Health Care Mind Mental Health Health

I’ve ditched all-nighters, and here’s why you should too

I have to admit something. I’ve never pulled all-nighters for work. Even in university, and now as I start to pick up different jobs, I’ve never stayed up all night to finish assignments. Sure, I’ve pulled them for flights or nights out, but other than that, I always manage to squeeze in some shut-eye time. I have to, otherwise, I can’t operate. 

I know this from experience. Once, I had a class in Florence, Italy, and my roommates and I spent the whole day touring the city, reserving the nighttime to work on our essays. I couldn’t have spent more than three hours past midnight typing away for an assignment before I felt desperately ill.

I needed to lie down! I was a cranky mess for two days afterward, and my friends can attest to that. I knew missing out on sleep has a very clear effect on me. But still, I pushed myself for school. I wanted to complete my assignments and attempting an all-nighter seemed like an obvious way to stay on top of things.

While all-nighters do not sit well with me, perhaps you are reading this thinking they work for you. Maybe you have always resorted to this method and it has become fool-proof. Well, unfortunately, I have some bad news for you. Skipping out on sleep is not something that can be dismissed because it is not a sustainable lifestyle at all. While it may seem like an appealing way to get more time in your day, it can have devastating consequences. 

I hear you saying, “But can’t it be slept off?” I used to think the same way.

Can you make up for lost sleep by sleeping in? Nope!

Taking an introductory course in psychology opened my eyes to the dangers of bad sleep hygiene. If you were to hold out two scans of a brain—one from a person who lacked sleep and another who has recently suffered a concussionthey would look eerily similar. Skipping out on sleep can cause irreversible damage to your brain. The brain holds these scars, even if we “make up” for the lost sleep. Imagine that damage over time if we continually (try to) pull those all-nighters. 

This may come as a shock as the idea of all-nighters has been glamorized by movies and other media as an essential part of college. I always understood skipping out on sleep as a sign of putting in the effort, burning the midnight oil to wrap up a project.

I used to feel bad about not being able to stay up all night at the library, comparing myself to other students that were holding up just fine. I felt that it was expected of me to sacrifice my sleep for my studies and my career. Yet, does our productivity have to come at the cost of our wellbeing? 

Our toxic ideas of productivity are impairing our health. I came to a point where I really needed to rethink the way that I was approaching sleep and all-nighters.

While it can be easy and often tempting to get sucked into the grind of getting little or no sleep to clear up my task list, from now on I’ll be thinking twice about the physical and mental toll on my health. I hope you do, as well. 

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Career Education Now + Beyond

If you’re heading back to school, you need this advice for extracurriculars

I’m not going to lie to you. Everything you do in school is not going to follow you for the rest of your life. Your grades won’t define your future, those certificates will stay piled up in your cupboard, your friend group might not stay together, and you’ll never use calculus to figure out your finances. 

When I graduated high school, I wondered, should I have put so much effort into extracurriculars? Maybe I shouldn’t have spent so many years in the Student Council, putting hours of effort into drafting minutes of meetings, writing emails, organizing my team, and being a bridge between students and teachers. When all this hard work couldn’t get me into the university that I dreamt of, what was the point of the hustle?

The answer came to me in little revelations. Putting effort into activities and extracurriculars does pay off. Whether it be a painting competition you participated in, organizing a sports event, or running a literature club, it makes a difference. I cannot guarantee that extracurriculars will help you get into university. But in a few years, you’ll realize how much it transformed you as a person. 

A few months after I started university, I found it very easy to put myself in new environments that would otherwise seem daunting. I could easily market my skills and manage my time productively. Furthermore, I was open to opportunities that came my way. 

Working with a team at school events is an opportunity to figure out what you want in your future career. Almost all activities in school are unpaid, but they help you grasp the idea of intrinsic motivation or satisfaction. You learn what motivates you apart from money and this can be the key to success in your life. It’s a chance to invest time and effort in the things that interest you. 

In fact, some aspects of our personality stay hidden until we challenge them. We’re meant to get out of our comfort zone and take chances. Putting yourself in tough situations doesn’t make you a bad decision-maker. It means you’re willing to see yourself grow and have faith in yourself. Confidence doesn’t come on its own. Having faith in yourself and your skills can tap into your true potential.

While clubs and organizations do so much to help you learn about yourself, they also help you learn how to interact with others. Extracurricular activities and student leadership keep you constantly in touch with your peers and teachers, whether you like it or not. Even text messaging or email help you develop a style of communication that sets you apart. You learn the dos and don’ts of interacting with people who work with you and the people you work for. 

Furthermore, if you become a leader in an organization or group, you learn additional skills. Leadership is NOT about being the best in your team. A good leader can recognize their teammates’ abilities and push them to do their best. Extracurriculars can help you learn these skills and even notice them in others. Being a good leader also teaches you to be responsible and accountable for your actions and decisions. Managing an event or participating in a competition with a team is a completely different experience than a group project. You will notice that the people you form teams with are motivated to perform better since they’re doing it out of their free will. You will also find certain people you cannot stand, but trust me on this: It helps you figure out ways to deal with people you don’t like. 

With all that communication, you also learn to manage conflicting interests and priorities. High school does this thing where you’re packed with everything: exam preparation, the biggest competition of the year, and a charity drive all at once. It can also give you a taste of multi-tasking: Learning to manage your academics and perform activities outside of that sphere is a very underrated skill. 

Assume that you’re part of a school club. That experience can answer so many questions you wouldn’t otherwise know. What kind of people get along with each other? What leadership style is necessary when your club isn’t doing well? What is the best way to assign duties? How do you deal with freeloaders? Do you need to stay back at school to finish decorating the auditorium or is there someone you can assign it to? How will you finish your artwork due Saturday when you have a big test the day after? Simply being a part of a larger organization can give you so many insights into how people work.  

School may be a nightmare for some, but we need to realize good things don’t come on a silver platter. The subjects you study in school today may not even be relevant by the time you graduate and start working. Instead, look for creativity in yourself and around you. Learn from the people you admire and stay open-minded. Invest time in yourself and your abilities. I assure you, it will make a difference.

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Health Care Mind Mental Health Health

How I became a more mindful pessimist

I know, I dread to say it. Pessimists get a bad rep, sometimes rightfully so.

