“Most Involved in Work”

Vacation House View
That was my superlative senior year of high school. Not the typical “Best Dressed” (awarded to my very fashionable and closest friend, Heather) or “Beauty and Brains” (this one went to Aaron actually. What a stud!). Nope, I received “Most Involved in Work”. I remember feeling slightly embarrassed and it causing sort of an upset amongst the other students at the very top of my class. When I asked around, wondering how this could have possibly happened, my friends all said the same thing: “You’re always at work. You work all the time.”

House in the Fog
This is kind of the story of my life. Back in high school they were referring to me working at a local ice cream shop after school and on the weekends. And when I wasn’t there, I was tutoring as part of National Honor Society, or heading up the prom committee (oh yes, I was that girl), or starting an environmental/humanitarian group (we called it G.O.Y.A. – short for Get Off Your Ass, or Go Offer Your Assistance when teachers asked), or going up against the school board because unweighted GPAs weren’t fair (I stand by this), or I was doing regular old homework.  Don’t get me wrong -I socialized as well, but I guess I worked a lot in comparison to my friends. I actually can’t think of a single one who had a job, outside of babysitting (I did that too!), during the school year. So yeah, I suppose I earned the “Most Involved in Work” title.

Early Morning at the Beach
The work has obviously taken different forms over the years, but there’s one common thread that I’ve been noticing in my self-reflection recently: you can put me in any pot and I’ll grow. My struggles aren’t with a lack of discipline or  hard work. Where I struggle is a combination of not having a focus for what I want to do, and getting caught up in things I think I should do. I worked hard in high school to get into the accelerated classes so I could get into the AP classes so I could get into a good college so I could get a good internship so I could get a good job…where I worked hard so I could get a promotion so I could get another promotion so I could get a better job so I could make more money so I could??? Exactly. So I could do what?

I am exhausted just writing that. Although yes, making a decent salary is important, I learned very quickly a few years ago that this in itself absolutely will not translate into happiness (see my about page for more).

Early Morning at the Beach 2
All of this is to say that I want to be happier, to have more fun, to relax without all of these mostly self-imposed to-dos cluttering my thoughts. I made a bunch of life changes almost two years ago when I moved back to Boston (more here and here), but slowly, over the last six months in particular, I have lost focus on making the things I enjoy and that challenge me in a good way my priority. I’ve been working as an SEO freelancer for about a year and a half now, but it’s like I forgot that I can say no to projects I either don’t have time for or just flat out don’t want to do. I have to be okay with the risk that’s involved with doing this, but it’s my choice whether I take on the work.

Early Morning at the Beach 3
I so often forget that how I spend my days is a series of choices. I can be passive about these choices and let other people/clients/the weather/etc dictate how I spend my time, or I can be active and do what I want to do.

Early Morning at the Beach 4
I need to get back to making active choices.

Early Morning at the Beach 5

Do you ever find yourself in a similar mental space?

More thoughts on this soon…

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  1. Absolutely I do! So much of what you mentioned in your post applies to me as well. I often take on more than I should and have a hard time saying “no”. I was always that girl too, working, involved in everything, etc. I’m still that way. I have to force myself to step back and disconnect sometimes, it’s hard though!

    Can’t wait to hear your thoughts…

  2. i can relate to few of these emotions but at the same time currently I am at a job which is good paying job but I dont like it. I have so many ideas on my mind and how I want to take my career to another direction yet not brave enough. It gets frustrating at times but again I try and be thankful for what I have. SO tough

    1. Amanda says

      I totally agree. It’s a balance between being grateful for a job, but also not accepting a situation that isn’t serving us. I think too much of being thankful for what we have can actually turn into being a little complacent. I’m simultaneously trying to raise the bar, while acknowledging that yes, I am fortunate to simply have what I have.

      1. Kierstan says

        I am right there with you both! My husband and I have been struggling with our wonderful (well paying) jobs for about a year now, ones that we used to be passionate about, but now often dread going. Our thankfulness for a good life is quickly turning into complacency – however – we are doing something about it this fall. And by doing something about it, I mean selling our house, packing up and travelling for a year, while we figure out what our true passions are and answer that important question, “what do I want to do when I grow up?”.

        …now if only our house would sell!

