I started this blog like most things, "I'll do this twice a month and I won't break that commitment." I impose imaginary deadlines all over my life and then give myself immense amounts of anxiety when I don't follow through. I've been doing this to myself since high school, call it the "over achiever" or "perfectionist" stereotype, but I don't believe in that. I have felt very REAL pressure my whole life to rise above, to be better, to do the most - because that was the expectation instilled in me, in school, at home and in life from a very young age. That does not mean that I actually have done any of those things, in fact college was one of the hardest times of my life because I did not feel that I did anything particularly well, and I mostly felt like I was wandering around without direction, waiting for someone to hand me a diploma and say "now go forth and start a career, become the person society wants you to be".
It has taken me almost 10 years to get real with myself about how that outlook on "being" has affected the way in which I live, how I treat the people I love, and ultimately how I want my future to unfold. I've had a sick addiction to "to-do" lists, calendars, agendas - when I don't feel busy enough, or if I don't have enough written in my planner, I actually make more work for myself. I KNOW, I know, what is wrong with me!? After much self reflection, I realized absolutely nothing is wrong with me, but there are many things wrong with the way society has created this expectation that in order to be successful, we should all BE all these things all at the same time, and be them really well. I feel tired just writing about it.
In addition to this weird pressure I have felt for over a decade, I have always been highly active, abnormally active. I have never been able to sit still, I despise anything that requires me to wait in any form, and like many people my age, I don't just want, but I expect, immediate gratification - so naturally when I don't feel that or it doesn't happen right then for me, I become annoyed, which turns into frustration, which is then projected into every little nook and cranny of my life that it can manage to slimily climb into. This manifestation of frustration and annoyance over the simple act of waiting , had morphed me into a frantic, frenzied, "must do it all now", hustle over rest mental mess and had worn. me. out.
I am tired. I am drained. I am mentally exhausted. I need sleep.
These words have been my unspoken mantra for years now, I've just been ignoring them. I don't know if it's the recent spotlight on mental health, or the conversations finally starting about women who feel like they need to do it all and be it all, but in the past few months I knew that something had to change or I was going to actually break, mentally and physically. It even felt like my body was deteriorating some days.
I KNOW that other people feel this way, so why don't we talk about it more? I am surrounded by high powered people, who keep that hustle going all day long, every day - at least it seems like they do through all those perfectly styled instagram photo's and annoyingly consistent blog posts, website updates, involvement in the community - etc. etc. This makes me feel like I'm not allowed to say I'm tired because someone, somewhere is doing more and is doing it better. I feel constantly this need to catch up, to do more, to get ahead and to do it all first.
It was with this revelation that I decided it was enough and a few months ago I took myself off social media for 2 weeks. Ok, so I cheated a little and still checked my instagram a few times (It was REALLY hard!!!). I couldn't BELIEVE how addicted I had become to checking these little tiny squares on my phone multiple times a day. It was like someone who craved cigarettes, I just wanted ONE little look...every few minutes. But eventually, day by day, I stopped missing it, and I stopped worrying or wondering what everyone else was doing. It couldn't affect me because I couldn't see it. I stopped feeling the pressure to hustle.
I was more creative in those 2 weeks than I had been all year. I actually listened to all those articles that said "put your phone in the other room before you sleep", and make that hour before bed "you" time. And suddenly, I could sleep. I could rest, like ACTUALLY rest and get a good night's sleep. I was PRODUCTIVE. It was amazing, I took time OFF from the hustle, and actually found a better way to get more done without wearing myself out.
Don't get me wrong, social media is not going anywhere for me, it's how I built my business and I think it's an incredible tool and platform for entrepreneurs and inspirers, but aside from that? I don't want to see your selfie, I don't care about the dinner you just cooked that looks the same as the night before, and I don't want to be sucked into buying a bunch of clothing I don't need just because some girl said its 20% off RIGHT NOW and happens to look really cute in it. I don't want it dictate my life or become "work." I have definitely taken a back seat from it after those two weeks, and I've survived, The Messy Painter has survived, maybe even more so.
With each day that I go forward, I am practicing, (with great, GREAT effort I might add), to stay present and be mindful. Nothing is going to happen quickly just because I get impatient and tryto move it faster. And my best work is definitely not going to come out of me if I rush it. I am learning, SLOWLY, to take ONE task at a time. To try and ease into and relax into the process of doing each ONE thing before moving on to the next. I am not perfect at this, and probably never will be - I have always been really bad about putting too much on my own plate. But, I am getting better at saying "no, Crystina, you cannot do all 8 things on your to-do list in the time between getting out of school and going to bed, you can do 2." And I'm getting better at listening to what my mind and body needs instead of what that nagging voice in the back of my head thinks I need. I am reading more, writing more, painting more, traveling more - for me. I am reconnecting to my old self, and I am finding that I love that self. That self is kinder, more grateful, more open minded. She is less annoyed, less frantic and carves time into her day for HER without letting deadlines, Facebook comments or emails get in the way.
I have learned so much in just these few short months of slowing down, and not caring if I'm "hustling" or not. And by the way, I decided I don't even like the word "hustle," it reminds me of fast, cheap cash, and that's definitely not how I want to live my life or build a sustainable business. We shouldn't be encouraging each other to "hustle," we should be encouraging each other to live life intentionally and with meaning. We should be encouraging each other to slowly take in all that life has to offer and embrace it as it comes, whatever that means for each of us.
And so, with that I leave with you this: if you do decide you need to slow down, what does that look like for you and how can you make it happen right now?
Side note - in this time of "slowing down," I had some literary help; I found "Present Over Perfect" by Shauna Niequist and "Love Warrior" by Glennon Doyle Melton to be some of the most life changing stories I've ever read.