This year has been a whirlwind. I am in my last year of masters program, working on internship and as many of us entrepreneurial doer types are, decided now was the time to start my multifaceted business. I know…overloaded much? But we all do it in some ways and that is a point for a whole other time 😃
But its strange…I mean I have always been “busy”…we all are. It’s part of the cultural experience in the US to feel overworked, overfilled and perpetually burnt out. But, this time, things feel different - which says a lot about the progress I have made because I have worked years to counter act those deeply rooted cultural norms I have internalized. This is the first time I have ever been excited about everything on my plate. And I have finally understood what it means to be motivated and driven and yet, fully in the moment, enjoying the experiences before me.
Sure, my time is still perpetually filled but now, I love every minute of it (or, I suppose to be more honest, I love about 97% of the minutes)…and have still managed to find time for self care - working out, baths, painting, etc.
And I know what you are thinking…"Okay cool, you got your life figured out and balanced while the rest of us are still stuck out in no man’s land. Way to humble brag.” But I promise you, this is not meant to be an ego stroking article - though sometimes those are necessary too and have their own place - it is meant to shed light on some of the unforeseen things that can get in your way even when you are loving all you are doing and help others feel more prepared for those possibilities.
See, the problem is, because everything was going well, I was’t noticing the fatigue like I used to when I was “so busy". Because I loved what I was working on, it was easier to stay up later at night working on stuff or get up super early with anticipation of all I could be doing. It became easier to dive deep into all that I was doing and since I managed to maintain what I thought was some good self care strategies, I didn’t realize how over-indulged in “stuff” I had become. Essentially, I ignorantly thought that my passion would protect me from burning out. My rationale? If I love everything I am doing and am still finding time to take care of myself and get pretty good sleep and eat well, how could I get knocked down?
The problem is…I soon discovered that passion is not a protector, especially from the insidious disease that is influenza. Like an unwelcome house guest, it bursts into your life and wreaks havoc on all of your goals, hopes and plans for the foreseeable future. And while I hated every minute of it in my life and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemies, I think I finally found its silver lining (beneath all the hairy layers of grossness)
I seriously, have never had something hit me so fast or hard…11:07PM, Friday October 7th…just after getting home from Gallery Night @ Matrix Collaborative Business Solutions (thank goodness as I was able to enjoy Gallery Night and celebrate with all of the other creators and attendees on site!). It was instantaneous. My throat swelled up, I felt like I just got body slammed by Rhonda Rousey…I wasn’t sure what was happening but within minutes of its onset, found myself losing all energy to even care. I had been bull dozed by what soon found out was influenza. It knocked me down so hard I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be “well” again. As soon as it arrived, my life became completely disheveled. All of my “plans” and goals for the week? Gone. All of the work I felt like needed to get done just sat there. For the first time in my Master’s program, I was too sick to go to class. And worst of all, I had to cancel one of my public speaking events, which hit me like a sucker punch to the gut and made everything I felt all the worse. How was I going to explain this to people who were counting on me? What was going to happen to my Instagram following if I didn’t post for a week? What about the commissioned work I have to get done? What would be the impact on my grades and evaluations if I couldn’t keep up with stuff for the week?
Over time, I even tried to come up with a plan to attack any of these concerns, but influenza came in hard with a big ole “Fuck You” to every one of them and sidelined me from all activities. Influenza also took the opportunity to invite some friends over for a party - guilt and shame. Whatever energy I had leftover after influenza came to visit, guilt and shame depleted. And so I sat, for what ended up being almost a week before I was even well enough to begin responding to emails or to think about next steps with my work. And in that time, Influenza, guilt and shame had a free for all throughout my body.
I am sure many of you have been here before, right? You are working so hard on something and get knocked the fuck out, whether its from a physical illness or something else that commands your attention. You get pulled completely off course and your entire world gets put on hold. And if you are like me, and are in many ways overly dedicated to your craft, nurturing it like one of the most precious things you have, it would make sense you would worry about the impact something like this will have on it. And at the root of that is the ultimate fear of what if people forget about or replace me? What if I am not good enough or strong enough (whether its you specifically or your brand) to keep pushing and maintain all of your gains?
All of these concerns are valid…we have all experienced loss and the last thing we want is to lose the things we pour ourselves into. But after going through this process and being taken complete advantage of by these opportunistic house guests, I can now confidently call bullshit on each and every one of those thoughts.
Now, before I go any further its important to note that I am just starting to get a foundation for my business…I am probably in what you would call the infancy or early toddler (think terrible twos) stages so it is not like I was already settled into to a successful business and worried for no reason. At this point in time, every bit of work I do is important in growing awareness and keeping people engaged. But of all of those fears about getting behind and losing momentum, all of the energy I spent on game planning a counter attack when I was well again…want to know how many thoughts were true or plans needed? None. Not a single one. Which, while a good thing, is always a bit of a bummer because no one likes to admit they are wrong or that we wasted time worrying about things unnecessarily. But at the heart of it all, it rocked my world to see. I finally found freedom. No one was mad at me for having to cancel my event. In fact, people were supportive and connected with me on a deeper level when I reached out to let them know and many are able to come to the newly rescheduled date. My professors and classmates didn’t think I wasn’t dedicated to the program. They just wanted to do what they could to let me rest and turn the corner on this nasty bug. My following and support didn’t falter. Sure, I lost a couple of Instagram followers. But let’s be honest, that happens to most of us every day and who is to know whether or not they were legitimate users. And besides that, I finally came to the realization that I am not interested in fair-weather fans/support anyways. Everything I worked on was still there. In fact, a few new possible partnerships even emerged as word of mouth on the Reclaim Beauty project continues to spread. I had not failed. I was not forgotten about. And the people who were really connected to me and my work, didn’t go anywhere.
Ultimately, I learned the world goes on without me and that everything is still there when you return to it. How freeing to finally be able to see that. Sure, you want to feel needed and that everything you do is important not only to you but to everyone around you. But this got me thinking, I am going to NEED time off from my work throughout the course of my life. And what…am I going to spend every minute of vacation or sick time or whatever it may be worrying about the progress and success of my business and work? (I mean to be honest, for at least a little while longer I am sure I will but ultimately no - who the hell wants to live like that?) DO I really believe that without me in their lives people won’t be okay? I know that sounds extreme but those are the types of myths we have to bust. Support from true fans/supporters does not falter with a week off or a cancelled event. It falters when they can no longer see your authenticity shine through - when you try to be more than human dan stop being relatable. Being human means making mistakes. Being human means being sick and needing a break. And that does not make me less successful or worthy of success. It just makes me human. And now, while I can continue to love 97% of the minutes I spend on all the wonderful things that come my way, I can also give myself permission to be human and to step back when I need to. So influenza, while you fucked me up and left a huge mess throughout my body that I am still trying to clean up, thank you for humbling me and reminding me that things will be okay in the end even when I have to slow down or put the brakes on for a bit.