I am currently writing this while on vacation from work. A vacation I took because I was struggling through some recent traumatic events, and needed to rest, relax, and reset.
However, by day 2 I had already scrubbed and organized my entire fridge, reorganized the cupboard under the sink that housed all of our plastic bags and junk, and cleaned out the front hall closet. I have completed a workout every day, spent time with family, made multiple meals, and went grocery shopping.
The point is… I’m terrible at relaxing. I always have been. The idea of the hustle is what keeps me going throughout my day. Of course, this mentality has its benefits. I work hard, I get a lot done, I manage to tackle a lot of projects. During non-quarantine time any given week, I’m splitting my time between working 8-10 hour days Monday-Friday, rehearsing for shows at night, taking vocal lessons once a week, volunteering, blogging, going to the gym, and keeping up an active social life.
Then one day this past August, a doctor told me I needed to learn how to slow down. She said that time for relaxation isn’t something that should be “scheduled in” only when I was on the verge of burning out, it is something that should be part of your regular routine, and not just jammed into a hectic schedule.
This was a huge blow to my ego. See, up until this point, being busy, constantly on the go, overworked, over-tired, over-achieving… this had been my identity. Beginning in University, I had formed a shell to show the world that I should not, could not, and would not, be underestimated. I made it known that I could achieve anything, I was above sleep, I was above needing to take a break, better than those who spent time doing anything other than furthering their career, their resume, their fitness, etc. My life was scheduled to the last minute, nothing was done for joy anymore, it was all just part of the to-do list.
“Paint nails 11:15-11:30, See friends for lunch at 11:30 am, workout at 3 pm, clean and organize bedroom 4-5 pm”.
When you make every part of your life regimented, eventually you no longer find joy in the things that you are doing or calmness in the parts of your day that are supposed to be relaxing, and it becomes a problem.
See, I believe that we are constantly surrounded by the hustle. The Monday-Friday workweek takes over people’s lives. The more hours you work, the more valued you are as a person. The more you can fit on your plate without dropping it, the more people will respect you. There is a constant battle between who is the most exhausted or takes the least sick days, who comes in earliest and leaves the latest, who does the most outside of their standard job. It’s not enough to just work hard at your job, you have to have a small company on the side, a “passion project”, a side hustle. When you listen to successful people speak, they always refer to themselves as “workaholics” or they “always need to be doing something”… so when is there time to relax? Relaxation is seen as weak. We, (or at least in my case) are so quick to tell others to relax, to take a break, telling friends that to be successful you don’t have to be busy or working or keeping up appearances 24/7, but the second I throw on Netflix instead of a Masterclass, or take a nap after work instead of working out and having a blog meeting, I instantly hear a voice in my head say “if you’re going to take time to do nothing you’re never going to achieve anything”.
So enjoying life becomes a job. Painting my nails becomes a chore, seeing my friends have become a way to keep up social relevance and ends with exhaustion, rehearsing for a show becomes mandatory work, and eventually you burn out.
The truth is, I’m not superhuman, nor am I above relaxing or taking a break. I’m not better than the person beside me because I’m more exhausted nor am I achieving anything greater than my peers because I refuse to ever sit down. This post isn’t a “how-to”. It’s more of a journal. I live in this toxic mindset of the constant hustle, and it’s an excruciatingly difficult pattern to break. I think the key is to change perspective. When I do fun home decorations, when I workout, when I sip my coffee in the morning, these aren’t moments that are meant to be scheduled into my to-do list or to cause stress, they are moments I take just for me to enjoy. We are all allowed to take time to do nothing, to watch a show and nothing more, to see friends because we feel like it and not because we have to, to say no to plans when you just want to sleep early or take a vacation from work just because you want to and not because you’re close to a breaking point.
I hope that soon I will be able to have a lazy Sunday without feeling guilt. It’s something I’m working on a little bit everyday, changing my perspectives to improve my mind. During this long self-isolation period where the world seems to have slowed down, I have to learn to do the same.