Tales of a Recovering Workaholic

By Bailee Lawrence

The Beginning of the End

Rock bottom was my final year in college; working three jobs at once while in school full time. The hours just kept adding up. An 8 hour  shift turned into a 16 hour work day, which snowballed into a 60 hour work week. My hours of sleep slipping away from me as quickly as my clocked hours piled up. I was unhappy, to say the least. My moods shifting from exhausted to angry to crying and back again. I was stuck in a cloud of hazy grays and reds just trying to finish a shift so that I could rest and do it all again the next day.

The Unfortunate Reality I Wasn’t Prepared to Face

I was miserable but proud. Anyone who knew me knew I worked in order to pay for tuition and the exorbitant rent prices in Santa Barbara. But in reality, that was only part of the reason. I had become addicted to torturing myself. The pain of standing sixteen hours a day, skipping meals while rushing to my second job, and writing essays on lunch breaks only fueled my self pride. I lived in a fantasy that my continued suffering would lead me to some holy redemption, a better place in my future career and a step ahead of my peers.

The truth was I was killing myself- I started to lose my ability to connect with others because of the resentment I felt toward them. I believed everyone had it easier than I did and if someone complained about their lives I was quick to jump in and one up them with my suffering. Their “inability” to understand me only strengthened my belief that I was doing something right and somehow getting ahead of the game.

Where I Found the Road to Recovery

I came to Kalu Yala as a student in the summer of 2017 and knew immediately that I wanted to stay. So I did. Kalu Yala is a constant contradiction to my past self and has ushered me to a road of recovery- both of my soul and my passions.

My days start with the sunrise peeking out from behind jungle hills, the birds chirping above my hammock and the happiness that comes from waking up outside. “Work clothes” are now PJ’s from the night before paired with muddy rain boots and a loose bun of hair. No makeup. My morning commute is a three minute walk to Town Square, five if it’s raining and there’s a traffic jam. I always have weekends off. My passions are topics of conversations with my management team and my coworkers lead me in meditation and yoga at the end of the day.


 Looking at my Career in a New Light

I did not take this job for the money. In fact, I am getting paid less than when I was sixteen and got my first job as a lifeguard. How could I live off of so little money? What about… I tried to fill in the blank. What about what? While working at Kalu Yala I’m given three meals a day, a covered platform to sleep on, and transportation into and out of the valley if I need it. In addition, I am given a community of authentic individuals who value mental health, community living and fostering a passionate work environment. I have come a long way from forcibly pushing my coworkers and friends from my life.

Previously I had seen jobs as a way to make money and gain necessary skills for the workforce. By working in high school and college I felt that I had experiences that would lead me to a “successful” life. I equated success with hard work and hard work with suffering. But this equation is only half true. Hard work is essential to becoming a better person and being able to follow your passions. However, hard work does not mean self torture and poor mental and physical health in the name of a bigger savings account, better credit, or better job title.


The Biggest Changes Bring The Best Results

Working for a startup like Kalu Yala teaches me that “wearing many hats” leads to self discovery and the development of incredible skills. After three months in the jungle I’m roasting biochar coffee and writing articles for the company blog. I’ve even TA’ed in the business program. All of this as the formal head of human resources. My job title hasn’t put me in a box (literal cubicle or otherwise). I no longer work for just a paycheck. Here, I explore my passions and play an active role in community.

I always visualized success as a finish line, a place where I would finally be living my best life; but that was far removed from my present state of self. Now, I see success as a process that I am incorporating into daily life; one that includes mental and physical health as part of the equation. In addition, it is no longer about a larger paycheck, overpriced rent, or expensive getaway vacations.

My Life Looks a Little Different These Days

I am living my day to day without the “modern” normalities of a car, a home, or even a bed. I haven’t purchased new clothes or shoes in months and I believe that living outside is the best vacation I’ve ever had. My hard work is focused on a perpetual state of learning. I work for the experience and to discover and rediscover my passions. As a recovering workaholic in her twenties, I am happy to be poor, well rested, and constantly learning.

My name is Bailee and I am a recovering workaholic. My never ending attempt to “get ahead” through self torture and lack of sleep has ended. I am living my best life and my job is the reason.

Are you a recovering workaholic? We’d love to hear about your journey in the comments below !

Photo By Taylor Epps

If you loved this post click here to read more of Bailees’ adventures or follow her on instagram @baileelaw