I am a 20-something, stressed out, heartbroken, and overwhelmingly insecure female. I put an insane amount of pressure on myself to take on a thousand things at once, and accomplish them all with exceptional success. Each term I take 18-19 credits and consistently get panic attacks whenever final grades are being released. My school has this internship program where you go to school for six months and then work for six months—so you’ve basically said goodbye to summer once you have committed here. Don’t get me wrong, its great job experience and I love where I work, but it really gets to ya when all your friends are uploading pictures of themselves at the beach in the middle of July and you’re stuck in a gray cubicle.
I’ve realized that I am not alone in this situation. Americans are workaholics. We break ourselves apart by trying to achieve complete perfectionism in everything we do. There is nothing wrong for trying to obtain the highest level of achievement, but sometimes it gets the best of us. There’s a time where we hit a brick wall at 100 miles per hour and crash ourselves into an emotional, physical, and mental nightmare. We have a complete breakdown—whether that is when you’re 20, 30, 40, etc. But before you know it, you’ve realized that much of life has passed you by. You’ve realized that all you have been doing is trying to achieve the impossible, and sometimes more for other people than yourself. We need to slow down. We need to relax.
Last summer I took a trip with my family to Italy. I was literally crying hysterically by myself in the hotel room packing my suitcase when we had to leave. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I would’ve done anything to just stay a little longer. One thing I admired was the carefree and relaxed attitude of almost every person I interacted with. I visited five different cities, and I realized it was a shared and universal persona the Italians took on. They were painted with poise yet illuminated laughter. After constantly fighting with my ex-boyfriend and recently ending finals, being in the presence of these people was enough to make me smile (never mind the gelato and pasta).
There was also one thing in common at every meal: wine. Red, white, rose, sparkling—every type of wine you could think of. I even had some sparkling wine that was a beautiful blue. Yet no one even slightly displayed alcohol abuse or some type of drinking problem. It was like their problem-solver, stress-reliever, and taste-enhancer all in just one glass. That’s also the thing—people would drink a glass, maybe two, and that’s it. It’s served with lunch as early as 11 a.m. and it’s completely normal to indulge in. In America, people would look at you like you just spit in a baby’s face drinking that early. They appreciate the taste and the atmosphere of people they are dining with. “Two hour lunch break—why not! Work can wait, right?” I’ve never seen so many people all so effortlessly content and peaceful all at once.
When I returned to Philadelphia, I didn’t say, “Alright I’m drinking a glass of wine at every meal now—YOLO!” It was more like, “Relax, and have a glass of wine, eh?” I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that I’ve missed out on amazing people, momentous events, and essential joy because I was too busy trying to be perfect at school, work, etc. It’s even in relationships—it’s impossible to be the perfect girlfriend, brother, mother—whatever. The more we try, the more stressed we inevitably become—ending up in something that is more of a broken puzzle than the perfect one we want to piece together.
I’m young, I’m healthy, and I have an amazing group of support surrounding me at all times. We all have great things to be prideful about, but we often brag about the negative ones instead. Relax, put the pen down, kick off your shoes, and have a glass of wine. Everything is going to be okay.
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