Going biking around the city, and I’ll remember the grating sound my bike made. Listening to feedback on my writing, I’ll be drawn to the things people said I could improve, agonizing over those. As a result, I need constant validation from others, although it barely ever sticks. My head has long been a magnet for negativity and it’s been draining me and even those around me.

But I don’t believe that ‘once a pessimist, always a pessimist.’  I’ve found ways to turn my mindset around.

What it takes is consciously detangling myself from pessimistic thought patterns. I was once enrolled in a Science of Happiness course (ironic, I know) where I learned about mindfulness tools. One of those was called the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) exercise and it aimed to rewire your brain to think in a more positive way. 


Naturally, I was doubtful. But it makes sense. My thoughts, feelings, and behavior are so closely connected that if they were on a Venn diagram, they would be overlapping each other. Recently, my thoughts are more introspective than ever. So, on my journey to become a more mindful pessimist, I’ve been keeping tabs on my thinking—especially negative thoughts. 

Here are some pessimistic thought patterns that I have become more aware of throughout my journey: 

Fortune Telling

A major one that precedes all others. I predict negative outcomes, imagining the worst possible scenario to happen. This is often the case when I try something out of my depth, such as when I flew to another country for a project without knowing anyone that would be on my team. I assumed that I wouldn’t get along with anyone and was already counting down the days to come back home. I thought they’d see me as a fraud and not want to work with me, although we were all enrolled in the same class. At the last moment, this thinking almost made me drop out of it.

I’m so grateful I didn’t because I ultimately met some of my closest friends there and produced good work. 

All-or-nothing thinking

Sometimes I look at situations as if there are only two possible outcomes. Either my team likes my idea or they hate it. I often forget that everything can be placed on a scale, they may like it but think that a certain part isn’t working. They may dislike it but see potential, suggesting a way to elevate the tension in the story.

Mind Reading

Making sweeping negative conclusions about a situation can be the easiest way for me to make sense of what is happening. For example, if I have an awkward conversation with someone, where I unintentionally said something insensitive, I may walk away and say to myself: “They certainly don’t want to talk to me again.” It is far easier to just claim that and be “done” with it rather than acknowledge my fault and find a chance to apologize. In these moments, I need to remember that I can’t read anyone’s mind and the only way to know for sure is to have a conversation with them.

Using ‘should’ or ‘must’ statements 

I have fixed ideas of my future and the way I conduct myself, even to the extent that I expect how others should react to me. Thinking that I should be close to people working in my field and they must want the same things that I do sets up unrealistic standards for both parties.

When these expectations aren’t met, I feel a deep sense of failure. Whenever a ‘should’ or a ‘must’ make their way into my thoughts, I need to take a step back. I can’t predict everything, who am I to know what ‘should’ or ‘must’ happen?

Emotional reasoning

Admittedly, I am a very emotionally driven person. I tend to value the way that I feel about something—a job or person I’ve met—rather than rationalizing the reality of working in that environment or being involved with that person and their lifestyle. I often make the mistake of thinking that something must be true because I feel that it is. I feel annoyed with someone; therefore, they must have done something wrong. Or I feel lonely; therefore, there is no one around that cares enough to reach out to me. These are both dangerous thought patterns because once I’m in them, I begin to ignore any evidence to the contrary.

Consciously recognizing these thinking errors and reframing them in a positive light is changing my outlook on the future. I started off the year rejecting every opportunity that came my way out of fear that they would overwhelm me, such as grad school and internships. Now, I feel more hopeful and am willing to try out what comes my way. I am enrolled to start a graduate program this coming fall.

Even if it doesn’t work out as planned, I can stay on track and remain positive by steering clear of the major thinking errors. I can’t help being a pessimist, but I can be a mindful one. Some of us are more susceptible to negative thinking like I am, but there are ways to navigate it without spiraling into hopelessness. 

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Career Career Advice Now + Beyond

Here’s why being bold in job interviews pays off

We can all agree that job hunting is the worst. Since most of us need a job to live in society, there’s a level of desperation simmering under the surface of the job-hunting process that makes the experience generally uncomfortable. However, this could be because we attack job hunting as if employers hold all the power. Here’s the secret: They do not. Employers are nothing without employees and the whole reason companies put out job listings is because they need someone to fulfill that role. Reframing our thinking with this in mind can alter how we interview.

While dream jobs are a myth for most of us in the workforce, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a job out there that we can be satisfied with. But what satisfies you as an employee doesn’t always align with what satisfies an employer, which why interviews should be an equal playing field for both potential employees to feel out their potential employers, and vice versa.

This can be scary for most of us, including me. I was told to have the mindset that if a potential employer asks me to jump, I do it—I don’t ask how high, I just jump. But this helps no one, least of all me. How am I supposed to know if a company is a good fit for me, my values, and my work ethic if I spend the entire interview trying to impress the hiring manager? The interviewer should be trying to impress the interviewee in equal measure.

I used to think the sole purpose of interviews was to win over your future boss. This meant that when I had a bad interview, I believed this reflected on me. But this isn’t always the case. I once endured a 45-minute interview in which the hiring manager lectured me on why it’s important not to have an ego in a workplace. I had just met this hiring manager, and they asked me all of three questions before launching into their rant.

At the time, I walked out of this interview wondering what I could have done better. But the longer I thought about it, I realized this hiring manager had done me a favor: They had waved all of their red flags at once. They were rude, dismissive, and uninterested in what I could bring to the table. What this tells me about their company culture is they might not care about their employees enough to listen to their thoughts and opinions. And in a creative role, this is important. Also, they could be a company that expects their employees to fall in line behind managers and do their bidding with no questions asked. I’ve worked for a company like this before and did not enjoy the experience. This is why asking potential employers questions is important.

While this is advice we’ve all heard before, more of us shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it as optional. Questions are a good way to glean more information about anything you want to know. If the work environment is important to you, then you should ask questions that get you a better understanding of that company’s culture. If pay and benefits are important, then you should be asking about what that company offers its employees. Some of these questions might seem like they’d put off an employer, but if they do, then that employer obviously isn’t a good fit for you. If a company isn’t right for you, it’s better to know immediately than after a couple of months of working for them.

