I am a yes man –– always have been and probably will always be. I believe that my work ethic was born halfway through high school. My single mom had what I like to call a mid-life crisis on steroids (probably rightfully so) and stopped working for a significant period of time. We lost our house shortly after that. I began couch surfing because there honestly wasn’t enough room for me to sleep in the place that she stayed.
At that time in my life, I started to understand many things, including my responsibility for myself. I got a job working at McDonald’s and decided that I wouldn’t take easier classes, although that would’ve helped me immensely. So there I was, working five days a week while completing AP classes. I would wake up and go to school. I would get out of school and go straight to work. I would get off work and then do the homework that I didn’t complete in class, and then I would go to sleep. Repeat.
The days blurred together and my sleep cycles were all kinds of messed up. I genuinely never thought that me taking care of myself would make my mother snap out of it. I just kept my head down, and I worked, worked, and then worked some more. Why? It seemed to be the smartest option.
Good grades mean college. College means dorms. Dorms mean a place to sleep. Working a job means money. Money means food and other things that you want/need.
Anything that you want in life is only worth what you’re willing to exchange for it. I knew that it wasn’t necessarily “fair,” but that wasn’t the point. At 16, you don’t really get to choose your life. You can roll with the punches, or can you freak out. Honestly, either option is acceptable because you’re just a kid.
I don’t know how, but I dodged every obstacle thrown at me like it was my last day on earth. Some days were much harder than others, but I always showed up for my life. I am most grateful for that period because it shaped me into the “workaholic” that I am today.
Since then, I have graduated. I moved to Los Angeles and got my first apartment. I climbed the ladder in the banking world only to switch careers half-way through. I am now a writer with multiple projects and am hopefully going for a Master’s degree in Marketing. I’ve also written for dozens of publications and am officially a published author.
This year, I decided that I wanted to pay off all of my student loan debt before graduating. The goal has required me to take on multiple projects and some nights I am pulling my hair out. Other days, I am laying in bed and staring at the ceiling as I try to summon 16-year-old Elise and her unwavering capabilities. It is safe to say that I am a doer. But I would like to make it clear that I know why I do the things that I do. The word “workaholic” has been attached to me since I was a teenager and all of the negative connotations that come with it.
Have I slept under my cubicle before? Yes. Have I lost relationships because I was too busy? Never.
Tim Ferris made an excellent point in one of his lectures, and it has stuck with me. He said that when you’re analyzing your habits, look at your priorities. I may work a lot, but I have always understood what my priorities are –– that’s why I work in the first place.
Even though some days I feel that I am slowly descending into madness, I have an understanding of myself. It’s not how much you’re working; it’s why you’re working. I work my ass off today so that I can enjoy the rest of my life as a debt-free badass. I do not accept debt as a fact of life. If that means that I have to work a SHIT-TON for a year and a half to accomplish it, then I will do it. Maybe I won’t always do it with a smile, but I will do it.
I do not do things because I want my mom to love me, and after years of contemplation, I now know that I never did. I do the things that I do because I want to love myself. Whenever I complete something, I feel valuable, and more importantly, I feel in control of my life. I’ve always felt like I had some power in the midst of chaos, even at 16. I focus on what I can control and take every lucky shot that I am offered.
I don’t think you should spend 1/3 of your life making someone else money. The 9-5 will never resonate with me, and that’s the honest truth. However, if you’re going to be dealt cards where you have to spend 1/3 of your life working, the least you can do for yourself is make it worth it. 16-year-old me thought it was possible so that it might be? 25-year-old me is still trying to figure it out.