The days have been crawling by at a horribly glacial pace, and yet I look back and feel surprised that 6 months have passed since I made my latest post about Ireland. It’s been an interesting 6 months, a small quarter-life-crisis, if you will. Today I wanted to write to you, but didn’t know what to say. I have many unfinished drafts with unfinished thoughts and decided to go back and reread the posts I’ve written since I began this blog 3 years and 2.5 months ago. And just after reading the first post I am already inspired and heartened by how far I’ve come.
Lately things have been more or less important than they should be. The smallest mistakes and worries feel catastrophic. The motivation to get up and work for the things I love has been playing hide-and-seek with me. And I just want to remind myself and everyone else, that that is ok.
We tend to beat ourselves up for not being motivated, or productive, or for lacking self-discipline. But sometimes the inspiration simply isn’t there. The drive is taking a break. You can’t force something that feels exhausted or in the dark, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it.
Chicago is a fast-paced city. I knew that when I moved here. I was ready for it, excited for it; I was launched forward by the vibrant energy of it! It was the source of my motivation. And now, going into my sixth year as a Chicago resident, it has become the source of my stress.
If I have a day where all I want to do is read a book, or watch a tv show, or color and do things that have nothing to do with my aspiring career or adult life, I feel guilty. I get stressed. I feel like this city doesn’t allow me to do things that aren’t “productive.” I’m not allowed to do nothing. It wasn’t until I spent two weeks home in Minnesota that I made this connection to my recent state of being.
I was sitting with my grandma and my sister in the small homey dining room discussing this very thing with the wonderful, familiar, old farm smell hugging me tightly. I realized that the three key environments in which I was raised each has a very relaxed energy. My house on the edge of Rochester, with its woodsy backyard, one grandmother’s farmhouse, the other grandmother’s lake house – all places where time seems to stop. I’m allowed to spend a day lying on the couch with a book, taking a brief nap every couple of hours. I’m allowed to be uninspired and unmotivated and not feel bad about it (granted, it’s rare that I’m uninspired in those places, but I’m allowed to be).
When I came back to Chicago after those two weeks ended I understood that the freedom of this relaxed timelessness was a mindset I had to learn how to find. The very air of Chicago crackles with high energy, with speed, with productivity. I had to find a place where that was distant, my hour of the day where it’s ok to simply sit and exist.
Because it is ok to simply sit and exist.
Productivity is subjective. What is productive for another person may not be productive for you. I can read two chapters in a book or simply do the dishes and feel I’ve had a productive day even if it did nothing for my career. Don’t compare your achievements with anyone else’s. We all want different things. We all operate in different ways. Different paces encourage different people.
You will get where you need to be in the time you’re meant to get there. You have to be ok with where you are, when you are, and not force something or push for something that isn’t quite ready for you yet. You need to rest. Your mind needs to rest. Your spirit needs to rest. You are no good to yourself if your spirit is tired, stressed, or anxious. We need to learn to exist within the timing we are given. Things will not go as planned, your path may take a detour when it’s the most inconvenient, but you have to be open and accepting to these changes, or you will begin to resent the life you are living and blame yourself for not being where you believe you’re supposed to be. There is no place you’re supposed to be.
Supposed: generally assumed or believed to be the case, but not necessarily so.
Not necessarily so.
Learn to breathe. Be gentle on yourself. Figure out what makes you relax. If you wake up and it’s simply not there, that is ok. Take that day to do whatever else you would find enjoyable in that moment and remember that perhaps tomorrow you’ll find the inspiration and motivation you’ve been looking for. Remember that even if tomorrow you feel you’ve gotten nowhere, look back on who you were – when you were – where you were 3 years and 2.5 months ago and think of how far you’ve come since then. In that larger scheme of time, taking a day to simply exist and breathe is not such a bad thing.