When an interviewer asks you questions, it’s important to know the answer to every question isn’t yes. One time in an interview, I asked what the workload looked like and they responded, “Well, we aren’t a sweatshop.” I’m not sure what this hiring manager was implying, but this didn’t tell me positive anything about the company–it felt like there was a “but” coming. By being vague, the hiring manager gave me the impression that what they were saying was, “We’re not a sweatshop, but we will overwork you.” To which my response is, “No thank you!”

The point of interviews is to make a good impression and prove ability and willingness to work, but that doesn’t mean at the cost of your boundaries, health, and time. If we’re more honest about what we are looking for in the workplace, then this honesty could help change the workplace for the better for everyone. Also, it will make finding a job that’s right for you more of a priority, which can be better in the long run for your career. So, be bold, ask questions, and know that an interview puts everyone in the hot seat, including the person who’s interviewing you.

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Work Career Career Advice Now + Beyond

Why the #HireBlack initiative is crucial for the modern workplace

Before finding out about the #HireBlack Initiative, my mental health was deteriorating with every passing day. I started to equate my self-worth to my inability to land a job. I cried many nights over being ghosted by jobs, not knowing what I did wrong. At that point, I was begging to get a simple rejection email as proof of being noticed. I spent so much time in college landing opportunities and internships, strengthening my professional relationships, and getting high grades, only to be reduced to not even being a second thought. 

I kept getting flashbacks from a horrible phone call I had with a job recruiter about a promising job offer. After telling me about the opportunity, the conversation did a 180. He told me that because I didn’t immediately get a job or internship the summer after I graduated college, I lost my chance at landing an entry-level job. No matter how great I did in college, it will mean nothing. Despite me working twice as hard to get more experience to make me more hireable in my already competitive field.

The recruiter thought being “real” with me was the best way to go but, instead, he was outright cold. I was holding back tears from the sound of my dreams being crushed. He then thought adding me as a LinkedIn connection would be seen as extending an olive branch after ripping me apart. Seeing that the person I was talking to was a white man made me feel not only personally attacked but had microaggressions thrown at me for no reason. It was like dealing with a racist guidance counselor from hell.

This upsetting situation all came to a head one fateful day over the summer. I have noticed #HireBlack LinkedIn posts from a friend of mine. I’ve been seeing them for the last couple of days and thought nothing of it, but soon decided to put myself out there in an attempt to try something new. At this point, I was willing to try anything for a new result.

The goal was simple; get 19 Black women signed up to get resume feedback on Juneteenth. Creator, Niani Tolbert, wanted to help other Black women in the same position as her – furloughed, jobless, and looking for a fresh start. Tolbert is a job recruiter herself, so she understands how companies select their candidates. At this point last year, not only was the number of people receiving unemployment getting higher but so was racial tensions worsening in the United States. June was a rough month to go through as a Black person. #HireBlack ultimately blew up. 

Job opportunities are always hard to come by, but it’s even worse when systemic racism fights you at every turn.

Along with thousands of other women, I joined the #HireBlack Initiative with hopes of bettering ourselves professionally using resources that are typically hard to come by. Black women who wish to start their careers get their resumes looked over without paying a fee. They can also seek advice about pivoting to a new industry, negotiation tips for higher pay, promoting their Black-owned business, and so much more. The management platform Slack played an essential role in opening communication channels within the initiatives. It hosted conversations about hair politics, discrimination, and everyday events that have long-lasting effects. There was finally a place for Black women to be Black women without sacrificing their identity. 

Initially, #HireBlack was only for those who identified as Black women. Tolbert understood how much harder it is for Black women to get hired compared to other demographics. In a Forbes interview, Tolbert states, “To my core, I believe in giving people resources, and I also believe in helping people pass their limiting beliefs … On another hand, trying to make sure that I am helping to challenge people to think bigger. Whether that’s helping people through coaching or helping through recruiting, I’ve always been trying to do those two because I think that when you have empowered people and you give them resources, they can be the best that they can be. They can do anything.”

Job opportunities are always hard to come by, but it’s even worse when systemic racism fights you at every turn.

Tolbert also said the idea of professionalism is inherently “Eurocentric.” The pressure to straighten naturally curly hair to appease jobs, ‘fix’ the way you talk, or be ashamed of your name because of racist unconscious bias. Through this process of whitewashing, Black women become the hardest hit in the job market and lead them to higher unemployment, few work benefits, and less job stability. Society forces Black women to change themselves to conform to their norms and yet still don’t provide them with the proper access to a sustainable lifestyle. This clear discrepancy is why the #HireBlack Initiative’s most significant objective is to get 10,000 Black women hired. This goal will help offset the established systematic racism and sexism which Black women are constantly fighting against.

While a tool for positive change, it is unfortunate that the #HireBlack initiative came from the turbulent job market mixed with the lack of intersectionality in American society. This plays a huge role in how Black women are oppressed and often discriminated against due to the cross-section of negative effects on gender, race, and class. Even though #HireBlack doesn’t solve everything, it contributes to the fight against gross mistreatment black women face due to systematic racism.

For as long as I’ve been in this community, I was fortunate enough to get a coach to critique my resume and help improve my LinkedIn page. I’ve made friends with other women, heard their personal stories, and listened to their advice. I even donated money because I believe in the message of #HireBlack. I was also able to land my first industry job because of my experience!

From the humble beginnings of June 2020 to now, #HireBlack has created a safe space for Black women. It has now become a place where non-Black allies can join the initiative to tackle their internalized bias. There are more professional services to improve your online professionalism. Weekly coffee hours are live-streamed on LinkedIn to talk about upcoming events. Job recruiters are available to increase network opportunities. The initiative held a virtual conference to address workplace issues and finding solutions. By no means has #HireBlack finished with its mission. It’s only getting started. 

In the words of Tolbert, let’s get to werk.

If you’re still looking for a job, need help, or know someone who would like this, reach out to the #HireBlack website. To join the #HireBlack Initiative, submit your invitation to join the Slack channel. Be a part of a community that only wants to see you succeed and flourish as the proud Black woman you are.

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Work Career Now + Beyond

No one wants to work and that tells you a lot about modern-day capitalism

The word career makes me break out in hives. Not because having a career is inherently wrong, but because of the implications that it has in our society. A typical career means showing up to a job at least five days a week to work 40+ hours and climb up some proverbial ladder, whether it be pay, responsibility, or industry knowledge. But what that means for many of us in the workforce is a lopsided work-life balance.

