I can wake up at 7:00am, leave my house at 8:00am, and return after 10:00pm or 11:00pm. I can pack a lunch that I forget to eat as I jump from meeting to meeting to class and program. I only have time to check my phone when I run to the restroom, and I answer emails on my phone as I hustle across campus. I can balance meetings and duties and responsibilities like it’s my job (well it is, technically). I get home late, eat some dinner (if I even remember), finish some readings and assignments, take a shower and jump into bed as I knock out with Netflix playing quietly on my TV. My alarm goes off at 7:00am the next morning, and I do it all again.
This is easy. This is comfortable. This is my life.
I wake up, roll over, fall asleep again. After a few hours, I pull myself out of bed to wash my face, only to jump back into bed and glance at my phone. It’s almost noon and I have nothing on my schedule for the day. What should I do?
This is frightening. This is uncomfortable. This is a “free day.”
This summer I have been struggling without a packed schedule. Translation: I don’t handle free time well. Instead of being relaxed and focusing on rejuvenating, I feel anxious and unsettled. My thoughts instantly turn to What do I need to get accomplished today?
What is with this crazy mentality of always working or being lazy? Is it just me? Maybe so, but I’m probably more anxious about it than others. If I’m not working, I need to be socializing. Being alone and focusing on myself feels pointless and like a waste of time. It feels selfish. I should be doing something for someone.
I’ve had plenty of time this summer for self-reflection (more time than I would like, honestly). It’s been one of the biggest challenges I’ve experienced in a while. And as difficult (repeat: challenging) as it has been, I am learning how to take advantage of this non jammed schedule and focus on myself. Invest in myself. This isn’t being selfish. This is self love.
I’ve heard all the quotes: invest in yourself, you can’t pour from an empty cup, blah blah blah. It is easier for me to hear the quotes, nod my head in agreement, and go on with my busy schedule. But before long, I feel overwhelmed, I break down, and question what I do with my days. For a while I thought these breakdowns were caused by feeling run down, but it wasn’t. The schedule I can handle. The organized chaos I love– I actually thrive from it. That’s how I find my energy, my passion, and my purpose.
I don’t feel burned out because I am doing too much. I don’t feel burned out because I have enough too much plate. I feel burned out because I work and work and work, and I don’t feel like I’m growing. That’s what burns me out. Not my schedule, but the feeling of lack of progress.
So how do I change that? I start making time for myself.
Wait, I just explained why I didn’t find a point in investing in myself. What changed? Well, I’ll share my secret with you: It’s amazing the difference in my life when I just do what makes me happy instead of always trying to justify myself.
I realized this: it’s not that I didn’t want to invest in myself, but I felt like I had to justify what I was doing, and to me, that felt like a waste of time. I felt like if I couldn’t do it all, if I put myself in front of a project or my to-do list, I felt selfish. Changing this mentality is certainly the hardest thing I have learned to do. I feel burned out when I feel like I give my all and I receive nothing from it.
I don’t need praise in return. I don’t need to be told “hey great job!”. I don’t need to be told anything– I need to feel my progress and my accomplishments.
Why did I start this blog? To get my thoughts out, to communicate and share with others, to hear their stories, and to do something for myself. This blog isn’t a homework assignment. This blog isn’t a side hustle to my #SAGrad life. This blog is for me. And guess what? That’s the only reason I need.
Okay, so I’m still learning how to invest in myself and not have to justify it. If I want to go to Starbucks because it’s my third place and I work better there, I’ll do it (guess where I am now?). If I want to lay in bed and binge watch Netflix all day because I know in a few weeks I’ll move back to grad school (YAY!!!) and I know my life will not pause until I graduate in April, then I will. If I want to not answers some text messages because I’m reading and I get distracted easily, then I’ll respond to them once I finish the chapter. I am here to serve my friends, my family, and my students, not be a servant to them.
I’m still figuring this out. I still have a lot I am learning and a lot to accept. I’m new to this level of self care, but I’m thankful I have learned to make this a priority. I would love to hear what you do for your self care, or how you separate self care vs. selfishness. Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @amanda_koslow . Honestly, I want to hear from you!
quote of the day: “Love yourself enough to work harder.”