American culture seems to hate downtime. If you’re not productive, if you’re not creating-doing-working-grinding, well, what good are you? We’re Puritan workaholics and people like to wear that like a badge. “I’m so busy,” we say to people. “I’d love to join you, but I’m swamped, I’m tired, I’m buried.” Why do we find it so hard to relax, unwind, recharge? Do you feel like this? I know I do. Lately, I’ve been pretty unproductive and it’s inspired me to busy my mind with new thoughts ofÂ entrepreneurship and business opportunities. Once I get those gears turning in my brain, though, I get wound up and I’m preoccupied and I lose sleep. It’s counterproductive. What I really need is time to recharge. I’m still figuring out what that means.
It’s finally summer here in Chicago and I’m trying to do something I’ve done very little of in my life: sunbathe. I’m a pretty pale guy and have spent a lot of time avoiding the sun. But I’ve discovered that if I do get out and get some sun I feel so much better. It must be all that Vitamin D the sun provides. After a winter that never wanted to end, getting outside and catching some rays rejuvenates me. This morning I had a bit of a headache that wouldn’t go away; so, come lunchtime, I made my way to the park and laid out. The headache disappeared immediately.
I’ve also come to the realization that in past 5 years, I have written very little. Historically, I’ve been a writer. I’ve got an MFA in writing. Ever since being in Chicago, my output has diminished. Writing for me isÂ cathartic; it gets something out that needs to be gotten out. And it’s been so long since I’ve allowed it to flourish. I write infrequent blog posts but I don’t write much of anything beyond that.
So how does this all relate? Somewhere down the line I think I lost sight of things that are truly important to me. I’ve focused on earning a living rather than the things that make me feel good about myself. I earn this money in a good, steady, stable day job and it doesn’t make me any happier. It doesn’t make me feel like I do laying in the sun. It just tires me out. Everybody tells me it’s good but it sure doesn’t feel good.
Life can’t just be about laying in the sun and feeling good. We’ve got to work in some capacity. But your work can be fulfilling. It can fill you with happiness. It can rejuvenate you. It can exhaust you in a positive way, not in a grinding, only doing it for the dollars, sort of way. I feel this need to recharge but the definition of it escapes me. What I’m coming to understand is that the longer you walk down the wrong path, the more tired you become and the farther away this notion of recharging gets. How do you ever get your head above this murky water?
As cliche as it sounds, you’ve got to be true to yourself. If you won’t allow this of yourself, nobody will. At the most basic level, you’re responsible for your own happiness and it’s the choice you make that dictates whether you live a fulfilling life or a grinding life. It’s a choice every step of the way. I don’t want to feel like I need to recharge any longer because just lying around, relaxing, being unproductive doesn’t truly recharge me. There’s something else out there.
Posted by Joe. Photo courtesy of anataman.