In a recent study, the World Health Organization discovered 488 million people worldwide were exposed to long working hours, amounting to more than 55 hours per week. Overwork leads to an estimated 35% higher risk of having a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease. In 2016, overwork resulted in more than 745,000 people dying from the aforementioned symptoms—which really makes you think about what a standard workweek should look like for everyone.

Recently, I came across a TikTok video suggesting 20 hours, four-day workweeks should be our goal. In the comments of this TikTok, one user suggested that this should actually be a reality by now. With a little more research, I found that in 1928, economist John Maynard Keynes actually predicted society would shift to 15-hour workweeks within a century. He believed this shorter workweek would be enough to meet demand as rates of productivity and industry increased. A few years later, in 1933, U.S. Congress almost passed a 30-hour workweek bill as an alternative to unemployment during the Great Depression. However, this bill did not pass. By the 1940s, workers for Kellogg’s took matters into their own hands and voted in favor of six-hour workdays. By 1985, however, Kelloggs was back to eight-hour days.

I have to admit, I’m miffed that society is still so far from Keynes’ prediction. The pandemic has exposed many of us to society’s labor flaws. In fact, four-day workweeks were proposed at the height of the pandemic as people reevaluated what was important to them. For example, Spain is testing four-day workweeks without dropping workers’ pay. Additionally, New Zealand and Japan are trialing lower hours. Furthermore, fewer hours have been associated with better work. In 2019, Microsoft tried out a four-day workweek in Japan, finding that it boosted productivity by 40%. Many believe shorter workweeks help place more of an onus on productivity and output rather than time spent in a workplace. Others believe shorter workweeks are actually better for the economy, workers, and the environment.

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The trend toward less time in-office also reflects today’s workforce reprioritizing flexibility. According to a LinkedIn Workforce Confidence survey, 50% of the respondents said the flexibility of hours or location has become more important to them when looking for a new job. Keep in mind, an additional 45% voted for work-life balance. According to Prudential Financial’s Pulse of the American Worker survey, 68% of workers want a hybrid workplace model in which they can work both remotely and in-office. In addition, 1 in 4 workers is considering quitting their job because they’re looking for a new job with more flexibility.

Though I wasn’t asked to be part of any of these surveys, I also would have voted for flexibility. The pandemic has made it clear to me that I don’t want to live to work, but rather work to live. I value my free time and I want to protect it at all costs because it helps me perform better at my job. But flexibility isn’t always afforded to every single person in the workforce. Finding a job in the first place is already a matter of luck, privilege, or experience depending on who you’re talking to and what field they work in. This means that a lot of us don’t have the option of being picky when it comes to jobs, which can eliminate the possibility of working for an employer who accommodates our needs and values. And this is a major reason why women are leaving the workforce at such a rapid pace.

Since last year, nearly 2.4 million women exited the workforce, compared to less than 1.8 million men. According to CBS News, more women, and women of color in particular, work in essential jobs that require them to physically show up to work. This means less flexibility in their schedule, time, and location. And since most women are still responsible for caregiving in the household, unlike men, women aren’t always able to balance a job on top of that. This is one of the reasons why childcare has become such an important topic amongst legislators.

Because people are leaving the workforce, industries like fast food are currently facing labor shortages. According to Business Insider, the restaurant industry is an “exceptionally difficult business” for workers because of long hours, little pay, and a high rate of sexual harassment and assault. During the pandemic, dining rooms were closed and late-night services, such as McDonald’s 24-hour service, were halted. Now, fast-food workers aren’t interested in returning to a pre-COVID workplace. In the last couple of weeks, people have published photos and videos of the signs fast-food workers have posted to warn customers of this issue.

On May 19, 2021, McDonald’s workers in 15 U.S. cities went on strike to demand the fast-food chain pay its workers at least $15 an hour. After all, companies like Amazon and Target already offer a $15 minimum wage. But the Fight for $15 doesn’t account for healthcare, paid leave, or overtime pay—benefits that should be afforded to anyone working any job. And, if we learned anything in the last year, it’s that front-line workers need to be recognized more and paid better.

Care workers, positions primarily held by women and people of color, are also experiencing “low wages, long hours, and scant benefits” for decades. However, care workers are looking for financial security and more normal work schedules. While unions have helped bargain for living wages and benefits for home-care aid workers, not all states have these unions. In the U.S., President Joe Biden proposed to spend $400 billion on home- and community-based services, which could offer all care jobs better wages and benefits—if it passes.

But for many of us, change in the workplace isn’t happening fast enough. This is why people are starting to take matters into their own hands. In South Korea, millennials are pushing back against conventional success in favor of following their passions. Don’t Worry Village is one project that helps 20 and 30-something-year-olds find happiness after failure or burning out in the corporate world. Their slogan is “It’s okay to rest. It’s okay to fail” and they practice this ethos by offering people the opportunity to retreat to the village and experiment by creating their own projects. In addition, in southern Seoul, there is the “School of Quitting Jobs,” which offers 50 courses on topics like managing an identity crisis, how to brainstorm a Plan B, and how-to-YouTube.

While the phrase “I do not dream of labor” has become common amongst millennials and Gen Z-ers, it’s not a joke or a meme. When we look only through the lens of capital, labor defines our value. When we prioritize trade, industry, and profit over human life, it leaves those of us who make those things possible unable to enjoy living. When productivity and progress take precedent over existence, life isn’t lived.

Today, a job or career can feel like trying to swim to the surface of the ocean while our leg is caught in seaweed. We need radical change because long gone are the days in which people are okay with sitting at their desks well into the night or being on their feet servicing customers for 10+ hours. No one ever wanted their workday to look like this and yet these scenarios are commonplace in our world today. While it can be hard to express the need for flexibility to future employers, change can start with us—if we’re bold enough to ask.

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Celebrities Movies Pop Culture

Youn Yuh-Jung is our favorite grandma, and we love to see her win a SAG Award

Youn Yuh-Jung accepted her SAG (Screen Actors Guild) award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role with tears in her eyes and careful care of her articulation in English. There was a moment in which she consulted someone off-screen to check her pronunciation of “supporting actress”, taking due diligence with her words even in a moment of fervor. Fans on Twitter call her their queen and relate with her fellow nominee fangirls. It’s heart-warming to see positive Asian representation in mainstream media – something that’s sorely lacking.

