My whole life I have battled an addiction. One that I was not aware was such a big problem until more recently. It has not been an addiction to substances or alcohol or technology — to emotions.
When I was younger, I often found myself feeling very isolated. Being the son of immigrants and yet an American citizen left me to navigate the white space between to worlds, and to learn about what it means to grow up when your family has little experience of the culture that’s cultivating you.
I remember as a youth, something as simple as filling out a fellowship application in middle school could feel like a mountain I needed to summit because I was doing it mostly on my own, not wanting to burden the parents who were already trekking mountains of their own.
And so I’d often be filled anxiety and the need to put more and more of the burden of creating my own future on my own shoulders.
In high school, I was a part of many teams and clubs: debate, mock trial, baseball, American Red Cross to name a few. And with many of these endeavors, I would often find myself in a position of leadership. A position where people would be relying on me.
This meant that the completion of a project or the performance of my team would become synonymous with my own reputation. And as this would often dawn on me, I’d face the challenge that so many leaders do: people flaking or bailing out, not investing as much as you, or not having the same sense of accountability. And inevitably, that meant, once again, putting the burden of a high-quality result on my own shoulders.
So I would stay up and have the countless 4:00 a.m. night’s, runs to Kinko’s, Hail Mary phone calls to vendors, banging my head at AOL, studying extra materials to compensate for what others might forget, and so much more.
After years of doing that and feeling that I had to take those actions, I became addicted to that feeling. And now I struggle with the realization that success is often associated with last-minute panic. It’s often associated with a feeling that I have to take on a burden to prevent disappointing a constituent who has invested or believed in me or a particular endeavor I’m part of.
And so no matter the situation, I seek the rush of adrenaline and cortisol, the tightening and trembling of my body, the dizzying tizzy of thoughts rushing through my head, the adding of neverending to-do’s, and the fires to tackle. That’s what success means. That’s how my body has convinced me that I’m doing a worthy job.
But in the world of adult agency, there are people who will flake and at times disappoint. But there are also just as many people who will go above and beyond to help you bring your vision or dream into reality. And there’s a way to approach success and approach moving towards something we care about without having to feel burdened or constantly stressed.
And so I’m working on breaking this addiction with trust and with a commitment to self-care. And with a continual and strive to be more clear about the agreements I make with others and myself.
Sometimes returning to your addiction is the only way to make sense of the world. If you don’t feel the buzz or the bruise or the burden, you sometimes don’t feel like yourself. You don’t feel like you “deserve” to get the result that that feeling has so reliably given you.
But there’s always another path.
So that I may continue to creates and collaborate on meaningful projects and initiatives without the constant stress of impending judgment if a certain outcome isn’t reached. Addiction is a difficult thing. But with awareness and effort, it can be broken, and there’s always another way waiting on the other side.
— The Other Weyi