Just (Don’t) Do It

A reformed overachiever rewrites her definition of success

By the time I was 12, I had written two novels. I had read Shakespeare’s most famous plays. I had created a glossary of a thousand words and phrases; English was my second language, after all, and I—a new refugee from Iran—felt compelled to master it. In my elementary school diary, I wrote that I would move to New York after college, publish my first novel before 30, write for The New York Times, and be “the proud mom of a shaggy dog.” I had many goals—most of them seemingly unrealistic—and yet, I achieved them all.

To say I was Type A would be an understatement. I checked off all of the associated traits: competitive, outgoing, ambitious, impatient, aggressive. I was a “high-achieving workaholic,” according to numerous online personality tests—an embodiment of the American ideal. That description felt like a bonus. After all, who is more American than an immigrant?

Then, somewhere around 2012, I cracked. The paint chipped, the gloss peeled, the canvas scraped. This was no decision of mine—I would never have abandoned my career fetishism willingly. I became very ill with late-stage Lyme disease, and I suddenly had no choice but to become an entirely different person.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]What happens when your dreams become interrupted—chronically, but perhaps terminally, too?[/quote]

First, the chronic illness robbed me of critical cognition—including my capacity to read and write. Then I was bedridden at times, able to maneuver around with a cane or wheelchair at others. At one point it took away my ability to swallow, and I had to consider a feeding tube. In my mid-30s, I moved back in with my parents. I went into a sort of hiding. Assistants pushed out posts on my social media so I could feign wellness for old work contacts while I spent days in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering how my story could end like this, but no longer having the imagination to put it together. I began to think: What happens when your dreams become interrupted—chronically, but perhaps terminally, too?

While Lyme ravaged my body, it ultimately elevated my spirit. It took disability to slow me down, to finally heed my therapist’s counsel, to try meditation because I could do nothing except…nothing. I grew into the kind of person who took walks, read self-help books (the really good stuff, from psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross to Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön), and listened rather than orated. I became a sponge for advice and eventually a repository of self-care.

[quote position="right" is_quote="true"]I dream of complete release from that paragon of American virtue.[/quote]

I now strive to work less, to be less informed, even. I dream of complete release from that paragon of American virtue, the hyper-vigilant, hyper-conscious, hyper-productive model of a “successful” human—while still being fed the pervasive narrative by society that the tortoise beats the hare, that sometimes the story of Western ambition does not end well. How to “just be” but also “just do it”? Merging the two signals seemed an impossibility—if it weren’t for that ever-elusive sparkling concept, balance. The sick-me had to teach the healthy-me the unexpected serenity and expanse of simple existence.

Gone were the days where I could barrel through a full day of teaching followed by back-to-back meetings, then drinks with a colleague, plus a party or two, minimum sleep with an early morning alarm to get to the gym. That life was no longer an option. I even became that person who would really chew my food, while recalling the months prior when I couldn’t manage to swallow. This gratitude, coupled with an aversion to my old life, led me to dismantle anything that induced stress, from people to places to habits. Now, I observe more than I act. I prioritize sleep over production. I make sure friends and family are part of my daily life, and reserve time to check in with myself. Not much happens, and that’s the point.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

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"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

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September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

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via Apple

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"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

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