At the halfway point of the year I have found myself reflecting on the last six months. At the beginning of January, when everything was feeling fresh and exciting with lots of new possibilities, I set just a single goal. Hitting the ground running I threw myself into making it happen, and so far it has. Unfortunately, the quest to achieve has started to have a detrimental impact in an unexpected way, and so I have decided to make a few changes.
I love my job. Genuinely. I love, love, love it. I get to work with fascinating people, learn new things and don’t have the confines of working for someone else. I don’t have a daily commute, my schedule is my own and I can take time off to suit my own lifestyle.
At least, that’s how it should be.
The problem with working in social media, working from home and being self-employed in a profession that I really enjoy is that it has the potential to become all consuming. I hated teaching so much that this job has never actually felt like work in comparison – I wake up most mornings feeling excited to start the day and I get a real kick out of working through my checklist, ticking off the boxes, planning content, scheduling ahead and having positive conversations with clients. It’s just so much fun.
During covid this was fine – there was nothing else to do as we weren’t allowed to leave our homes – but while things have now returned to some semblance of normality (ish), the mindset I developed during the 18 months of varying levels of lockdown hasn’t really adapted to this new normal. It’s work, all day, every day, including in the early mornings, late evenings and weekends. Social media is known for its addictive nature, so imagine being responsible for a whole bunch of social media accounts that you care about as much as you do your own. When a client campaign does particularly well, I am as excited about it as when a blog post of my own takes off – I check everything repeatedly and watch as the numbers grow. One of the (many) reasons why I quit teaching was that the working hours were horrendous, and I realised recently that I’m now actually working even more hours than I was then.
This is all my own fault – the lack of boundaries and my working schedule has been entirely self-imposed. I live in a little bubble because it is comfortable, and what I have noticed over the last few months is that the times when I step out of that bubble, I am left feeling exhausted. It’s almost a shock to the system that takes a few days to recover from, and because I am so tired I avoid doing things that used to bring me joy because it feels like a chore, like arranging to meet up with friends, taking myself off for the day to explore somewhere new. On a deeper level, it is starting to have a detrimental impact on my mental and physical wellbeing.
In 2015 when I worked so hard to change my life, my mantra was this:
Create a life that you don’t wish to take a vacation from.
I need to reconnect with that. I’m so lucky, particularly at a point where the whole country is suffering in so many ways, and there are so many amazing things out there just waiting to be experienced. I need to start working to live rather than living to work, get out and start enjoying life instead of simply existing.
It’s time to break out of the bubble.
How has your year been going so far? Let me know in the comments below!
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Sorry, Susie. 😦
Goddamn Autocorrect!!!! Here’s some Z’s to make up for it. ZZZZZzzzzzZZZZzzzzZZZ
Haha! I’m a bit confused Richard
I’m always confused.
Hahah! What were the ZZ’s?
Oooh I’ve worked it out! Your sorry, Susie comment was in my spam folder so I hadn’t seen it!
I typed Suzie but it changed it to Susie for some reason. I blame you for not being called Bob or Flo or something unchangeable.
Interesting points, this year for me, at least since April, has been a ‘revival’ got back to painting, a bit of photography and blogging….last 2 years, were ok but numb, maybe the lockdown, withdrew in VR games and zoom with close friends, before since 2015, worked too hard freelancing in Technical drafting, more like cartography and geomatics for environmental soil characterization projects and civil engineering, I used to work in an office until 2015, then been laid off…went as freelancer working home, love it, now I am over retirement age here in Canada, so I am trying to get back to my passion, even if I did forget it for a few years, painting , will probably keep a few jobs once in a while at home, retirement funds are not that great so will keep working but at a much reduce rate, I hope…, can’t go back in an office…hate it 🙂 so I think I can relate a bit to your story, thanks for sharing, sorry for the long comment…:)
I can relate to so much of this. I’m so pleased that you’re able to start getting back into something you’re passionate about!
