The year was 2014 and I’d finally met my ultimate weight loss goal, shedding a glorious 70lbs.
Here I am at the top of the year showing off my slimmed down figure.
It’s also important to note that I am standing inside Dexter’s living room.
Angles. I was thin, bih.
I was 25, soon-to-be 26 making decent money and having the best sex of my life. It was a beautiful thing. What you can’t see in the above photo is the fact that I was dying inside both literally and figuratively.
In 2014, I worked third shift on a morning show. My shift began at 1 a.m. and did not end most days until 10 or even 11:00 a.m. The long hours weren’t a problem. No lunch breaks and sleepless nights were chipping away at my existence. I worked all night and didn’t eat until 9:30 a.m. Was I deprived of a lunch break? No. Could I eat at my desk no? My first day at the job, I was told verbatim, “You are allowed lunch breaks but your show better be done.” I heard, “Bitch you better not eat or else.”
My workload was unevenly distributed and the time that I did have to eat, it was stressful. As I consumed snack bars, dry cereal or leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, at 4 a.m. in the morning, my focus was nauseated by the thought of fucking up a show. I was terrified that someone was going to say, “Our live train crashed today because Tyler spent too much time taking care of herself.”
Around this time, I began freelancing on the side to make additional funds. Little did I know that my side hustles would become my full-time bread and butter the next year. I picked up extra writing and social media gigs to help fund my gym memberships, hair weaves, and annual vacations. My salary only paid enough for me to live. I quickly craved the extra money. My sleep became the sacrifice for making extra money. It was rough. Looking back, the struggle was necessary.
My life was constant rushing. In my three to four hours of sleep each night, I dreamt with anxiety. Very rarely did I fall into a total state unconsciousness. As I laid in bed, my thoughts were filled with doubt, angst and fear of oversleeping. I once overslept for work by three hours and after that, I was afraid to fall into a deep slumber.
I couldn’t lose my job. I needed my job.
Exclusive image of my 2014.
I ran myself down at work and came home building my blog and pitching to publications or meeting with prospective clients who needed PR assistance. And of course, I had a personal life. I tried to meet up with my girlfriends and engage in my frequent fuckboy of the month specials. But, my life largely depended on whether I was fully energized to participate in recreation with other humans. Working third shift means missing out on birthday dinners, movie dates, family gatherings, and so much more. I rarely went out in Charlotte on Friday nights because I went home and collapsed. It was one of the few days that I didn’t need to set an alarm. If my choice was a restful night of sleep versus a drunken night in the Epicenter, sleep was my activity of choice. Fridays were my night to catch up on sleep. I averaged 15 hours on Monday – Thursday and Friday gave me time to replenish my energy. I slept for a maximum of 12 hours. If I woke up any sooner I said, “Bitch go back to sleep.”
And I did.
Saturdays I tried to appear normal. Running errands, going to boot camp classes or spending time with my family. Sundays were the worst. It was a trick. By the time I went to church (falling on my knees praying for another job), cooked dinner, watched some Lifetime movies, and went to the gym, it was bedtime; bedtime being 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. I felt like a child who felt jilted by having to go to bed early while the adults enjoyed the fullness of life. When my alarm went off at midnight, I was pissed.
Naps were an option, but when you work third shift napping is merely a crumb of an appetizer.
In addition to this mess, I was applying for jobs on the low. I got an offer in Virgina. The pay was subpar and I didn’t want to move farther away from my family. At 25, I learned the significance of not making decisions out of desperation. My work situation hadn’t become so dire that I’d isolate myself in another city for less pay and in a career that I was slowly falling out of love with each passing day. What solidified my decision to reject the job offer was the two-year contract that it required. Mama did not raise a fool.
Me when I got a call with the offer.
I applied for several jobs and would later find out that they were not a fit for me. Like today, I learned about BuzzFeed’s layoffs. I applied at BuzzFeed several times over the years. Thank you, BuzzFeed for not picking me.
By late spring, it was time for my annual checkup. I was 25, surely I had nothing to worry about. I had dropped a ton of weight in the last four years. My sexual escapades were super safe (but really is sex ever safe?). I no longer drank like a fish (ya’ll, I acted like I had no liver when I was 21). And, I went on jogs daily. Besides my Zaxby’s habit, everything was copacetic.
Nothing was okay. I had bags under my eyes, couldn’t sit still, had shaky hands, and I was dealing with some serious chest pains. At least three days out of the month, I cried from sleep deprivation and masked it as PMS.
It was a painful experience. My doctor asked a series of questions about my eating and sleeping habits as well as any existing stress or anxiety. Dear children of God, if there is no one in your life that you are honest with, please be 100% transparent with your doctor. Medical professionals cannot fix what you do not tell them is broken. I was broken inside.
Finally, I told my doctor, “Well, my job is kinda stressful. I only sleep for a few hours at a time. I’m sad and don’t know what to do about it.”
Remember I told you about my weight loss success? Yes, I was eating clean and exercising but stress was my number #1 weight loss product.
He then told me the words that no young person ever wants to hear. In a stern voice, Dr. Carroll told me, “Ms. Young if you continue working this job you will die. There’s nothing else I can tell you. You will die. You are slowly killing yourself and don’t even know it. No one can live off of one meal and a few hours of sleep.”
Me looking at him deliver this harsh news:
Me when I got in my car after receiving this harsh news:
He was right. They don’t call it the graveyard shift for nothing. You literally have one foot close to the grave. I couldn’t even blame the actual job itself, I welcomed the stress. And for months, I tried numerous ways to cope with the stress like going to bed earlier, perking up in the mornings at work, and attending a screenwriting class to tap into my creative writing.
Six months had passed. No change. God sent me another sign. In class, my screenwriting instructor asked my class what motivated us to go to work. I sat among a number of professionals including a dentist, paralegal, and real estate agent all eager to learn the art of writing a film. We went around the circle and everyone gave incredible answers to this question. “I go to work every day to protect smiles and promote healthy dental care.” Damn, that was good. Then my instructor looked at me and said, “Tyler, why do you go to work every day?”. I respond, “To pay my bills.”
The class erupted in laughter, but I was serious. I was making a living not making a life.
Making a living does not always equate to making a life for yourself.
By spring, I had enough. God gave me the confirmation that it was time to go. I needed to find stability and the kind of work that God called me to do. And to be honest, I’m still in that pursuit. I left the job to reclaim my time and sanity. But, I’m still learning. This year forced me to look at my work ethic and daily processes.
I am a beautiful mess.
A few days ago, I found this meme as a reminder of self-care and to pursue meaningful work.
My doctor told me in 2014, at age 26, “If you keep working this stressful job, you will die. You are killing yourself and you don’t even know it.” The most painful words that ever hit my eardrum. Def gotta blog about this. Take it from me, there is no salary in the world worth your peace. Protect your peace.
Strangely enough, the same day I posted the meme, I had a doctor’s appointment. I haven’t had a physical since Dr. Carroll gave me the scare of my life. My latest lab test came back stellar results. I’m in a good place.
You can’t keep a good woman down.
God promised me greater the day I resigned and I don’t think He’s going to take me until I’ve finished His work.
The money will come. Your surroundings will fall into place. Victory will be yours. Don’t allow your circumstances to chip away at your soul while you wait to reap inevitable rewards. You are greater than the forces that are against you. Weapons will form against you, but none will prosper. There isn’t a job, relationship, or amount of money worth diminishing your health. Work hard. Go the extra distance. Expect challenges, but above all, be good to you.
(please be advised that this is the unedited first draft, if you read this and cringed. my apologies. I told you I was a mess.)