This year I quit everything.
Okay, maybe not everything, but most things.
I came into college wanting to do things. Every single thing in fact. I spent much of my college career actively involved in every student organization, every event, every opportunity that I could be. I was checking off boxes. Boxes on a checklist called the ‘perfect college experience.’ My Google calendar looked like a checkerboard, every hour accounted for, color coded, segmented into perfection. My life was made up of little boxes. Suddenly, everything felt like an obligation. Things that I used to love, I dreaded. I wandered from box to box, waiting for it to be over. I was thinking 8 boxes ahead at all times, I was never existing now. My life was a to-do list and as soon as I checked one thing off, I added three more. I was losing at my own life. And I was choosing it.
For a long time, I didn’t ask that question. I accepted that this is what I had to do to succeed. I slept less, I was sick more, coffee ran through my veins at the speed of light. I was buzzing, electrified and miserable. Ambition had turned into obsession. I had almost completed the checklist, I was ‘succeeding.’ And I realized after 3 years, this was not my checklist anymore, it was someone else’s.
I think that we often confuse busy-ness for success. I thought a colorful GCal meant I was doing something right. I had places to be, meetings to attend, projects to finish. But at the end of the day, I was not sparkling, I was exhausted. I had accomplished almost nothing in this frenzied chaos to succeed. My mind was messy, not meaningful. I had no clear direction, I was spiraling in a million directions and to be quite honest, not doing particularly well at any of them. Productivity doesn’t mean much if you don’t really care about what you’re producing.
What I want to tell you is: STOP. Stop, breathe, calibrate. Look at your day, divided into pretty colors and think about whether any of that actually added any value to your life or to the world.
If you cannot talk for more than 15 minutes about why you are doing something, stop doing it.
Here are some quick reasons that are not a valid why:
- everyone else is doing it
- you think that you ‘should’
- it will look good on a resume
- you are able to do it
- someone told you that you need to
- you want to look good to other people
If any of those things are your why: quit it. Drop it. Gone.
Rest itself is an action, not a lack thereof. There is nothing glamorous or impressive about burnout. Trust me. Free time is so, so important. It’s when I create, connect, rest. Free time shouldn’t be a rigid obligation, penciled in between everything else where you finally remember to eat a meal. Free time doesn’t count if it’s you eating a meal of pretzels while multi-tasking on your laptop.
My senior year I quit everything that was not adding value to my own life or to the world. And I have never been happier. The world did not end, no one hated me, most people probably didn’t even notice I was gone and I was finally, finally free.
I’m still busy. But with things I love. None of it feels like an obligations. I stopped “should-ing” and started choosing. I have time to read books, to write, to sleep, to think, process, plan. All of the things I had forgotten that I needed to do. I am better at everything I do now. I’m moving in a steady and consistent direction towards a career I’m really, really excited about. I feel balanced and at peace for the first time in maybe my entire life. Cool things keep happening because I’ve decided to attract cool things. I’m happy, healthy and for the most part, I’m pretty sane! Do more by doing way, way less.
Our time is so finite. Our energy is so precious. Stop handing it all out like cheap candy. Be picky. Hang on to your magic and disperse it effectively on things that make you happy to be alive. There is nothing lazy about laying on the couch and regaining your sanity. It’s brave. And so necessary if we are going to keep fighting the good fight.
I have finally chosen my life and it’s a beautiful, liberating feeling. Please, please choose yours.