There’s No Success Without Rest

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by Sherry Toh |

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As you get older, proper rest tends to become an appointment you have to schedule. It’s something you have an abundance of when you’re an infant, but its presence steadily decreases in your life once school, work, and social engagements take up increasing space.

I’ve witnessed this phenomenon among my friends over the years and encouraged them to try to rest more, but it wasn’t until the last few months that I understood why they couldn’t.

See, I was home-schooled. I’d gone in and out of the hospital with SMA so often that my parents believed any stress over my grades would be detrimental to my health. My doctor wrote a letter exempting me from the formal education system. After that, my days weren’t structured. Mum would teach me using textbooks when she could, but unlike my friends, I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. I could rest 24/7 if I chose to do so. And I did.

For years, my friends in the real world and online envied me for my free time. I’d get upset that they were busy all the time with schoolwork. I was perplexed that some rarely took breaks, despite my advice.

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But slowly and surely, the tables flipped, and I turned envious of them. They had discipline and purpose, thanks to school and structured days. Some had growing social lives, even going on to have romantic partners. I inevitably lost touch with most. I’d gone from being privileged enough to rest to floundering all alone.

Then my best friend and fellow columnist Brianna Albers came into my life.

Brie can attest to how I’ve become the type of person I envied, and that it hasn’t always been for the best. We met in 2018, and for most of the past four years, I’ve mainly been the one advising her to get proper rest and work at her own pace. Brie has done the same a handful of times, but until recently, our dynamic has otherwise stayed consistent. She’d talk about her various projects, rattling on like a train that’s full speed ahead. I’d warn her she has SMA and is only human, then go play a video game.

Brie was the one who recommended me for a columnist position at SMA News Today. I never imagined the job would open doors for me elsewhere. Heck, I never imagined I could write 800 words in one day; my first column entries took three to five days to finish.

Then I impressed the features editor at PCGamesN with my columns on video games last July. He commissioned my pitch for a 1,000-word op-ed almost immediately. After it was submitted, I realized I’d finished both of my column entries for the month plus the op-ed with plenty of time to spare.

“Hey,” I thought, “I can juggle more work!”

I wrote two additional pieces for PCGamesN in 2021. When someone sent me a link to Rice Media, a local publication seeking freelance journalists, I applied and was accepted by it, too. Why not do it? I needed the money and wanted to expand my portfolio.

Rejected pitches and drafts have been rare for me. That, and the progress in my writing skills, made me cocky. Still, I wanted more — my peers were writing more and having greater successes.

I began to expect everything I wrote to be written, edited, and published quickly. I knew how to structure my days, but planned less for revisions and unforeseen circumstances. This meant my schedule swung wildly from super busy to super clear. In turn, it affected the quality of my work, my social life, and my health.

On April 21, Brie sent out a newsletter titled “how to do nothing.” In the irony of ironies, it was the day of a deadline for me, and I was ill that morning. My body had had enough of staying up into the morning. It caught a stomach virus to prove it.

When Brie heard, she said, “Time for me to ‘mum friend’ and tell you to rest!”

It was a wake-up call. I was sick, exhausted, and burned out. I regretted not heeding Brie and everyone else telling me to slow down before I needed my BiPAP for an entire day. I ended up postponing all my deadlines.

Now I know why it was hard for my friends to rest when I told them to. Because if they did, they might’ve missed out on amazing opportunities. External factors cause us to believe that resting could set us behind.

But I also know the value of rest and how we actually need it to succeed. Finding a balance is easier said than done, but I’m trying.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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