Taking it easy

I’m the kind of person who loves to keep an impeccably organized calendar—and loves that calendar to be packed. I like adding things to my “to do” list just as much as I like checking things off. I get restless when I’m not busy. I like living life at full throttle, moving from one day to the next, never wasting time. I hate wasting time.

But sometimes when you’re moving so fast, you lose your breath.

After a busy week with two midterms, two problem sets, and three sessions on the transmission electron microscope, I went home last Friday with plans to go out and see the new Tina Fey movie with some friends, but ended up passing out with all the lights still on and waking up in a sweat-drenched fever with a raging headache, coughing my lungs out.

Come Monday morning, when the same symptoms persisted, I decided a visit to the doctor might be wise. When he said I had bronchitis and pneumonia and that I should go home...well, I should have gone home. Slept it off. But me being the stubborn person (and workaholic) that I am, I decided I’d go about doing everything I was scheduled to do that week.

And I did. I went to my cleanroom safety training, I went to lithography training, went to my meetings, and everything was going fine until I got a call from Kathy, a peppy employee from my realtor.

“Hi there! This is Kathy calling from your realtor! Am I speaking to Brooke?”
“Yes, this is—this is—” I croaked. My voice sounded like a dying frog by this point.
“Hello? Am I speaking to Brooke right now?”
“Sorry—” I tried again. “Yes, yes this is Brooke,” I managed before an exploding coughing episode.
“Hi there!” A confused pause. “Are you…okay?”

And that was it. Out of nowhere, tears started streaming down my face. Because, No Kathy, I’m not okay! I feel more sick than I’ve been in years, I’ve got a review article that I need to finish in two weeks that I barely understand, none of my data makes sense, I'm having a hard time breathing and those cleanroom suits don't make it any easier, and there are just so many things that need to be done that I just—physically—can’t—do.

In the next minute, I went from feeling utter despair at what felt like my inability to do anything useful at all, to relief at the prospect of letting myself just forget all the work and wallow in self-pity, to anger at myself for giving up so easily.

In hind-sight, it was silly. I shouldn’t take myself so seriously. I was sick, and upset that I couldn’t get my work done. Big deal, Brooke. The world isn’t going to end if you take a break for a couple of days. But I don’t know, I just can’t shake that feeling. Of always needing to be moving forward. Always doing something. Always achieving. Do you ever feel like that?

But I’m reminded of this little quote from The Book of Brave, written by one of my favorite bloggers Laura Williams: “Progress isn’t always a forward force.”

I know it seems simple, but it’s so easy to forget. You don’t always need to be moving forward. You don’t need to be running full speed ahead each and every day—in fact, you’re never going to make it to the finish line that way. It’s okay to give yourself a day off if you need it. Don’t be a slacker, but also don’t become so obsessed with progress that you forget to take a break.

"Progress isn't always a forward force."

So this is just a friendly reminder from your resident workaholic: pace yourself. Take it easy. Don’t move so fast that you leave yourself behind, alright?