Her role in Minari has welcomed her to the Western sphere of cinema. She stars as the doting yet vulgar grandmother Soon-ja who moves to the US to help raise the children of her immigrant son. To much of her grandson’s chagrin, Soon-ja brings a carefree spirit to a house that is injured by poverty and marital discourse.

For much of the movie, she holds as the emotional tether for the children of the household, something that is lost on the struggling family. She reminded me much of my own grandmother who provided me a safe bubble from the afflictions of my own parents and I’m sure that this empathy is universal for many that were born here too. Throughout Minari, Youn’s performance felt and stayed raw and heartfelt, as she channeled her own immigrant experience to America during the ’70s. 

But who is this veteran Korean actress that has managed to capture every international heart? 

Youn Yuh-Jung in a floral sweater. Her hands are wrapped around her as she looks up to the sky, eyes closed. She looks deep in thought.
Image Description: Youn Yuh-Jung in a floral sweater. Her hands are wrapped around her as she looks up to the sky, eyes closed. She looks deep in thought. Credit: Philip Montgomery for New York Magazine.

Youn Yuh-Jung didn’t think of acting until the start of her term at Hanyang University in Seoul. She was dejected after receiving her low college-entrance exam scores barring her from any elite colleges so when a TV director suggested she try out for an open talent audition, she went ahead with it. 

She debuted on the screen with the drama series Mister Gong in 1967. Though she received a TBC Drama Award for Best New Talent, it was not until 1971 that she gained critical acclaim. Her role as a paramour femme fatale in the film Woman of Fire awarded her three  Best Actress awards from the Stiges Film Festival, Grand Bell Awards, and Blue Dragon Film Awards, the latter the Korean equivalent to the Oscars. Awards aren’t enough to quantify the impact of her role, however. 

To this day, sexism is deeply ingrained in almost all pillars of respect due to historically Confucianist ideals. Within Confucianism, there are the Five Relationships that symbolize the basic links that must exist for harmony: ruler and ruled – be it father and son, husband and wife, elder brother and younger brother, and friend and friend. The kinship between the husband and wife particularly contains increments of patriarchal values when considering the adjacent values of filial piety. A woman was expected to show only love and respect to her husband with their subservience. 

 Yuh-Jung’s role as a young woman grappling with the moral complexities of marriage, poverty, and lust, was unbeknownst to the big screen; women were simply never characterized so humanly, at least in popular films and TV shows. 

From then on, Yuh-Jung shot to popularity but at its zenith, she married and disappeared to the US, following her husband where he attended college. During her time, she gave birth to two sons but moved back to South Korea with them after divorcing her husband. 

Youn Yuh-Jung (left) received critical acclaim as a paramour femme fatale in "Woman of Fire."
Image Description: Youn Yuh-Jung (left) received critical acclaim as a paramour femme fatale in “Woman of Fire.” Credit: HanCinema. 

Yuh-Jung was a 40-year old divorcee returning to a country that rarely turned on its screens to middle-aged actors starring in anything but a parent role. She had no chance but to labor at any opportunity that came her way; to act was to work and support her family. To date, Yuh-Jung has starred in more than 30 films and 70 series. 

Eventually, Yuh-Jung was able to relinquish the chains of financial responsibility for her two boys. This finally allowed her the possibility of choice, the ability to choose what kind of roles she’d take on. At an age where women retire, Yuh-Jung looked frequently to amateur directors who, like Woman of Fire, weren’t scared to play around with the boundaries of the status quo. In The Bacchus Lady, for example, Yuh-Jung plays an aging prostitute who grapples with her role in a modernizing world. 

Yuh-Jung is, however, not simply just an actor but an adored public figure. Korea’s bustling entertainment TV business gives way for many actors to reveal their true personalities and personas. Youn’s Kitchen stars Yuh-Jung leading an ensemble of other actors in functioning a cafe in a foreign country. The show has not only gained general popularity with another show called Youn’s Stay in production but has cultivated a public image for Yuh-Jung. One in which many are able to watch her calm and pensive attitude infused with a dry wit that only age could give you. 

Now, she is an Oscar-nominated actress and holds a SAG award. There doesn’t seem to be any more that this actress can do yet for Youn Yuh-Jung, there’s no telling what’s next. Western cinema needs more Asian representation, and I am so excited to see Youn Yuh-Jung get the praise that she deserves. 

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Career Now + Beyond

Just because I teach children does not mean I have maternal instincts

While I have never thought of myself to be particularly maternal, I find it relatively easier to work with children. This is why I have increasingly considered exploring a career in teaching. However, this may come with a cost. In an interaction with a distant relative, I expressed my interest in pursuing teaching as a career and simultaneously not wanting children of my own. What followed next was an inexhaustible lecture on how having children is one of the greatest pleasures of life. I tried to explain how I do not picture myself as a mother in the future. According to them, however, I might have the instincts in me somewhere because nothing else can explain my desire for teaching. On the contrary, I think that teaching as a profession would provide me with a sense of fulfilment that is separate from my parental choices.

It is often inherently assumed that most women want children of their own at some point in their lives. In recent years, there has been a growing conversation about normalizing women not wanting children of their own due to various reasons. Many women choose to prioritize their careers instead of starting a family. More often than not, these women are still interrogated and counseled on the importance of having children. Ever since I began teaching, I have been questioned by various colleagues and friends about having changed my opinions on having children. I, however, do not feel that teaching has affected my maternal instincts. 

Teaching is often perceived as a gendered occupation. Whilst this has changed in recent years with more men entering teaching, it still remains largely female-dominated. According to author Bryan J. Nelson lack of male teachers is mainly because “working with children is seen as a woman’s work, men are not nurturing and something must be wrong with them if they choose to work with children.” Nelson explained that there is also the existence of a fear that men are more likely to harm or abuse children compared to women. It is difficult to determine whether or not men are more likely to be abusive than women in teaching, however, these stereotypical notions have undoubtedly added to the gender gap in the profession.

