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?

It is OK to be normal …at least for a little bit

It is OK to be normal and let the wind blow sometimes

It is OK to be normal for a bit…Winds changed, but I’ll reach my dreams soon enough!

“It is OK to be normal…please be patient little María!” I need to keep reminding myself. If I don’t, I’ll go insane. Literally. As I had some plans…some big plans. I was going to either move back to the Middle East, Oceania or heck, I even considered Brazil. I was so excited that after paying for all my debt this summer I was going to start a new life abroad again in the Fall. But of course, not everything went as planned…

I got a promotion. I’m now the marketing & translation manager at my company.

Anyone in America would be psyched. Heck, a career! At the tender age of 24!

But instead, I‘m scared.

Not of the demands and responsibilities of the new position, though. I’ve already been managing many translation projects and helping the project manager in many of her tasks.

I’m scared of the stability. Am I going to get stuck now!?

Another proof that I’m crazy. I’m scared my nomadic life will be over, that I won’t be able to travel the world as much anymore. That I’m going to be stuck in Tampa for much, much longer. That, eventually, I’m going to get so comfortable with the annual salary raises, the promotions, the typical American life. That I’m going to forget my free spirit and regret every second of it when I grow old. Will this happen?! It is okay to be normal, without losing my soul in the process?!

Then I remember how all the “speed bumps” in my life have brought me ever closer to my dreams, to the career I’ve always wanted, to every passion of mine. Is this another one of God’s funny little secrets, then? Is this another little joke of the universe? One I will laugh at later on in life?

I think so.

As hard as it is to accept now, seems like there’s a big, BIG plan that the future is storing for me and that for now, all I have to do is be what “American society” deems to be a “responsible adult:” Pay off debt, save, put money away for retirement, start investing. Then, when those funds get fat, perhaps my big break will come again? Or maybe a different epiphany? I don’t know, but I have learned to be thankful for blessings in disguise and follow my heart.

My heart is a bit restless at the moment, but it also knows I should stay here longer.

Plus, I gotta admit, the gig I got now is pretty sweet. My boss is awesome (how many people get to say that!?), the work environment is great, and I enjoy my projects for the most part. And it pays well. So I’ll just keep paying off my debt, traveling as much as I can on holidays and vacays for leisure, writing about the many journeys I have yet shared with the world. And most importantly? Keep listening to my heart carefully. Then, once I pay off all my debt, once my heart starts screaming for me to leave, I will.

I must keep reminding myself that it is OK to be normal…at least for a little bit 😉

I feel my heart jumping right now. I’m starting to feel, to believe, that this will take me closer to my dream career. I’m just a little impatient…!!!