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A Born Workaholic Out-of-Work During the Pandemic

Where could a story that ends with me compulsively making jam during a breakdown in a pandemic possibly begin? Funnily enough, a year earlier relishing in color-coding every moment in Google Calendar at 2 AM. If that sounds insane, have you ever experienced the sweet, sweet high of a fully crossed out to-do list?

While other people needed work/life balance, I thought at 19 years old that I had cracked the code, in my mind, I was born to multi-task and no one could juggle as I could. Last spring the circus of my life revolved around long hours in the library, peer advising, working three jobs and having a social life. Sure, waking up at 6 AM to work after staying up studying until midnight was not great, and skipping lunch to help a freshman with their schedule was far from ideal, but I kind of loved it. The show must go on, and I loved being needed by my community. Others complimented my determination and commitment, I even bragged about the imbalance of the stunts in my life. I was a do-it-all daredevil. 

Being busy was an addiction, if I didn’t have a full to-do list I would make chores up—like returning library books—that probably could have been done on a weekend. Picking up more and more pins to juggle. No one could have talked me out of my reckless routine, not even my own body as I developed a chronic illness and refused to slow down. I was deeply restless despite how exhausted I was at the end of every day. 

Studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the Fall of 2019, and devoid of the usual crutches like an aggressive schedule or jobs, I was forced to slow down and for the first time was able to reflect. Through taking better care of my body, my chronic illness subsided. Despite reflection, falling in love and deeply enjoying my time there, I was still fiending for “busy.” I missed my circus days, and I replaced my academic juggling pins with “fun” social commitments—Asado cookouts, working out with friends, trips, clubbing—at the end of the day I didn’t have much to give anymore. 

I began my second semester abroad in Berlin, Germany in January 2020, where after finding my feet, I was forced by COVID to relocate back to my parents’ house after a month. The pandemic and my addiction to busy were not compatible. Suddenly, there was nowhere to go, no errands to run, no friends to see and as soon as the semester ended, no work to do. Nothing left to juggle, no audience to perform in front of. All of my carefully laid plans for a summer internship, travel and a senior fall start in San Francisco would all be canceled. I was an out-of-work clown. 

When life feels on pause, but time keeps moving forward, what are we left with? Aside from compulsively making jam in between breakdowns. The restlessness I had been ignoring for years caught up with me in lockdown and I had to seriously analyze the quality of life I had deemed acceptable for myself. Juggling means that everything is up in the air, pins never stay still and don’t get full attention. In doing everything, I was doing nothing by half-assing my commitments and driving myself to illness. And what for? This became the question I struggled most to answer. 

Marisa is a senior @ USFCA in the sustainability and global affairs sphere, thinking about emerging economies, outreach and innovation. A digital nomad & explorer with a curious mind– and an accidental empanada connoisseur!
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