There seems to be a preconceived notion that all teachers would want to have children of their own. Even if they initially begin their careers with not wanting children, after spending an ample amount of time with kids it is assumed that they would eventually embrace motherhood. I, however, wish to challenge this view. As a teacher myself, I have never felt the desire to have children of my own even after spending long hours working with them.

I began teaching in my early teens and since then I have periodically taken on teaching/tutoring jobs. In all my jobs thus far, I have found teaching to be the most gratifying and a career that I see a future in. However, not once have I felt the desire to have children of my own. People may assume that this will change once I get married but I have also spoken to teachers who are married and would not like to have children of their own. Some teachers have also said that they would not have had children of their own had they began their careers before having children.

People find it difficult to dissociate one’s career choices from their life choices.

People often say that ‘childless teachers cannot truly understand children’. This statement automatically implies that women without children may not have maternal instincts. Maternal instinct, however, is largely a myth. It comes from deep love, devotion, intense closeness, and time spent thinking about the child. And is not limited to just mothers. Psychotherapist Dana Dorfman agrees that many aspects of maternal instincts are a myth. It is not necessary to be a mother to understand and care for children. Understanding and care come from observation and experiences. Many people land in jobs that they have had no prior experience in, however, with time they learn and excel at their job. So, why are teachers subjected to this form of generalization?

The idea that being a teacher affects one’s maternal instincts or vice versa is largely misogynistic as it exposes the underlying trend of women being incomplete without children. In the case of teachers, it becomes rather problematic because people find it difficult to dissociate one’s career choices from their life choices.

Globally women have gained greater autonomy to choose their careers and overcome misogynistic trends prevalent in societies. Choosing teaching as a career option and simultaneously not wanting children is largely questioned and viewed skeptically. So much so that people often go to extreme lengths to explain to me that working with children will lead to me changing my mind sooner rather than later. However, that is yet to happen.

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Work Now + Beyond

My boss’s constant gaslighting made me question my sanity

Gaslighting is commonly associated with romantic relationships. However, this form of abuse is present everywhere, especially at work. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, gaslighting involves psychological manipulation and/or emotional abuse to exert power or gain control. I did not realize gaslighting at work existed until this summer. I found myself in a very bizarre situation where I was constantly subjected to manipulation and found myself under immense stress and self-doubt.

I worked at an organization that I believed would value and empower me because that is what the organization claims to promote. Just after a few weeks though, I began doubting the quality of my work and felt terrible most of the time. Gaslighters will have you constantly question your self-worth to prevent you from succeeding.  It is up to you to set boundaries to protect your mental health and sense of self-worth. Always remember nothing is more important than your mental health.

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I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work I had. I was struggling to strike a balance between work and other commitments. It is commonplace to feel like that once in a while, isn’t it? Well apparently for gaslighters there is no room for validation or empathy. I communicated my feelings to my supervisor who instantly dismissed my feelings and expressed her dissatisfaction with me. It got to a point where I doubted my own sanity. I almost accepted that I was at fault and perhaps incapable of handling tasks effectively.

However, I was fortunate enough to have supportive colleagues who stepped in to rescue me from a toxic situation. Gaslighters will negate your feelings and opinions and instead insist that their approach is always correct.

I did not let this experience define me and neither should you.

It is difficult to identify gaslighters or gaslighting but if you have ever doubted your capabilities or sanity at work then you have probably been a victim of gaslighting. Gaslighters are very smart! They tend to pass on judgments and passive-aggressive comments under the guise of well-intentioned feedback or support. 

Gaslighting is more frequent at work because it is a competitive environment and everyone just wants to excel. It is, however, also underreported because the victim usually ends up thinking it is his or her fault. Working with a gaslighting boss or colleagues can become demeaning and undermine your self-confidence. It aids negativity, which can seep into your personal life as well as push you out of your preferred career.

Every once in a while, it is alright for your boss or colleague to disagree with you. But if it occurs recurrently and you find yourself second-guessing your choices all the time, you are probably being gaslighted. Confusing you makes them feel correct. They may even drop back-handed compliments to maintain an upper hand.

I personally believe people that people gaslight at work due to a lack of self-confidence and assurance. Undermining other people’s credibility reduces their chances of getting ahead. This in turn makes the gaslighter feel in control or powerful. It has been proven by research that gaslighters tend to have low self-esteem. Their behaviors make them assume a sense of power or control.

In order to ascertain whether you are being gaslighted or not look out for recurrent behavioral patterns that are confusing you. If you constantly find yourself perplexed and doubt your abilities, you are being gaslighted – trust your instincts. Do not allow your boss or colleagues’ behavior to take over you. 

Sometimes speaking to a trusted colleague can help. I was lucky enough to have trust-worthy and supportive colleagues that I vented out to. They stepped in to make sure I was doing alright and reminded me that my work was valued.

There is little conversation about gaslighting at work but it is extremely prevalent and dangerous. It can demotivate people and push them out of their chosen careers. It is important that you figure out whether or not you are being gaslighted. Once you are sure, try to keep a record of all your interactions with the gaslighter. Take screenshots of emails and messages. That is what I did! This is especially important if you plan to report the case to your management or HR.

Always remember nothing is more important than your mental health.

In my experience, a confrontation with the gaslighter never goes well. They will not listen to you and instead throw unwarranted arguments at you. It is best to get support from a management team or HR. It was difficult for me to get any form of help because my gaslighter was at the very top. Albeit, it was a testing experience but I held my ground. I did not let this experience define me and neither should you.

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Life Hacks Work Tech Now + Beyond

These 11 free web tools are the secret to constantly being on top of things

After entering the world of work, I’ve come across my fair share of free web tools that claim to have all of the bells and whistles to keep me organized and on top of my work. I wanted to share the ones that have benefitted me, so you can save yourself the time from testing as many free web tools as I have!

It doesn’t matter what stage you are in your career journey – whether you’re working from home or in the office, if you’re a student/graduate looking to start your career or you’re working on personal projects – these tools can help you boss your tasks. Even better than that, they’re free for you to use!


Grammarly logo
[Image Description: Image of Grammarly logo] via Grammarly
Grammarly is an online writing assistant that makes your writing look professional and up to scratch. The software analyzes the text you’ve written and checks for any writing errors. The free version scans for grammar, punctuation and spelling errors and provides writing style recommendations.

