It has become apparent that many of us need a permission slip to think about and care for ourselves; unfortunately in our world that is hyper focused on the individual no one is going to sign our slip: no one is going to be your self-care chaperon. So unlike grade school, the signature on your permission will not be forged, it is your own: get your pens ready.
Recently I was surrounded by 12 other volunteer teachers who all partake in the same program as I. Our lives are given in a year of service in which we, in all intensive purposes, eat, sleep, breath, and shit our schools: especially in my case as I live within the school building. For myself and two others, our lives are literally our jobs. We wake up where we work, we work where we wake up. Our lives are our students, staff, and building.
You have found something you “love” doing. You love doing this so much that you have sacrificed your well being to work harder, longer, and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today, better yet you seem to like it because you are doing what you love. Perhaps you do not realize the copious amount of effort you are putting in, or maybe you are ignoring how you feel, either way it does not matter: you are doing what you love.
With “self-care” being tossed around more than a football on thanksgiving, now more than ever it is perplexing that we all seem to struggle with taking the necessary steps to in fact care for ourselves.
“‘Il bel far niente’ The beauty of doing nothing.”
Simply put, we suck at doing nothing. We work and we work and we work some more so when it comes to actually take time to relax we are too exhausted to go out and do something, underfunded because we are paying bills, or perhaps the biggest one of all, we lack the creative ideas necessary to go out and find something we enjoy.
How often do you sit at home, in your dorm, or with some friends and ask “What do you want to do tonight”? With an obscenely high response rate, the answer you most likely receive is “I don’t know what do you want to do” or better yet “I am up for whatever”. Yes, there is a chance that you and I are out of ideas or cash at that moment, but I would dare to say you are more likely lacking a hobby, creative outlet, or any activity you can call your own. Why?
Because you have found what you love to do and have decided to never work a day in your life.
In her book Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert brushed upon this topic in life altering fashion.
Liz, if you will, is having a conversation with her wonderfully named friend Luca Spaghetti during her time in Italy. Comparing the American way of life to the Italian, Liz makes a claim that “Americans don’t really know how to do nothing… Americans work harder and longer and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today”. The Kicker? “We seem to like it.”
How can we seem to like working until we die?
This is not an exaggeration either, as in most cases many have to work well past retirement age. As Americans, we truly work every last day of our life. As I am telling you, “You are going to enjoy working yourself to death,” for the sake of simplicity I am assuming your response to that claim is no, but for different reasons.
1.) You are not working yourself to death because you absolutely hate your job and are doing the bare minimum to get by.
2.) You have adopted the overused, and failed phrase: Do What You Love and Never Work A Day In Your Life.
If you find yourself in category one it may be in your best interest to peep this. I cannot tell you to quit your job and change your life, moreover I will not tell you this. People who give you this advice have a total disregard for your wellbeing and safety. Do not compromise your livelihood on a whim. Exercise curiosity and find something you enjoy doing, but DO NOT compromise your life’s integrity. As cliche as it sounds, you have one life, and I implore you to not spend it doing something you do not enjoy but also know that there are certain consequences for rash decisions.
Now if you are in category two, I have a tad more for ya.
You have found something you “love” doing. You love doing this so much that you have sacraficed your well being to work harder, longer, and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today, better yet you seem to like it because you are doing what you love. Perhaps you do not realize the copious amount of effort you are putting in, or maybe you are ignoring how you feel, either way it does not matter: you are doing what you love.
Il bel far niente
For a 19 year old sitting in his dorm room sorting out what he was going to do with his life, this was the type of counter cultural piece that would shape my mind forever. I knew that I had no interest in pushing papers or working a 9–5 every. single. day. of. my. life. I wanted to work but I also wanted to enjoy the life I had. This understanding would be the entire basis for my life in Madrid. It is one thing to always be doing something but it is another to simply exist. Sitting in a park for hours. Walking for miles. Reading for hours. Though two of these you could argue I was actively doing something, the point remains the same. How often do you or I get to do these opportunities to disconnect from our normal, to stop and put everything on hold in our lives and do nothing?
Why is it so hard for American’s to sit and do nothing?What about our lives, our beliefs, and our society push us to work so much that we feel we need a permission slip to care for ourselves?
In Italian culture, per Liz Gilbert, the American beer commercial that tells you “This Bud’s for you! You deserve a break today! You’re worth it!” would be replied to by near any Italian as “Yeah no duh. That’s why I’m planning on taking a break at noon to go over to your house and sleep with your wife”. I am not endorsing these exact actions, but instead what lies at the core. No commercial, boss, co-worker, friend, even parent has the right to tell you what you deserve, when you deserve it, and for how long.
