Porochista Khakpour


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?

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