EDITOR’S COLUMN: I’m more than my work

Having ambition has never been an issue for me. 

I’ve always believed I’m capable of great things and that’s a healthy thing to believe and be inspired by. Pair that with a near crippling need for perfection and a work ethic learned from my middle-class working parents and that’s me. My mom told me that when I was four, I insisted on learning to write with my older brother. If I even strayed a centimeter from the letters I was tracing, I would crumple up the entire paper and start over.

These aren’t necessarily bad things, but when combined they lead to a lot of stress in my life. Actually, a lot is an understatement. I constantly bite off more than I can chew, and it leads to me being spread so thin I almost break. I’ve always managed it in the past—I’m not sure how—and it subconsciously reinforces the idea that being overly busy is just how I operate. 

For example, last year in the fall, I took on three jobs to save up money for studying abroad. There were weeks I would work upwards of 50 hours between them all. One of them was being sports editor for the Torch and covering our football beat. The week Ferris played GVSU I added up the hours I spent on coverage and it was around 30 hours, plus my two other jobs. Other weeks it was less, but then I would work almost 30 hours at my other job.

It was well worth it; I wouldn’t have had enough money to study abroad without it. But it was maybe the most stressed out I’ve ever been in my whole life. 

Well, maybe besides now. 

As Editor in Chief, it’s my job to fill in the holes on staff. And right now, that means taking the lead on production, which is the second most time-consuming job after mine. No sweat, though, right?

On top of that, I decided to get another job off campus to help pay off my credit card from traveling this summer. No big deal, I had three jobs last year, what’s technically only two? 

How wrong I was. The entire month of September is just a blur in my memories. I don’t think I had more than 40 minutes of free time until this past week. I was running in maximum overdrive, and that probably won’t stop soon. 

When I was studying abroad, I did not have a job. My classes were easy, and life was more relaxed than I’ve ever experienced before. You can chalk it up to being unemployed, but I think the way of life there was just simpler. I walked to class, came back, cooked some lunch and maybe biked into the city center if I needed something.

But the whole time, even though I was enjoying my new relaxed lifestyle, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was just falling behind my peers. I would check Twitter and see all the articles they were writing, the photos they were taking at protests and the editorials they wrote to make their voices heard. Here we were, in unprecedented times, and they were making the most of it and gaining experience that I was missing. 

It drove me crazy. Of course, I was happy for my friends at other schools who were killing it with their coverage. But I wished nothing more than to be in the thick of it with them, reporting on my campus. Eventually, Twitter just became an insane source of stress for me, so I stopped going on it as much while across the pond. I did my best to live in the moment and enjoy my time there, and I did.

But now I’m back in Big Rapids and that inescapable feeling of falling behind is back. 

I find a lot of fulfillment in my work, which isn’t a bad thing. But I think a lot of us—especially in my generation—let our work become our identity. We get so lost in this idea that we have to overwork ourselves to succeed and the pressure to succeed can be overwhelming sometimes.

I take a lot of pride in my work, but sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m more than my work. I submitted an article to the Detroit Free Press this summer and while they initially showed interest, they didn’t end up taking it. Not only did it bruise my ego a bit, but it had me questioning if I could even write anymore after taking so much time off while studying abroad. 

How insane is that? One rejection and my confidence went in the trash. With graduation coming up in May and internship and job applications looming ahead, I can’t imagine how it’ll affect me if I don’t get the job I want, which is a terrible thing to admit.

So I’ll be working on reminding myself that I’m more than my job. As a person, I have so much to offer the world besides the work I produce. I may be good at what I do, but that’s not what defines me.