This post has been sitting in my drafts since January 2, 2018. I wish I was joking, but I’m not. And this is not out of laziness but because I was on a quest.
My life had gone through a lot of changes the year before, my 9 to 5 (that felt more like a 9 to 7 or 8 because of the commuting time) and new boyfriend being the biggest of them as they seemed to reshape my whole world. I wanted to be a real girl boss, one that could juggle with everything, give ALL of my loved ones enough time and attention (which involved more commute as I had to go back and forth between two cities), make new friends, write (for the blog and for me), maybe get back to dancing or singing lessons and overall, just keep everything clean, organized and happy. In the midst of it all, I couldn’t help but notice how my stress levels were raising way quicker than in the past and so I made it my mission for 2018: I had to find balance. As the publication date is already hinting, yes, it was a long journey. Here are the various alleys I explored…
Success at the speed of balance
While for some people, this quote might suggest to work smart rather than hard, for me, it resonated as a gentle reminder that life is not a race. I wanted to grow and feel fulfilled in all areas but it was also important for me to do it at my own pace. I realized quite quickly that balance can’t be an end goal: it’s an ongoing process. It’s a lot of trial and error and it’s never perfect.
Identify your free time
Many times, I found myself complaining of how little time there was in a day. As a control-freak, I would just stick to my usual, thinking that this was how I would eventually find the solution to all of my problems. Eventually, I decided to think outside of the box. To look for empty spaces, time spent doing unnecessary things when I could just use it to do everything I love, everything that actually feeds my soul and that I miss doing. So I disconnected myself. From social media and messaging apps. Weirdly, we’re now in an age where one would assume that this is also cutting ties with the world but trust me: you’ll survive. It will even make you feel… alive. Every Sunday, I would block all my apps (thank you Appblock), emails included. I started small, just for a few hours, then built it up to a full day. Suddenly, I had time to meditate (thank you Headspace), to write, to listen to music (lying on the bed and doing nothing else, just like as a teenager), to read, to learn new languages… to find a purpose again.
Don’t feel guilty and be in the moment
Every minute I would spend with someone, I would think of the other person I had to leave behind or say no to. It’s actually so paradoxical: I make a choice but I don’t own it. I’m not present, for neither of these people. To address the issue, I tried to let my phone catch a breath too by leaving it aside. You already see a common thread? I have to admit that these new, hyper-connected technologies are really the death of me. Including on holidays where I felt the need to document my trip in all the possible ways: DSLR pictures, videos, Snapchat (RIP), Instagram pictures… hence why I now switch to a disposable camera for some of my travels. I’m taking it all in and I’m definitely more mindful of the memories I create and capture.
On a small scale, these 3 tips helped. But I have to tell you a secret now: balance doesn’t exist. It’s an intangible concept which you can tend towards to, and that’s about it. The perfect illustration for it would be this quote from Vanessa Kingori, publishing director of the British Vogue, who explained in a recent episode of the Unsubscribe podcast: “Work/life balance is a lie that we’ve been sold that is completely unachievable. If we just look at the pure maths, we technically work 5 days a week and we have 2 days rest. That’s not balance!”. With a similar philosophy, it’s only at the end of 2018 that I reframed my quest: my idea of balance was in reality just to find inner peace. And with that in mind, I discovered my own key to a fulfilled life:
At the end of last year, while journaling one day, my truth finally took shape on the paper: I wasn’t feeling like myself anymore. All along, balance was, for me, about making everyone happy. I was trying so hard to please everyone but myself. What I thought were personal needs were in reality just other people’s expectations. My life needed a shift and while making an effort to disconnect myself was definitely a necessary step in that process, I had overlooked an important detail: the purpose of doing so was to reconnect with myself.
My obsession with balance led to a new intention for 2019: LISTEN. It’s about allowing myself to do what I want to do, what I need to do, for my own sake. It’s about isolating myself for an hour to write even if I have to leave someone else living their own life in the other room. It’s about not taking work home with me anymore and switching off the access to my emails once I’m out of the office. It’s about making a crêpe party when I have sugar cravings and going for that salad when I feel uneasy. It’s about not waiting for anyone else to do what I’ve always wanted to. It’s about not forcing myself anymore to spend time with toxic people – the ones who make me feel uncomfortable, broke my trust or prefer to discuss people over feelings, visions and ideas. It’s about learning to be in touch with my body, my intuition and my soul again, to learn to listen to my guts, my heart, my brain… to, in turn, listen better, actively, to the people I love. Because, as cliché as it sounds, you can’t help anyone without helping yourself first.