If I can take away anything from 2014, it’s the lesson that your energy levels are not finite. Perhaps my own sense of self-awareness is a little bit stunted, but for years – as I suppose many ‘millenials’ do – I believed that I had boundless resources of motivation and cognitive capabilities.
I’m 26 now, and I’ve only just come to realise that I’m not superhuman. That I am prone to bad days, pyjama days, can’t-be-bothered-to-brush-my-hair days where little bits of salad dressing form a crust on the sleeves of my shirt.
I don’t love these days, or those parts of me that indulge my inner sloth. But I have come to accept them. It’s natural to not be 'on' 100% of the time.
I suppose you could write about the importance of creating space any time of year, but the start of December seems traditional and timely. It is, as my dermatologist informed me, the most stressful time of the year (and the most difficult time to cure your hormonal acne, thank you very much). It’s a time to reflect on the past year, and a time to wind down. To let go. It’s something I personally, and I’m sure any small business owner, has trouble doing. I am clutching my to-do list so tight I've run out of stamina to run the rest of the home stretch. I'm at full capacity - mentally and physically.
I wasn’t always so tightly wound. I didn’t need to create space when I was younger – I had an abundance of time to play with as a problem child with zero ambition. High school was a blur of skipped classes and McDonalds breakfasts, of drinking in parks and DIY piercings. Ambition came late for me, paying a visit during my highly unproductive gap year, and then set up permanent residency within parts of my brain I never knew existed when I was 19. I applied to journalism college, and was accepted. It was as if I’d spent my whole life wasting time, and all of a sudden I needed to play catch ups. Time was ticking.
I was a very dedicated journalism student. I studied ferociously, completed multiple internships, applied for university and continued my uphill academic battle to success. Always the first to start an assignment, always the most likely to break down before deadline.
Like I said, I’m not sure where the anxiety came from. I’d never been a worry-wart before, but academia changed me. I became a striving, ambitious, worrisome horrible nightmare of a person. Needless to say, I felt incredibly inadequate amongst all of my peers, who’d been primed for university in high school. I’d been slagging off behind the bike shed, smoking cigarettes with the bad girls. I felt way out of my depth amidst these smart, wealthy kids from the Northern suburbs of Sydney.
It was like that for a few years, and I wore myself down. 2010 had not been particularly kind to me. Or, I hadn’t been kind to myself. By February 2011, I was living on King Street in Newtown, Sydney, and spending a lot of time drinking my troubles away. I had no family in the state anymore, a part-time retail job that demanded full-time hours, full-time university, sky-high Sydney rent to pay, credit card debt, and too many secrets to stay sane.
The details are tawdry, but after a particularly difficult week I found myself shipping all 38 boxes of my worldly possessions off to my parents’ newly adopted hometown. I said goodbye to my friends (I didn’t – I bailed on my own farewell party), and moved.
The other side of the country.
The West was always a bit mysterious to me. I didn’t know anyone from there (except for some distant cousins, who would soon become close friends), and I didn’t know what made the city thrive. But I lived there and loved it for close to a year and a half, and it was the best thing I ever did for myself.
Perth gave me time to breathe. With no university to worry about (for a few months, at least), a very casual job, no rent to pay and endless sunshine, I’d given myself an entire universe to self-actualise.
When I went to Perth, my writing improved. While most 22-year-olds would balk at the thought of living south-of-the-river in Perth, I relished the wide, open spaces, the quiet, peaceful roads, the lack of distractions (aka bars and nightclubs and shops) and the nearby bush land. I turned to writing and was blogging twice a week on a now-deceased platform, and eventually landed my first freelance writing gig. Without creating that space to rest, I wouldn’t have ever fallen into copywriting, or even realised that I enjoyed writing as much as I did.
I write this with the privilege of being a white, middle-class female who has come from a stable home. I’m lucky, and I realise that others don’t have the option of moving in with their parents. Or moving anywhere with less than a month’s notice, with the added luxury of rent-free accommodation. At the time, I was 22, which wasn’t exactly too old to be boomeranging back home. I had no responsibility so I could go wherever. I don’t write this under the impression that everyone has their own personal cross-country hideaway where they can turn to live out their dreams, but I do write this under the impression that you have a choice.
Creating space and letting go isn’t easy. When I moved interstate – and every time I move interstate – I win something. But I also always lose something. Choosing to let go isn’t a whimsical act of defiance in the face of conformity. It usually requires sacrifices, and often leads to unhappy and confused friends.
It’s hard to wind down this time of year, because if you’re a service provider or a small business, it’s your mission to serve. There’s a particular kind of work ethic that borders on the verge of martyrdom, and I try really hard to unpack that with all of my communications. Whether I’m blogging, writing my weekly email newsletter or posting to Facebook, I try to emphasise the importance of creating a lifestyle that you’re in love with and that fills up your cup. Because when we invest in ourselves, the world gets a piece of the cake too.
If you’re going to gift the world with one thing this year, make it the fullest expression of yourself. Create the space to rest so that you can embrace 2015 with renewed energy, perspective and clarity.
Let go of something, if even for a week.
You might lose something, but you’ll also receive something in return.
Can you do that for yourself?