The thing I love about Grammarly is how you can also view synonyms for many of the words in a document. When I’ve repeated a word I’ve written in a report or blog post draft, I’ve relied on Grammarly for word suggestions to make my writing look polished.


Canva logo
[Image Description: Image of Canva logo] via Canva
Canva is an awesome graphic design platform for making your designs look slick, clean and impressive. You can create resumes, presentations, flyers, social media graphics and much more – there are so many design templates available at your disposal.

Best of all, you don’t need any graphic design experience to use Canva – I have zero experience and I’m able to use this platform! I’ve created business presentations, spruced up my resume, designed a temporary food menu for my father’s restaurant and created Instagram posts and story highlight covers all through Canva.


todoist logo
[Image Description: Image of todoist logo] via todoist
To stay organized and on top of your day-to-day tasks, owning a to-do list app is an absolute must. Todoist lets you do that. As the app is cloud-based, all of your tasks can sync automatically. You can note down your tasks on the go anytime and on any device – you can even use Todoist offline.


Trello logo
[Image Description: Image of Trello logo] via Trello
If you’re looking for a project management tool that provides clean organization, flexibility and full visibility, then Trello is the app for you! Trello is a kanban-style list-making app that lets you organize cards into lists. The cards can be made up of tasks, notes, to-dos, projects, files, images, links – just about anything that lets you achieve your aims.

You can use Trello whilst collaborating with your team on tasks or for your personal use. I’ve used Trello to capture inspiration I’ve found online and then save and organize them in my Trello boards – they include my wedding, holidays, recipe ideas and running my own blog.


Evernote logo
[Image Description: Image of Evernote logo] via Evernote
Evernote is a cloud-based app designed for note-taking, organizing, managing tasks and for storing media files. You create notes and save them into your notebooks (like you would with a folder), then organize your notebooks by assigning them names.

As Evernote automatically syncs your notes and notebooks between your devices, you won’t feel restricted by just working on a single device when creating or updating your notes. The flexibility of the Evernote app allows you to save your notes without losing track of them.


Dropbox logo
[Image Description: Image of Dropbox logo] via Dropbox
Dropbox is a cloud storage app that allows you to save files online that will automatically sync. That means you can access the files later on a different device. One of the things I like about Dropbox is how you can create Dropbox links to share files and folders with others. This makes it a far easier process compared to sending large files that the receiver finds difficult to download!


Google Drive logo
[Image Description: Image of Google Drive logo] via Google
Google Drive is another cloud storage service that lets you access files across multiple devices. The difference between this service and Dropbox is that Google Drive is compatible with Google’s other products such as Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and more.

I’ve suggested both of these free web tools, Dropbox and Google Drive, as I’ve found it’s beneficial to store my Google product files in Google Drive and other files (Word, Excel and PDF files) in Dropbox.


Google Calendar logo
[Image Description: Image of Google Calendar logo] via Google
Following on from Google Drive is their calendar app. Google Calendar works well with Gmail and other Google products, with notifications sent by default to your Gmail account. As it’s cloud-based as well, your events, reminders and tasks will sync through to all of your devices when you’re signed in to your Google account.


Sejda logo
[Image Description: Image of Sejda logo] via Sejda
Sejda is an easy-to-use PDF editor for making quick edits to your documents. There’s no software for you to install – the tool can be accessed right in your browser. You can convert, edit, merge and split your documents – you have access to all of the basic functionalities without downloading software!


Diigo logo
[Image Description: Image of Diigo logo] via Diigo
If you do a lot of reading and researching online, then Diigo will be perfect for you! The social bookmarking software allows you to bookmark and tag web pages, highlight sections on websites and annotate and attach sticky notes to your saved research. I’ve only recently come across this software and I’m obsessed with it! I only wish I came across Diigo sooner as I would’ve saved so much time researching and analysing content I’ve come across online.


Pinterest logo
[Image Description: Image of Pinterest logo] via Pinterest
If you’re looking for creative inspiration, look no further than Pinterest! Whether you’re looking for productivity and self-care tips to see you through your student or career journey, or you need the time to zone out and not think about work, Pinterest can help with that. I’ve created Pinterest boards for interior design ideas, bridal inspo (I found a henna design on Pinterest I had recreated for my wedding!), fashion and for self-improvement tips. 

You’ll be surprised how quickly these free web tools will help you elevate your work or personal projects. You’ll check off your tasks in no time!

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Culture Life Stories Life

Don’t feel sorry for me because I don’t drink, I don’t need your sympathy

As a British Muslim woman that doesn’t drink, growing up in a country that has a dominant drinking culture has made me feel uncomfortable and unwelcome around work and friendship circles. From university through to my career, I’ve had to navigate comments that have made me feel belittled about my choices and values.

“Why not?” – Is that any of your business?

“You haven’t lived until you’ve had a drink!” – I’m living just fine thank you.

“I wish I could do that, I’ve got a lot of respect for you.’”- A comment that sounds like they’re admiring my choice, but is actually patronizing and insincere.

And I’ve saved the best one till last…

“Go on, just try one!” – Yes, there are still people that think forcing someone to drink is like committing a good deed. They expect I’ll magically become a “fun” person to hang out with once I become tipsy or drunk.

To stop people from expecting me to explain myself, feeling ‘sorry’ for me or forcing me to drink, I would come up with different ways to evade any awkward interactions. I’d avoid going to socials where I knew it would involve going to a pub or bar (or leave early if I’m ‘encouraged’ to go), I’d only spend time with people that I trust won’t ask these irritating questions or I’d suggest other places to go to.

I started to feel drinking peer pressure when I attended university. During first-year whilst living in university halls, my flatmates would regularly arrange pre-drinks at our flat before going out partying and drinking even more. I had no issue with my flatmates drinking – it’s their life and it’s each to their own – but I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the drinking culture I wasn’t partaking in. The majority of people entering university were able to build close friendships with others based on their shared enjoyment of alcohol. I felt judged by my peers and definitely had FOMO, but I wasn’t going to succumb to peer pressure.

I quickly came to realize who my real friends were at university – they respected and didn’t want to change me. They like me for who I am and they didn’t make a big deal about me not drinking.

