THIS whole week has been a write-off for me. I went in on Monday to have a wisdom tooth extracted, and trust me when I say it was one of the most painful experiences for me, ever. I am generally pretty good with needles and my mum would definitely say that I have a high pain threshold, but cracking bone to loosen teeth — that’s not something that sounds fun.

My dentist and I thought it was going to be a straightforward procedure, one that he promised would take no more than 30 minutes. It ended up being an hour of him sawing and pulling away at my mouth. It turned out my “little” wisdom tooth was this gigantic molar with three deep and twisted roots.

I had my mouth open the whole time and was trying to distract myself with Brad Pitt in World War Z that was playing above my dentist’s head. But after hearing the fourth “crack”, I didn’t really care about Brad Pitt and the aliens anymore.

My dentist handed me my tooth in a little blue bag and 5 days’ worth of medical leave — “I don’t need that many days, I should be fine tomorrow”, I said to him.

He laughed and said: “I’ll see you for a check-up in a few days.”

The dentist took almost double the time to extract my tooth.

Safe to say my dentist was right. After taking a nap to shake off the anaesthesia, I found the left side of my face to have grown three times its size. The swelling had taken a life of its own and now claimed half my face. It also sported a deep dark bruise that ran from my cheek down to my neck.

I called my mum, but as soon as she picked up, I realised I couldn’t say a word. The three stitches in my mouth rendered my jaw useless and I couldn’t move my lips. I resorted to texting her about my pain but then had to put my phone away when the screen agitated my eyes because of the antibiotics.

I would slip in and out of sleep, most of the time unconscious to what time it was and only marked my days by “when Ashraf leaves for work” and “when Ashraf returns from work”.

The next four days I was basically buried in my bed, only leaving to make myself green smoothies for nutrition, to take the next dose of antibiotics and for bathroom breaks. I couldn’t watch TV, read, answer emails or do anything. I was basically a useless blob and hated every second of it.

Nevertheless, I decided to turn this experience into a positive one. Instead of hating my fate, I gave in and let my body rest and recuperate. I allowed myself to not think about work, to not check my email and to only reply personal text messages. I allowed myself time to rest and my body to get better.

Work life balance is extremely important. I try to read as much as I can on planes during work trips.

I’ve been finding it difficult to let myself take a break. I always feel that I have to keep with the “Life” race and to work as hard as I can. I try to not let myself take many breaks and to go full speed as much as I can.

We work hard at our jobs every day for years on end. It has been a frame of mind that we’ve evolved into. We have always been taught to do well in school, graduate from university and then have a good career. There’s not much guidance after that — no rules on how many hours to give to our jobs, no guidelines on when we should rest and what our priorities should be.

It is important to have downtime as a working professional. We should work to live, but more often than not, we are living to work.

We have taken the 9 to 5 to 24/7, we are dedicated to our Excel sheets and are servants to our work phones. We are pressured to be on call after work hours, to work on weekends and to be available even up to midnight. That is not a life I want to live.

I used to think that I was an outlier because of the work I do — being a personal assistant means I am always on call and at my employer’s disposal. Other members of my family work in the corporate world and I have come to accept that coming home at 11pm is a regular thing.

Two women who inspire me to love my work — girlboss and Teyn (@Makeupbyteyn)

But after reflecting during my downtime, I have decided that everyone is entitled to living a balanced work life. It does not matter what our jobs are, if we’re with a start-up or a multinational corporation, we are still human beings who deserve to be “human” and live fulfilling lives.

There is so much beyond our careers that we should aspire towards. To travel the world, to develop meaningful relationships, to enhance our lives with hobbies that we love and to create a life of value.

Working for and with others ultimately brings value to our employers and the companies we are signed to. But I hope we look at the bigger picture — that our jobs are just that and we should decide to lead a life of value. We have to regularly decide what would bring more value to us — to have a few days rest or to slave away at your inbox while recuperating from tooth surgery?

I am very grateful to be feeling better and I’m very excited to be able to return to work tomorrow. There are lots of things for me to accomplish and people I need to get back to. As much as I love my work, I am thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to take a breather and shift my priorities back into order.

We all deserve fulfilling lives and to bring value to our work, our relationships, but most importantly, ourselves.

My face a day after tooth surgery. I look hilarious!

As assistant to fashion icon Vivy Yusof, journalism graduate Iman Azman finds herself thrown deep into the fashion world, a universe once foreign to her. Here she muses about her work, finding balance in life and shares what it’s like having a front row seat in the fashion industry. Follow her journey on

1,763 reads

Related Articles

Most Read Stories by