American work culture: Illness and struggling to relax

This week’s Cultural Tidbits Monday post will be quite different. Instead of discussing world superstitions or travel through food, I’ll explore American work culture from my POV. I’ll tell you about how it led to illness, plus how I’ve been forced to learn how to RELAX in order to continue. It hasn’t been easy, but I could lose my ability to use my hands and forced to give up my digital nomad dream career altogether if I don’t step back…

Have you noticed a sudden halt of new posts on this travel blog? I’ll tell you why:

American work culture, carpal tunnel

I have overworked myself to this point… (John Kannenberg, Flickr)

Seems like I have developed carpal tunnel and/or RSI.

The most difficult part of all this? I could barely hold my dinner fork and feed myself last week. I cried myself to sleep as I got tired of sobbing for hours. I have never experienced physical pain besides my depression (pre-travel and during my life after travel), so it’s been very tough for me. Tougher has been having to significantly decrease the amount of travel writing so I could have a little strength left to be able to work at my 40-hour-a-week management position. You know, the one that’s paying for all my debt…

The new American dream is a trap. And American work culture got me ill.

Hard work during your youth, while being able to relax after you retire are two strong values of American work culture. These values pushed me to get 2 bachelor degrees, hold 4 jobs while studying full-time, and get into debt in the name of education.

My many scholarships and grants were supposed to “cover most expenses,” dammit.

These values made me keep this full-time management job so I could pay off my debt faster and have a great credit score. Yet, because I still wanted to be working toward my dreams, I worked after work, even during all my lunch breaks, on my travel writing. Meaning? About 12-13 hrs of work daily. Why? Because I would do a big chunk of travel writing on weekends, too. These habits, which had no space for relaxation except for a few hours on Saturdays, led my body to crash and destroyed my hands…

And don’t forget I only get 10 days of paid leave a year.

That includes sick days and vacation days.

American work culture, stressed out

Stressed.Out (Deborah Leigh, Flickr)

“Oh, but don’t worry, you’ll be able to relax after you retire! You’re such a hard worker María, keep it up!” they say. Well, my body forced me to tell them “F— jou, I’m relaxing now, too!” You see, the pain in my hands became so unbearable that unless I took little breaks during the day + stopped working altogether after 5:30pm, my hands would just stop functioning. I mentioned I couldn’t feed myself the other day, right? *sigh*

And so, with great pain in my heart, I’ve had to greatly scale back on travel writing (both blogging and my paid gigs) just so I can keep the job that pays my bills. That is my good “American work culture” paying for “my American dream” and the education that they inevitably include. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I would have just thrown myself to the world, started travel writing and translating and gone to school after I had the money to do so (you know, after saving $30k from working on a cruise ship).

But I digress.

What’s done is done. I am a prisoner of American work culture and the new American dream until I can pull myself out of debt. Then, when I have enough funds and time, I’ll be able to just do translating and travel writing full-time. To make my dreams finally come true. To not overwork myself and my body to the point of illness. And for now?

I’m still having a hard time learning how to relax.

American work culture, seeking relaxation

I wish I could have this every day…but I can’t…

Because of my RSI, I am forced to relax. Yet, I can’t stop thinking about work. I’m still struggling. This weekend I did see some glimpses of relaxation and, let me tell you, they were glorious. Still though…I wish I could afford going to the beach more often so I could relax even further. But no, I’m tied up paying all these student loans. I think it is quite ironic that American work culture always equals success, yet most of us are struggling, despite hard work and a decent education. But now I am mostly ranting, so I’ll stop…

I will work harder to relax. I must relax for better health. I must still find a bit of time to work for my dreams. I must still press on so someday I can truly be free.

I will win the war against American work culture, while still being a hard worker.

I will learn how to relax. I will succeed my way!

Those are my current thoughts about American work culture.
What’s your take?

Why the (New) American Dream Is Crap (to me)

“So live that your memories will be part of your happiness” – Anonymous

American Dream crap

This crappy American Dream got me frustrated… (Photo: Kamila Figler)

This American Dream? Please spare me.

I was going to write about something else today, but after having a rather-frustrating conversation with a colleague, I couldn’t help myself but yell within, repeatedly: “The American Dream is such CRAP nowadays!! It’s a TRAP!!” In my eyes, it is such a dangerous disease, even a mind-game trapping so many talented, ambitious, dream-filled young people that it seriously makes me want to cry. And before you yell at me how many opportunities and blah blah blah are found in the USA, please hear me out.

I was telling “him” (that’s how I’ll nickname my colleague) about my travel sites and how much I miss traveling. He complained how he wishes to travel so much, but that he doesn’t have the money to do so.

I then went on my passionate speech about how we can travel extensively with little money.

I even took the liberty to quantify, dividing costs of traveling for a year vs cost of living in the U.S. for a year and how the former can be much more economical. “He,” however, kept interrupting me, repeatedly, with the same old “but you really need money, which I don’t have” complaint over, and over, and over again…to the point that, after I quantified how travel can be so affordable (Couchsurfing, $5 hostels, 50-cent meals, working online or even abroad, etc.), he even got a little defensive about it! And of course, he repeated the little complaint one more time

I’ve had it. I went on a quasi-ranty harangue myself, expressing how sad it is that America has jaded young people like him. It’s like the old “everything is possible” American Dream mantra has been substituted by an “everything is possible, but with money” motto. It seems like the only “lesson” the American Dream is currently teaching the youth (or everyone else for that matter) is that you simply must get, you must have. That it is all about making the money, the “stability” in order to turn your dreams into reality. That a stable job is the only way to go about it, and if you complain and try to fight the system or simply have a different way to go about things, well,

You have failed.

I know, you might argue that’s not everyone and/or even America’s fault. I must also note that I do understand that the “stable life,” the cubicle, the little picket fence and house are the actual dreams of many and they are happy going about it the “standard” way. But what I wish to point out is how some of those people, how America nowadays, is pointing fingers and calling losers/failures those who do not want it that way.

I came to this land for “the American Dream” and all it is doing now is telling me that I’m doing it wrong, that I can’t do this or that because of this thing or the other. That because I don’t have this amount of money, because I don’t own this other thing, I am wrong. Sadly, this is an epidemic that has spread so wildly throughout generations. And you know what?

I’m freakin’ tired of it.

I’m tired of people telling me (us!) I can’t be a digital nomad, that I’ll be a living a “sub-par life” because I’m not “stable” enough (or at all). Well guess what? I look around me here in America and I see thousands of professionals with 20+ years of solid, “stable” experience recently laid off without notice, without a reason. I see families that earned six figures last year, making less than half of that this year. I see their “stability” imploding without a timer, without a warning, in front of them. Is this the American Dream?!

What am I trying to say with this? Nothing is “stable” in this life! It is all about choices, chances we take and those taken away from us. It is all about risks. Mostly, though, it is what we make of it. And by that I mean it is what you do outside your comfort zone. It is what you try despite what “the system” told you, what would make you “look like a loser” or “a failure.”

And so I told my colleague: “You know what? It is sad that corporate America has trapped you and make you think that way. As for me? I’m grabbing the world, and life, by the cojones. And I’ll be winning

“I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine” ~Caskie Stinnet

Ok, end of rant 😀 What do you think about the new American Dream?