I hope that you burst forth from that bubble, Suzie! 🇬🇧❤️
I’m really pleased you’re making your own future Suzie, I like many suffer boundary problems when working from home.
My year so far is much of the same… I need to take a page out of your book 🙂
Thanks, Simon! It’s difficult to set those boundaries sometimes. The good thing is that for the clients who have repeatedly overstepped I have the power to say that I no longer want to work with them…
That must feel pretty powerful…
It’s not always pleasant but it certainly beats being yelled at by an asshole boss…
I think I know what you are talking about. I taught for thirty years often 60 to 100 hours a week. Most people have no idea how challenging and time consuming teaching is. They think all we do is spend a few hours a day teaching and go home without taking any work with us and get our summers off. They don’t know that most teachers don’t teach during the summers so they don’t get paid. Summer was not a paid vacation. They don’t know about all the work we have to do outside the classroom and teaching: the parent conferences and phone calls, correcting student work, planning lessons, attending staff meetings, standing duty to watch over the kids, et al. And they think all of our students are super eager to learn so they come through the classroom door each day full of energy to sit down at their classroom desk and get to work. Ha! Some of them did that. Most of them didn’t. And a few were nightmare to manage just to keep them from destroying the learning environment. “Hey, Mr. Lofthouse,” a member of a street gang might shout out in the middle of teaching the students what they were supposed to learn, “What would you do if we jumped you?” Or, something like the one kid that did nothing until the day he shouted, “I wonder what it would be like to have sex with an elephant,” and that was the end of that lesson that had been going great at the time. So, that’s what he was thinking all of that time he sat there and did nothing, I thought.
Then I retired from teaching in 2005, and started doing what I had dreamed of full time, writing books. Since 1968, that’s all I wanted to do for a living, but back then Amazon didn’t exist and all I did was collect rejections for decades. To become a better writer, I changed my major in 1970, to journalism. A few years after my first degree, after I was already teaching, I went back to earn an MFA at nights, on weekends and during the summers. After the MFA, I drove more than a 100 miles each week to attend writing workshops out of UCLA.
The rejections kept coming from traditional publishers. I refused to let my dream die. Three years after I retired, I became an indie author thanks to Amazon. With five titles, hundreds of reviews, tens of thousand of copies sold, hundreds of thousands of page reads through Kindle Unlimited, I’m not doing what I dreamed of since 1968, without needing the approval of some distant editor. All indie author’s need is the approval of readers that like their work.
But I push to hard and feel mentally exhausted. I think that’s what your exhaustion is. We need downtime to let our minds recover when we use it too much. Back when I was still teaching, I was physically and mentally exhausted. Now I’m just mental. So, I exercise one to two hours a day, not all at one but in two to three smaller sessions, take a mind break for about a half hour in the afternoon, leave the desktops and multiple screens and go sit in another room in blessed silent darkness where there are no computers. And I set the timer for thirty minutes and do nothing. I don’t even think. No keyboards. No screens. It helps but it isn’t going backpacking in the mountains, what several of us teachers did once a month during the school year on weekends and for a full week after the school year ended. We loved those treks into the high Sierras, camping at 10,000 feet near a wilderness lake, far from roads and crowds. I still fondly remember the one June after school let out when we hiked through hip-deep snow with blue skies, not a cloud in sight, to a lake above 11,000 feet near the John Muir Trial. Talk about tranquility. There was no one there but us teachers and wild trout to fish and later pan fry over a campfire.
Maybe I should take a week off and go backpacking to escape the two books I’m writing now and all the work I have to do to promote the published ones through my websites, blogs and social media. All that promotion has become another job that takes away from the writing I used to dream of.
I can relate to everything you said about teaching, Lloyd. I left teaching seven years ago and sometimes I still feel a level of trauma from the experience – kudos to you for doing it for 30 years!! You’re right about the exercise too. You should totally go and take a week off backpacking!
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