Two major changes happened last week. One is that after much deliberation, frustration, confusion, planning, and tears, I decided I needed to either leave my job or have some kind of major shift; and after talking with my CEO, I transitioned my Creative Director position to part time. The second, was my fiancé left to take a week-long retreat with his bandmates, that had been planned weeks in advance. I, however, was left feeling vulnerable, as excited and panicked about what was to come, and with just so much time to myself.
My standard start of the week looks like this: I immediately shift into high-gear, and viciously and turbulently transmute, with teeth bared, into a stress junkie. The zen-ed out version of myself I worked so hard to get to over the weekend will exuviate any sense of tranquility I thought would finally stay with me, and my appreciation for self dissipates into a never-ending to do list, goals, and fears of failure.
Somewhere in there, I struggle to find time for self-care–eating well, yoga and exercise, writing, and time with my fiancé (Cory) and dog (Yogi). Usually, I would leave work drained, only to go home and get back on my computer to work on projects that needed to go live the next day. Often, Cory would make dinner and we’d eat while I work, and then he’d read or play music while I continue to work until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore. Two weeks ago, I hit my breaking point with the stress of trying to enjoy wedding planning, the Thanksgiving holiday and getting everything done for work. It was time.
I am incredibly appreciative for how understanding and supportive my CEO was. I think it’s uncommon to be able to create your own schedule to this degree especially for a managerial role. My schedule now is to shoot for 25 hours, capping out at 30. Let me tell you, being able to go home and do nothing is truly something that is incredibly underappreciated. I couldn’t believe how incredible it felt to leave work at work, have dinner, play with Yogi, and if I wanted to, just lay in bed and stare at the ceiling, read, watch a movie, or work on my side projects (like Rogue Habits).
With Cory being gone, I had set out to be wildly productive and do all the things I don’t usually have time for. My first day alone, I massacred an enormous to-do list. But from there, things slowed down. While I managed to eat incredibly well the entire week and get to spin three times, I didn’t accomplish too much after work. In fact, I found myself a broken down, emotional mess for the next couple days. So much bubbled up to the surface that I realized I hadn’t allowed myself to feel, but being able to slow down to process and work through those made an immense difference. From there, I hit another obstacle though–figuring out what to do with myself. I can do anything I want right now? What? There were all these pending items I had told myself I would accomplish, and here I was in a state of paralysis.
Slowly taking on one thing at a time, I began. There was no particular order, but more so what called to me. If I felt like going through emails, I would do it. Time to post Instagram, but want to scroll through endlessly for 30 minutes, I can do that too. I bought what I wanted and only what I personally needed at the store. It was so liberating! Other than Yogi, I could finally focus on me with all the free time I now had, and after that week, I actually felt well-rested and relaxed; but I knew I couldn’t go on with zero lack of structure altogether.
Now I’m in my second week of being part time, and Cory is back, but I’m starting to get into a rhythm. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. It’s REALLY easy to get lazy. As I’d stated, there were nights where I literally did nothing…and it felt amazing, but if it were to become a habit, then I’m still wasting that precious time, which, perhaps above all, is my chief concern. To counter this, I still get up at 6am to go to spin and eat something healthy. From there, depending on if I have plans or a an appointment, I’ll either work on Rogue Habits and freelance writing in the morning or in the afternoon.
2. With time comes clarity and room for ideas! It was amazing with the amount of mental space that opened up, the number of ideas that started flooding in. It was as if I had been on pause just to be able to finish tasks. The constant immediacy of that prevented me from being able to delve into forward thinking.
3. I became more present. Not focusing on the constant to-do list allowed me time to just exist and enjoy my time whether it was going on a hike with Yogi (dog), wrapping a gift, or even meditating. I noticed that in conversations, I was more alert and in tune, and Yogi was calmer as well. He always is a good indicator of where I am.
4. Despite all the new ideas, it is very possible to still accomplish nothing. You can do a little bit to start off with each idea, but it can be easy to become distracted with no deadlines or definitive goals. I needed a plan with specific action items and goals, an understanding of why I wanted to achieve those, and deadlines so that I could be sure to be working towards something rather than accidentally online shopping after a binge-fest of beautiful living rooms on Pinterest.
5. Making time for things that are not necessarily productive is important too. This week, I shamelessly watched Netflix, ignored all incoming alerts on my phone and laptop, and spent a night working on a DIY project. I felt a little guilty, but knew it was what I needed. It also was really gratifying to finish a project that was just for me.
6. I didn’t know how much I enjoy hanging out with myself. I mean really. Who knew how much fun it could be hanging out alone? There’s something about being 100% free to do exactly what you want that feels so good. Regardless of how loving and supportive Cory is, he is still another person in the room with his own feelings, needs, and moods; and of course we affect each other. To not have to be able to consider anyone or anything for an extended duration of time felt like therapy, or like I’d gone away to a retreat to rediscover myself.
7. I can’t do it all alone, and kind of also like people…sometimes. I noticed that while I spent far more time physically alone, I was on the phone much more. Whether it was brainstorming for Rogue Habits or wedding planning, I had my go-to people to talk to, and I know there is no way I’d be able to accomplish most of the things I’d done without them. Having a strong network to turn to is crucial for me to bounce ideas off, to normalize things, and feel supported.
While I’m still in the process of figuring out exactly what the meaning of work-life balance is, I at least now know that I absolutely need time for myself to pause, reflect, be productive, and feel at least calm, if not fulfilled. Without it and the ability to ruminate over things, I think I tend to get a little stuck and spiral. With my new schedule, I am grateful that I really have the time to be able to test and tweak until I find the right equation. Or maybe it will just continually be in flux and I’ll have to ebb and flow with the tides. Either way, here’s to becoming BFF’s with yourself!