I think for a lot of us, we set out these lofty goals for ourselves. A set of ideals we want to live by. A dream life we want to achieve. But what happens when, as life does, things change? Maybe the goal of owning your own house is unreachable today. Maybe your dream career needs to take a back seat because bills don't pay themselves. Life is hard and ever-changing. COVID has changed so much for everyone, myself included. Finding motivation has felt strenuous. I've questioned if what I set out to do is actually something that I want, or something I've just told myself I should want. When I started this website I did so with a goal to make Cybersecurity accessible to everyone. I wanted to share my knowledge with anyone willing to read. However, over the past 2 years I've gotten severely burnt-out in my job within Cybersecurity. I've felt like a different person, not recognizing who I see in the mirror. Burnout is so common for so many, and COVID has made it so much easier for burnout to creep in. Silently working hours and hours of overtime to meet deadlines, or on zero-days that never seem to stop coming. This is the reality for many in our industry. I'm sure it's not what many of us dreamed of. It was fair to say I had lost my passion and drive for Cybersecurity – or much of anything for that matter. That's when I knew that I needed a change. A fresh start in a new role/environment to help find what I had lost, to recover mentally, and to continue to grow as a person.
In January, I started at Wealthsimple; a place I've dreamed of working at for quite a few years now. After this past month or so it is clear that they truly have their employee's well-being in mind. Mental health is a primary concern to leadership. Wealthsimple has such diverse, collaborative teams with an amazingly supportive culture. Every person I've met has been insanely talented and kind. It's crazy how a new community can drastically improve your mental wellbeing, reinvigorate your passions, and boost happiness.
What I have learned the most during COVID is that if you are struggling mentally, you can't be expected to do your best work, or be your best for others. Holding yourself to standards that you think you should be able to achieve when your mental state is in shambles isn't fair or realistic. First, give yourself time to heal. Be kind to yourself. Only when you are mentally healthy can you achieve all that you have dreamed of. Only when you are mentally strong can you best support those you love. And if you aren't able to get there on your own, it is not a weakness to seek help. It takes so much strength and courage to open yourself to others and allow people in. Be it a friend, family member, work colleague, or if you can afford professional counselling.
I offer that advice as someone who suffered for over a year in relative silence until last year I broke down into tears during a meeting. A leader took me aside after this and I could hardly speak at the time. Sobbing. Shaking. This individual told me about their story and personal struggles with their mental health during the pandemic. It was such a small act, but just having someone connect with me and allowing me to feel safe and vulnerable meant the world to me. That was a turning point for me, where I really started to work on my mental health. Putting it first over everything. It's taken months of work on myself, but with the support of many friends and my loving partner; today I feel more myself than I have in years! I can't thank all these individuals enough for giving colour back to my life ❤️
After the healing, if you don't feel like the same person as you were, well you might not be. You may need to grieve this. Maybe your friends have changed. Maybe your interests or dreams have altered, and that's ok. It's important to hold a place in your heart and memories for your past self, but accept who you are becoming today and strive forward towards the tomorrow that you desire. Essentially, do the things that will make you happy. Relentlessly go after the life that you want, whatever that looks like. And keep in mind that the future you might foresee is ever-changing. Remember that making decisions for your own mental wellbeing isn't selfish. Putting your mental health first empowers you to give your best to those around you and achieve your best work.
After the growing pains and the healing, I've discovered that I'm still passionate about Cybersecurity. Helping to protect people is still one of my core values that aligns with a core value of the profession. But along the way on my journey, I've also learnt that prioritizing things over myself will only lead me down a painful road. Work is not worth our health. Take breaks, be kind to yourself and if you do need a change, do it because your happiness is not negotiable.