Before I moved to Australia, I had it all. I had a boyfriend that most girls would kill for, a close group of friends (many of whom I have known since primary school), and a comfortable environment to grow up in…but I was always unhappy with how small the city was – with how claustrophobic and unchallenged I felt while living in a city of just 1.6 million people.
When I finished high school, I packed up and left for vibrant, cosmopolitan Sydney. I told my boyfriend that my career was the most important thing in my life and would take precedence over anything else, and everything I did from that plane ride onward was about work. Everything was about building my career. I interned tirelessly – sometimes three days a week – and worked part-time to support myself. Last year, I had days when I was awake for 22 hours every week: I woke up at 7am on a Friday, went to my internship, finished at 5:30pm and went to my job at the casino, where I worked from 8pm until 4am. I didn’t get home until 5:30am and my head didn’t hit the pillow until 6am, if I was lucky.
If everything we are is a sum of everything we have been…
I suppose it was partly my parents – they did, after all, tell me from a young age that career and money would ensure my success in life. But there was always a part of me as well that wanted to do great things; there was always a part of me that constantly wanted to do more. There was a part of me that felt like I had to be the 20-year-old who accomplished amazing things. I felt as though I had to be the legend, or the one who achieved great things. I also felt that no matter what I did in my career, it was mine. Any accomplishments I achieved were mine to keep forever and polish, like a trophy for a sports achievement you received in high school.
I won’t lie. My relentless pursuit of my career in the past two years has led me to some great highs. I managed a team of over 40 writers around Australia as a content manager – a position I rose to before I was even 20. My LinkedIn is fairly healthy and I’m currently working at an amazing agency doing something I have wanted to do all my life: talk to people.
But thirst for career has also led me to become a hyena of sorts: I wasn’t afraid to break up with my boyfriend and shied away from relationships that could have been great. I refused to waver on any compromise that involved my career, and on several occasions, I could have burned out. It hasn’t always been the healthiest decision, nor the most fruitful one, but my career has always been the love that I pursued until death does us part.
“Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.” – Lady Gaga
As with any relationship, however, there is a point where you have to compromise. I am going to be cliche and say that life isn’t about living to work, but I always believe in a twist to my drinks, so I’ll also say that you should not work only to live and support yourself. Instead, if there is one goal everyone should aim for in a career, I feel it is this: like choosing a flatmate, it is important in life to find a job that coexists happily with every other element of your life.
If you’re single and living by yourself, it’s fine to work a job that requires you to stay extra hours, or puts additional pressure on you – you can take it, and you’re at a point in your life where doing that will not drastically tip the scales of balance. But for all those parents, or those people who have significant others, sometimes a promotion just isn’t worth all the extra time you’ll spend in the office, or all the arguments you will have over who you love more: your career or your partner.
“I wish I had worked more.”
“I wish I had argued more with my partner about the late nights I spent working.”
“I wish that I had always put work before my family.
Said nobody, ever.
We spend almost half of our life working. We spend a minimum of eight hours a day, five days a week, in our jobs. You wouldn’t spend this amount of time learning about Medieval England if your true love was contemporary photography, so why would you spend this time in a job that you don’t love, or that doesn’t work for you?