The problem however is that many of us believe that no one is telling us what we deserve, when we deserve it and for how long. We take the commercial to be a “Oh yeah, I have been working pretty hard and it is time for me to take a break”.
It is one thing to always be doing something but it is another to simply exist.
Doing what you love sounds great in theory, until you realize that in doing whatever you love as a job or career you will be willing to put your heart and soul into every aspect of your undertaking. You will expend the energy your body has in order to see success come to fruition on whatever project, plan, or piece you have been assigned. You will clock long hours, adopt unhealthy habits, and comprise the integrity of your very being but you will not realize it. Not until someone tells you “You deserve a break today! You’re worth it!”.
Recall that every person on this planet is a culmination of unique experiences that only they have which is what enables them to be who they are. You and I will like vastly different things with varying degrees. Your co-workers are not going share the same passion you have for creating logos, preparing lessons, writing briefs, et. al. Most of us will not rise to the level of CEO or the likes, but instead will be those who help fill their pockets. This be true, your efforts to deplete every drop of energy you have for someone else’s cause that you seem to love so much will never truly be recognized or appreciated. You will go into work every day, leave, go home, and repeat until the day you die, but all is fine because you are “doing what you love”.
No commercial, boss, co-worker, friend, even parent has the right to tell you what you deserve, when you deserve it, and for how long.
Go to work and produce the highest quality you can. Do not let the quality of your work diminish suddenly. It is imperative you do keep your job so that you may live your life and find the things that drive you.
Do not compromise your livelihood on a whim. Exercise curiosity and find something you enjoy doing, but DO NOT compromise your life’s integrity.
You should not however, do what you love as a job. You should find a job that you enjoy doing and still lets you do what you love. It is almost like the statistic that arranged marriages last longer than “love” marriages.
If you do what you love, this will be all you do for the rest of your life. You have picked a job based on what you previously enjoyed doing in your spare time. You are hoping that everyday is filled with the same wild passion and excitement that encompassed your weekend and after work hours.
What used to be your passion project or hobby is now the hub of stress in your life. Moreover, your “thing” is no longer yours as you now are doing it under the direction of someone else for their benefit. Perhaps you have started your own business and are your own boss. Entrepreneurship is amazing, respect the grind and the hustle, but now more than ever, as you are the sole producer of content, your passion project is going to drain you.
Many have made this leap after calculated and planned decision making, which I fully support, but many make this jump on a whim because someone told them “Do What You Love and You Will Never Work A Day In Your Life”. You will not work “A” day, you will work “Every” day. Your now “job” is what was once your self-care. What you did to escape from the world is now your anchor to the reality that you once ignored.
If you find a job you enjoy, something that aligns with the key aspects of who you are but does not directly equal your hobby, you will learn to love this job. This is why figuring out who you are and what you like is imperative to lead a fulfilling life.
I live by the motto do better, be more, help others. If I did what I loved I would be another instagram fitness guru pursuing CrossFit dreams telling you what to eat and how to lift. Now I love cooking and lifting, but I also know that if I turn these into my job, I would lose the outlet I have that is purely my own, and to be honest, I do not feel like putting in the loads of work and effort to make my “fun” a job.
Instead, my job is, fingers crossed will continue to be, a high school teacher who pushes his students to do better in class and on assignments, be more of the man they are called to be, and help their fellow students do the same. I enjoy what I do as a job, and though I swore I would never be a teacher, am slowly falling in love with it. However on those days where it all goes to hell, I find solace in cooking a warm meal, my workout, or some yoga. Still doing better and being more, these three things help me help others as they are my forms of self care.
By taking care of myself I am better equipped to take care of others.
Not everyday is going to be perfect. Nothing in life is free and nothing worth having comes without a little work. So yes, you will have to work a few days in your life here and there, but you will develop an appreciation for what it is you are doing.
Doing what you love is dangerous because you will do everything and stop at nothing. You will know no bounds in your pursuit of perfection as in your love of your job, you will stop at nothing to see your passion succeed. Doing what you enjoy allows you to find pleasure in your pursuits, but still have an outlet when you have a tough day or want to get away: they allow you to care for yourself.
You do not need a permission slip for life. You do not need someones signature to care for yourself. If you insist on doing what you love, make sure what you are doing is you. Make yourself the focus of your life, job, and success. Find yourself. Love yourself. Find solace in doing nothing because in doing nothing you are at home with the only person in your life who can care for you, but hey Life is Funny like That.