      2. Amanda says

        How exciting, Kierstan!! Who knows what you’ll discover during that year…that will be an amazing life experience! I hope you sell your house quickly!

  3. Love this post. Lately, my thoughts have revolved around nothing but work and finances – but as a fellow freelancer, I tend to lose sight that those two things are finally in my control now that I left the ol’ 9-5. I definitely need to get better on focusing on the right, productive things vs. the other stuff.

    1. Amanda says

      It’s sort of strange to go from employee to freelancer, right? When I was an employee I was so envious of the freelancers’ ability to choose their projects and set their hours, but then I became one and somehow forgot that I could do this!

  4. Abby says

    Feelin ya. I am a big time worker. I have trouble taking a mental day off – I can be “off work” or “doing whatever I want today,” but its so easy for me to be unsettled until a do something productive. I’ll always be learning to take it easy and enjoy all the little things.

  5. Carly M says

    I’ve been contemplating similar things lately. I spend so much time doing the things I feel obligated/required to do to be successful in life and career, that when I step back and really think about it, I can’t always tell if I’m striving for my idea of success or society’s. I think it’s easy to get swept away in the process and lose track of the goal. It’s also easy to let other peoples ideals influence you. I need to get better at stepping back and reassessing every so often to make sure all my effort and hard work isn’t for nothing. I think we will always have to be conscious about the balance of work/obligation/money and fun/satisfaction/happiness. Good topic. Really gets people thinking!

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Carly! I can relate to what you said, especially “it’s easy to get swept away in the process and lose track of the goal”. I am very much a detail-oriented person, which is good, but it’s also easy to get lost in the details.

  6. Ugh, I totally know what you mean. Although I love what I do, I need to get better at knowing when to say no and what my limits are. I was literally close to tears on Friday when I was inside working all day on a day that I had planned to spend at the beach with family. I felt like throwing a temper tantrum but I was only mad at myself .

    1. Amanda says

      So sorry you had to work on Friday! I know that feeling of being close to tears from work stress – not fun. Maybe you can schedule a different long weekend to make up for it? 🙂

  7. Heather says

    For what it’s worth – my strongest memory of you is attending your birthday party as a kid at some kind of farm/petting zoo and getting to not only pet a baby goat, but have it crawl up in my lap and nuzzle me. That may make sense considering I now live among a farm, and am putting in a second 20×40 garden this year. Farms are my soul I guess.

    I wasn’t where you were academically back in the day for sure, I was too much of a perfectionist so I had more of an avoidance thing going on “If I don’t try my hardest I can’t fail and feel bad about myself”. Needless to say, I struggled the same with finding my spot. I went to a good college, got a good degree, fought with myself the entire time that it maybe wasn’t what I wanted to do (but it was the *right* stable thing to do), got out – tried something else and finally ended up back as a tax accountant where I was *meant* to be.

    Or so I convinced myself. After two years professionally (but many more before that throughout high school and college) and two very long long tax seasons I burnt out. I had something personal happen that shocked everything in my life at 25 and I was just…done. Six months after the event I was fired, but I had checked out long before that. I finally called my Dad up and told him I couldn’t be an accountant. I just could not do it. It was one of the most freeing things I ever did. He never pushed me to be one really, but I mistook his happiness that I was going the same direction for my happiness. Another job in between come and gone and some unemployment and I’m finally happy – REAL happy.

    I now still work in an office, and I’m in communications and about to start that degree but I am so much happier. I have a funny boss, I actually like my job 95% of the time, and I almost never work late. I took a huge pay cut but it was worth it.

    I have the time to do the things I love – homestead and spend time with my husband and our dogs. Life couldn’t be much sweeter.

    1. Amanda says

      Awww, I’m really glad you commented! That is such a great memory from when we were kids. You know my family actually got two goats when I was in middle school? My mom loved them so much, she convinced my dad to get them for her as a birthday present one year. 🙂

      Your own journey is so similar to mine in that you were also trying to convince yourself that you could make a certain career path work. That’s such a hard place to be, but man, it feels good to let all of those preconceived notions go! I’m so happy you’re in a good place now, and I’m super jealous of your garden (and farm – I have this dream of adopting a pig one day haha)! I would love to have some land at some point and do the same, though a little porch garden is more realistic while we’re living in the city. I can’t wait to check out your blog! I’m so happy we were able to connect on FB! xo

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