A Ramble About The Struggle to Exist in Non-“Productive” Moments

I have been grappling about this subject for a little while now in my own head, and over the past week I have shared my thoughts to three good friends, and each of them immediately related. Gotta love a shared experience.

I am rarely able to enjoy my time when I’m not being “productive”

From high school, we go straight to college, and then from college, we go straight into working full time. Throughout it all, I’ve gained a lot of self worth through achievement through the feeling that I’m being productive.

When I started out my career, I went into it full-speed. From the first month, I was thinking about what my goals were and the position I wanted to work up to. That was all-consuming. My job became such a big part of my identity without me even fully realizing it. I rarely spent time with alone pursuing passions outside of my 9-5 (which often bled past 5:00) because I was so mentally exhausted after each day.

Over the past year, with the pandemic and blaring social justice issues consuming so much energy, combined with the nonstop work of stress, I eventually found myself feeling completely burnt out. Beyond the point of return. Sitting down to work made me feel depressed and empty.

That’s when I first realized I needed to make a change.

Through some serious soul searching, an amazing energy healing session with my dear friend Nina (check her out), and the realization that continuing to climb the corporate ladder wasn’t fulfilling me. I spent time disengaging with the belief that my identity was my job, and reminded myself that I’m so much more than that. After all, every job is temporary, just as every single thing on this earth is temporary.

I sought out the job I wanted versus the job I thought I should have. I work at a mission-driven company, love my team, and am enjoying having so much creativity in my day to day. #winning

However, I’m finding myself in the next stage of healing from my workaholic tendencies: struggling to just be when I’m not ingrained in work.

I wrap up the workday and close my computer. Step out of my office. Unconsciously, I’m in a clouded state where I have forgotten that I can now do whatever the hell I want, and I often end up lazily scrolling. Technology always sucks you in during these moments of mindlessness.

JP mentioned to me that he found himself feeling anxious on the weekends, having trouble just enjoying the free time. I feel the exact same way, often, yet don’t know if I had admitted that to myself yet. It was then that I realized that wasn’t surprising at all. We’re essentially trained that our productivity is of the utmost priority in this society (grind culture), and when we aren’t, our minds go crazy. We dedicate 5 out of 7 days of the week to our jobs. It’s easy to wedge in workouts before and after work, or time with friends, and fill in those days quick. But then you’re left with two days at the end of it all – with no agenda or action items. What??? Is this an American thing? Thinking back to one of the truest quotes from Eat, Pray, Love:

“Americans know entertainment, but they don’t know pleasure. You feel guilty because you’re American. You don’t know how to enjoy yourself!

You want to know your problem? Americans! You work too hard. You get burned out. Then you come home and spend the whole weekend… in your pajamas in front of the TV. But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you’ve earned it. You see a commercial that says, ‘It’s Miller time’… and you say, ‘That’s right. Now I will go to buy a six-pack.’ And drink the whole thing and wake up the next morning and you feel terrible. But an Italian doesn’t need to be told. Ha walks by a sign that says, ‘You deserve a break today’… and he says, ‘Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m planning on taking a break at noon.”

It seems like this is a realization that we are collectively experiencing because I’ve seen others talking about it more and more lately. I absolutely loved this post below that I saw on Instagram earlier today.

I was listening to a talk this morning about creating a work-life balance, and how it’s become increasingly hard now that work is in all of our homes. JP brought up an interesting thought, that a “work-life” balance can be counter-productive in itself, as it implies that life cannot exist where work does. Which is especially detrimental when work is such a big part of our lives.

Maybe instead of separating the two and achieving a balance, we can be better at cultivating more life into our work days, in whatever way works best for us. Walks outside without technology, catching up with friends, having real conversations with your coworkers, dancing to your favorite song when your brain turns into mush in the afternoons. Whatever that looks like for you.