. Failure was not an option, because to underperform was a direct reflection of my self worth. I had placed the weight of the world on my shoulders, as a naive freshman. Now, though, I realize that there is so, so much more to life than earning good grades. Don’t get me wrong– I still strongly value academics, and I will always try my best in school. The difference now is, I no longer view my grades, and any external achievement, for that matter, as a direct reflection of my worth as a person. I think this mindset shift has been one of the most formative of my life. As I no longer view each test or evaluation as a measure of who I am as a person, I am freed from the prison of perfection. Life is now so much richer… so much happier.

My mother doesn’t necessarily agree that my shift has been a positive one. She wonders why I am no longer as “disciplined” as I was in my youth, as a competitive athlete. Sometimes I wonder the same thing myself. Discipline is the key to achieving success, and in my youth, discipline was my very being. It was all I ever knew, since age five. Prided on this endearing quality, I equated my self worth solely with the intensity and drive with which I tackled my goals.

Now, I’ve discovered many other positive qualities about myself, beyond my good work ethic. I’ve developed a more balanced, well-rounded identity, one supported by many pillars, rather than a single precarious one, threatening to crack under the immense self-imposed pressure.

I once carried myself with an “all work no play” mindset. By some twisted mode of thinking, I found inherent meaning in suffering and pushing myself to the breaking point. This hard discipline sucked all joy and color out of life, leaving me lonely and self-pitying. Of course, I could only know this in retrospect, as then, I had no mode of comparison to my unhealthy, unbalanced way of living. It was only recently, when I switched to a major I thoroughly enjoyed, whilst fearlessly pursuing my many passions, did I truly realize how limited the scope of my life had been, during my days of intense discipline.

I still live life with ambition and drive as my predominant themes. However, I’ve also learned the beauty of balance, and instead of spurning this so-called “noncommittal”, “lazy” way of living, I’ve learned to embrace it wholeheartedly. I’ve learned the importance of nursing friendships and finding joy in life beyond work and goals. I hope my mother can understand that, what may seem to be a softening of the will, is indeed one of the greatest, most gratifying mindset changes I’ve experienced thus far, in my two decades of life.

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