Though I felt the peer pressure dissipate at university, it reappeared when I entered the working world. It was only when I started my career that I realized how intrinsic the drinking culture is in the UK. There are after-work drinks, socials that involve drinking, birthday drinks, successful project drinks, leaving drinks. There always seems to be an excuse to drink.

I had one manager that felt it was perfectly fine to say multiple comments to me about my choices. “Aww, I feel so sorry for you!” was one condescending remark she felt was acceptable to say every so often to me. Am I living life the wrong way? Am I dull, boring, not worth other people’s time when it comes to socializing? Well according to my then-manager, I am.

I would fume. I could feel my heart rate racing when she made those comments. All I could do was take a deep breath and smile through gritted teeth. How could I stand up against my manager if she could make work more difficult for me? I learned not to respond and let her continue talking about her drunken antics instead. It felt more manageable than snapping back.

As I’m older and (I’d like to think) wiser, I’ve come to realize that the people making these comments are likely to feel judged and uncomfortable around me because of their personal drinking choices. For some people, they may have given in to peer pressure so they don’t feel left out of friendship circles. For others, they know drinking is bad for their health and it’s costly, but having a drink helps them to wind down, relax and socialize with ease. I am not the kind of person to judge. I’m not against drinking culture, I will happily go to a pub or bar with a group of friends whilst they drink alcohol and I have a fancy mocktail.

When people ask non-drinkers to explain themselves instead of respecting their choices, that’s when it gets infuriating. When I do get asked these questions now, I’ll tell them it’s my choice, just like it’s their choice to drink. I don’t judge you, so you shouldn’t judge me either.

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Work Career Career Advice Now + Beyond

Read this if you’re thinking about quitting your job during a pandemic

Earlier this year I experienced my breaking point when it came to my job. My manager had arranged a digital marketing training session for the company – a topic I was keen to learn more about as I wanted to improve my skill-set in the area. When it came to booking a date to fit around ‘the whole team’, I found that the training was arranged during the vacation time I’d booked off. After asking my manager whether another session could be arranged which I could participate in, I was given an awkward excuse that it would be an extra expense for the company to provide the training “just for you” and that they did their best to fit it around as many people as possible. It was just unfortunate oversight I did not make the cut. What a silly and totally unavoidable coincidence!

This was one of many instances that contributed to my decision of quitting my job and no less during a pandemic. Incidents like these made me realise that I was only there to keep things ticking along whilst being sidelined on a regular basis.

Back in April, my employer told me that I would be placed on furlough so that they could counteract business losses caused by the pandemic. The UK government introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme this year in an effort to save businesses and jobs. The government scheme pays 80% of an employee’s wages monthly, up to £2,500. After being told this news from my employer, I was low-spirited. Being put on furlough made me feel disposable. If my colleagues could do my work, well…was there any point of me being there at all? Not to mention the extreme bouts of guilt that came with being paid whilst not doing the work. 

Let’s not forget that I was not alone in this journey. The most recent government stats show that 9.6 million people were furloughed in the UK as part of the job retention scheme, that’s 29% of the total workforce in the UK. Along with the 9.6 million on furlough, we lost the daily structure in our lives that gave us a purpose.

To overcome my feelings of guilt, I did everything I could to be productive with my time. Initially, I applied for jobs, but soon grew frustrated with the process. The constant application and interview rejections made me doubt my potential. I knew I had to think logically about the job hunting process, especially as the job market was becoming increasingly competitive due to so many people searching for jobs during this period. But my mind always wandered back to my negative thoughts. I would bury my mind deep into a realm of self-doubt, disappointment and worthlessness in myself.

My mum, who could see what I was facing, said to me, “Why are you punishing yourself? You need to give yourself a break and enjoy the time that you have with your family”. She was right, I broke down under the realisation of what I was doing to myself. I thought I was being driven and pushing myself, not punishing. I couldn’t relax because I feared that if I did I would end up taking a defeatist attitude to my career and ambitions.

After opening up to my mum, I decided to stop applying for jobs. Despite the 750,000 jobs lost since March this year in the UK, I couldn’t fathom the thought of clicking ‘send’ on another job application.

Once I made that decision, I took the time to look after my mental and physical health through relaxation and exercise, spent time with my family at home and looked for ways to boost my personal development. This included taking online courses, volunteering for charities and creating my own blog. I learned to enjoy my time rather than feeling guilty.

In August, I was asked by my employer to return to work. I knew immediately I didn’t want to go back. After several months of not working, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t happy with my role. I didn’t feel challenged and in-demand compared to my colleagues. My potential there wasn’t fully explored.

Having the time away from work helped me to reflect on this and allowed me to explore other avenues where I hope to eventually get an income from. After reviewing my finances, working out my future plans and talking to family and friends, I resigned from my job. I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders once I made this decision (even though I wasn’t moving into another employment opportunity). Stepping away from being an employee has felt liberating. I’ve been able to choose my own personal projects, such as freelance writing and move at a pace that works for me.

Remind yourself regularly why you have embraced this choice and the positive changes you want to see in yourself during this period.

I know that taking a career break is a big decision to make and, of course, not everyone has the privilege of choosing this option when children need to be fed and electricity needs to stay on. If you’re considering taking a career break, I recommend going through these following steps to help you make the right decision for you:

  • Ask yourself why you want to take a career break. Do you need to take a breather and relax? Do you feel burnt out? Do you dislike your job? Will you use the time to work on changing your career path? Be honest with yourself to reap the benefits.
  • Determine how long you want to take a career break for and what you would like to do once your career break has finished. Map out a timeline to help you contemplate this further.
  • Review your finances to consider how long your money will last you during your break.
  • If you would like to return to your job, see whether your company can grant you a sabbatical. Sabbaticals are different from a career break as you have the security of returning to your role.
  • Would you like to take reduced hours instead of taking a career break? If so, ask your employer whether they would honour this.
  • Have an open discussion with your family and friends. They can help you along your journey and may be able to offer you a different perspective you hadn’t considered.

After following all of these steps, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on whether taking a career break is the right path for you. For me, I’m taking it day by day and enjoying the freedom the career break has given me. I’m filling my time by exploring my potential, spending time with my loved ones and rejuvenating my body and mind. If you decide to take a career break, remind yourself regularly why you have embraced this choice and the positive changes you want to see in yourself during this period. That’s what I did and I do not regret a moment of this journey.

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