Disclaimer that this is just my personal opinion, as someone who is considered to be a casual player (in terms of the mmo genre) and who is more focused on PvE, as opposed to PvP.
As a longtime lurker, I've noticed that leveling continuously gets a bad rep by this community. Some mmos definitely do this better than others. This is when the exploration/storyline/questing/dungeons is so engaging, you tend to forget about the grind, if any. Contenders in this catagory which I've played is Guild Wars 2 and the Elder Scrolls Online, along with a few other smaller mmos. When done right, it's easy to find yourself getting lost discovering meta events or side quests. Not all MMO's are in the same place they were 20 years ago with the continuous 'go collect _____' quests up until cap, and that shouldn't be the standard.
If you continually find yourself becoming disengaged while leveling, chances are it's because of how leveling is implemented, not the idea of it. A good example of this is FFXIV. Every week you can find posts about people asking if it's worth going through the entire game based on their experiences while leveling, with the general consensus being to hammer through it until level 50 because it really picks up during the exapnsions. (Note: this was pre last update). This is a dated way of implementing skills to learn and just makes the experience lacklustre at best because then the focus is on speeding through to avoid burnout. This is NOT the fault of leveling itself.
When looking at video games in psychology, the rewards system is known as a catalyst in our brains. When leveling is done right, and we get to see stats and skills unlocked. We see our health and stamina go up, we get beter equipment and weapons. These rewards continue on at endgame with daily challenges and achievements and such, not start. If they do not inhibit a sense of payoff, maybe there's need for a short break.
Another focus to touch on is the massively multiplayer aspect of mmorpgs. When you're standing in a capital city, what do you see? Chances are, you'll be surrounded by tons of other players at cap level with decked out equiptment, gear, ect. This can serve as a comparison and make us appreciate the the journey, that we all started from nothing and built up our characters. (Note: this exclude p2w games).
That being said, I do agree that there are drawback, such as full PvP potential which tends to be unlocked at cap, along with crafting and other things. I've only touched on what is simply a portion of what leveling consists of.
In conclusion, enjoy the ride there! Stop worrying so much on endgame and creating a stressful atmosphere for yourself while leveling. Have fun playing. I feel as though a lot of us are so invested in being best of the best that we end up taking journey to cap for granted. Feel free leave your thoughts below!
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