It is August 2013 and I have worked more in the last 12 months of my life than ever before. I have also moved three times and had five different jobs (often multiple at the same time). While my motivation levels have plummeted, my mind continues to race at high speed. I may not be inspired to act on many of my thoughts, but I can’t help asking “What’s next? How can I do this better? Is this what I really want?”
I’ve been attempting to cut myself off from streams of input (blogs, podcasts, magazines, email, conferences) that will simply feed the incessant chatter in my head and increase the anxiety about not having “figured it out” yet. I am trying to say no more to information and opportunities that do not serve me, so that I can yes more to healing activities that allow me to process everything that has happened this year.
In August 2012 I was still at the Marin Headlands Hostel and about to go to Burning Man for the first time. Fast forward 8 weeks, I was working at the hostel, Lululemon, and Biergarten. For some reason I thought it was necessary to have multiple jobs to live in San Francisco. Note to self: if you can get by with less hours and just one job, DO THAT. I wrapped up working at the hostel in November, and soon began working at Suppenkuche (in addition to Lululemon and Biergarten). I continued to juggle these three jobs until February 2013. I don’t know what I was thinking.
In March I worked 18 – 20 hours a week. That was incredible. A breath of fresh air after holding my face in a murky mud puddle. Not pretty. I was working less, but had also finagled a part time work-trade with San Francisco CrossFit in order to continue my membership at the gym. March quickly turned into April and there was yet another job opportunity that I could not pass up. As soon as I heard about the Office Manager position at San Francisco CrossFit, I knew I had to pounce. So I did. By mid April, I was hired on to the San Francisco CrossFit Team and have never been more proud to accept a paid position.
Between April and July, I toggled between work modes and ran a tight ship. There was little room for error between two double shifts and a 6 day work week. Though my social life has suffered, I’ve met amazing new people, planned a bachelorette party, and accomplished several of my 27×27. In the past 4 weeks, I’ve worked one job, been out of town every weekend, and come face to face with the truth of being a total workaholic.
I won’t shut up about it. Sometimes it feels like all I do is talk about work and how much and all the time and complain complain complain. I was on the phone with my sister, explaining yet again why I wasn’t available to hang out. Work work work. “I work soooooo much, this is crazy.” There was a short pause. “So why do you do it?” She asked. “I don’t know! I’m sick. I’m totally sick. I suppose I am just not suffering enough. Otherwise, it would be different already” was my reply.
I believe this to be true. In situations where we are the ones in control, we must often suffer severely before we are moved to make significant changes. I am still completely perplexed as to why I kept saying yes to more work. I’m confounded as to why I still have 2 jobs and no vacation planned. Even during the 2 weekends I was away, on non-work related trips, I returned drained and exhausted rather than rejuvenated. How is this possible? Oh, sweet suffering, reveal my limits and let me know personal responsibility. It is a strange and wondrous thing to realize how out of line you are with your own values. Wake up call! This is not how you want to live your life.
If you’ve made it this far, you may be asking “Why does this story matter?” I’m impressed if you’ve read to this point because this is a total “Dear Diary” post. But let me tell you! Perhaps you’ve read this far and thought “Shit, I totally do that too.” Or “I feel this way sometimes, but how do I know that I’m not in line with my values?” Realizing that we are not living the life we want to live is the first step to acknowledging we are not living in accordance with our values. Do you say one thing and do another? This is a pretty good sign that you are confused about your values and not living in line with them. For example, if I tell you that my friends and family are my priority, but I work all the time and never see them, then you can tell me that I’m full of shit. Actions speak louder than words.
I am using my story about the past year as an example of a wake up call. It is not glamorous, it’s actually down right painful. It brutally sucks. But now that I can see how gross and distorted my decision making process has been, it is opening up space for action! This is exciting! This is a learning opportunity to avoid repeating mistakes in the future. Once we see what motivated us to make the decisions we did, we can look at how they do not align with how we want to live our lives. Or maybe they DO – it’s helpful to recognize how we set ourselves up for success so we can recreate it. Most importantly you have to choose one action that will help you live your values on a daily basis. Here are some examples.
Wake up call! I am not in line with these values:
- Family and friends
- Free time to be creative
- Realizing I don’t need 3 jobs to survive in SF
- Recognizing that it was my choice to work the extent of my contract and to stick around
- Coming to terms with the fact that staying for the community can be enough for a while, that I want to be busy to distract myself from other crap, and because it makes me feel useful.
- Admitting I am feeling unhealthy and miserable
- Cutting back hours
- Taking a month to work very little
- Setting aside time to do important things with friends and family
- Taking a sick day
- Reflecting, talking, and writing about my process
- Asking for help: my family helped me move, my friends have gone out of their way to visit me at work, they have been forgiving and supportive when I have been tired and M.I.A.
My next steps are going to involve a few things from the action list above. First off, I need to cut back my work hours. My work week is not dialed in enough to feel sane. I need to plan a vacation just for me. This is extremely important psychologically. If I can give myself one piece of advice, I say this “If you are feeling burnt out and temporarily insane, it is time to be SELFISH. Do something completely indulgent for yourself that feels special and is in line with your core desired feelings 100%”. Important side note: do NOT allow yourself to feel guilty about this. If you feel guilty, as punishment, tack on another day of vacation.