Last summer, when I decided I was going to embark on a new career journey, one of my goals was to build a life I wouldn’t need a vacation from.
Prior to that point, so much of how hard I was working seemed to build towards moments of freedom when I would take time off from work with Marc, friends, or family. I’d dream of getting away from it all, being able to truly separate and unwind.
So when my career path became more open-ended, I figured I should focus on a job that wouldn’t require getting away, a job whose content was so fun and engaging that I wouldn’t need a vacation from it. I spent a lot of time brainstorming the activities I enjoyed most and whether I could make a career out of any of them, or even a combination of them.
I started out focusing on things I enjoyed doing in my spare time, thinking that I would never tire of doing those things all day. So every day would feel like vacation!
It was through this process that I went from having no job to having 4 jobs in a matter of weeks.
I enjoy hosting parties, I like planning vacation and travel experiences, and I loved the process of planning my wedding, so I started working with an event planner, overseeing event design and décor for several clients.
I love interior design and decorating, so I started my own LLC for interior decorating services, and spread the word amongst friends and friends of friends until I had my first clients.
I enjoy documenting my life experiences in photography and writing, so I knew I wanted to be blogging about all of my exploratory pursuits and using it as an informal portfolio of my personal projects and tastes.
Then, partly due to my blog, landed a (dream) job as a social media and editorial content manager for an interior design firm based in Los Angeles (remotely, of course).
Throughout my exploration, I also never lost sight of my love of clothing and fashion. So when I was asked back into the corporate retail scene doing in-house consulting and operations work, I jumped at the chance to exercise my ten years of experience and do some creative problem solving, albeit on a more flexible basis to accommodate some of the other freelance opportunities I had already taken on.
But any time you turn a hobby into a job, it eventually begins to feel like work. And you eventually need a break from it. What I discovered was that building this life that I didn’t need a vacation from was more about finding balance on a daily and weekly basis than finding one thing I wanted to do all day every day.
Freelancers often say that, when you start, you just have to say, “Yes” all the time. You say, “Yes” until you can say, “No.” You have to look for and create opportunities until eventually, hopefully, opportunities start to find you.
The good news for me was that saying, “Yes” was already a strength of mine I wore as a badge of honor and as a guiding life mantra. The bad news is that I turned out to be really bad at saying, “No.”
I feared (and continue to fear) that saying, “No” might mean not getting asked again. I’ve worked hard to land opportunities to which I could say, “Yes," so why would I not take them?
I feel lucky that my portfolio became a very full plate quite quickly. Of course I’ve worked hard and I’ve hustled, but I know that there are plenty of people out there who work hard and don’t see immediate results. Overwhelmingly, I’m humbled.
But the thing is, saying, “Yes” to something eventually means saying, “No” to something else in my professional or personal life.
I don’t want to overestimate my own bandwidth. Last month, I had a wake-up call. My hairstylist found a patch on the back of my head where some of my hair had fallen out. I saw a doctor, who confirmed the culprit: stress. I knew that I had been working a lot and not sleeping much, particularly over the holidays. But I didn’t realize that it had taken a physical toll. In creating and fulfilling work commitments, I had overlooked a commitment to my own health. I felt frustrated with myself.
So now, what? I’m not ready to lose momentum just yet. But maybe I can work on controlling the pace. Maybe there’s a way to say, “Yes” with measure.
Now, for the first time, I'm finding myself saying, "Yes, but…" and I'm putting guard rails around the amount of work I layer on at any given time. I'm letting others know that, yes, I can do it, but I'm being realistic about my own bandwidth and the deadlines that I can achieve while still fitting in time to sleep, or have dinner with Marc, or celebrate a friend’s birthday.
Turns out you don’t crave vacation so much if you get little bits of it on a more constant basis.
I think, for me, the key is not just filling my day with a job I love. Yes, that is one piece of it. I firmly believe in finding a way to do what you love and love what you do, especially if you’re going to spend 40, 50, 60 hours a week doing it. But loving my job will never be a substitute for the other things that make me feel refreshed and true to myself: catching up with friends over wine or food. Being an attentive husband. Running. Traveling. Writing on my blog.
Doing things that you want to do and liking the things that you have to do: that’s the life you don’t need a vacation from.