I was having lunch with a friend the other week, and we were both discussing major life decisions (you know, as one does over lunch).
At one point, he gently reminded me, “You can be … I don’t know if this is the right word — impatient.”
“Impulsive?’ I replied.
I guess both words are appropriate. I’ve been known to be both. I can’t really pinpoint where these traits came from.
Maybe it’s my control freak nature, where I need to have things done my way and I need them done now!
Or maybe it’s this thought I’ve had since as long as I can remember that I am going to die young. I have no idea where this prediction came from. I’m not particularly unhealthy or reckless. I guess I’m just morbid.
And these days, while I feel like I’ve been able to temper both impatience and impulsiveness when it comes to my actions, they still constantly plague my mental state.
Impatience, in particular, has been a pretty nasty demon lately.
“Why haven’t I found my new career path yet?!”
“We’re behind on getting the apartment completely redone before the baby arrives.”
“I need to get x and y and z done by the end of the day or else I’m a complete failure!” (yes, this is where my mind goes sometimes…ok, A LOT of the time)
And while these insidious thoughts do pop into my head often, one thing I will say that I’ve gained from this sabbatical is the ability to talk myself down from the anxiety a lot faster than I could before. I just try to remember a few things:
Most deadlines are of my own making
When I started this sabbatical, I thought it would take no more than a year. But here I am, approaching the one-year mark, and I’m nowhere near knowing what I want to do next in my career.
Granted, when I found out I was pregnant back in March, I already knew that this sabbatical would last longer than I had originally planned. But part of me thinks that even if a baby wasn’t in the picture, there is a real possibility that I still wouldn’t have known at this point what my next career path should be.
And that’s ok.
There is no hard and fast rule that says this sabbatical has to be just a year. That time period was pretty arbitrary, actually.
I guess in my mind, a year seemed like a period of time that others would be comfortable with; it felt easy to explain. But another big goal of this sabbatical is to divorce myself from this need to have others’ approval.
Some things just take longer than you expected
I’ll start with a simple example here. We are repainting our apartment, and this afternoon, I thought I could quickly get our hallway done because it is so small. That would give me time to get the living cleaned up and rearranged. And quickly get this blog post drafted and published.
But alas, the hallway painting took much longer than I thought it would. Doing all the prep work was more difficult (and thus, more time-consuming) than I anticipated. And while the hallway is small with less area to paint, it has a lot more tight spots to get into, which slows down the painting process. To top it all off — I ran out of paint, so I couldn’t even finish the job!
It’s not that I executed this task poorly per se, it’s just that I had unrealistic expectations.
I think I’m experiencing something similar with my exploration of interior design. I’ve been taking classes since January and have been working as a design assistant for a couple of months now. Surely, I should know by now if this is a career I want to pursue. Or at least be leaning one way or the other. But no. I find myself still firmly on the fence — neither persuaded nor dissuaded. So, I’ll take my time and keep going until I know for sure.
It’s ok to change the plan
Remember that apartment revamp I wrote about? Well, the original plan was to do a major purge of all our stuff, repaint the entire apartment, and build out custom storage in almost every room.
But life got in the way. And things just took longer than I expected (see point above).
So, I really had to look at the entire plan and split it up into the “must haves” and the “nice to haves”. For example, we must have the living room repainted and rearranged to make space for the baby stuff and to better host all the visitors we’ll have. But the entire kitchen can wait until after the baby is born.
And, of course, my whole sabbatical plan has changed since becoming pregnant. Baby prep has eaten into time that I could have dedicated to career exploration. And, of course, I’ll have to pause my career exploration altogether for a while after the baby is born.
Sometimes, you just need to forgive yourself
Every now and then, things don’t get done as fast as I originally planned because I simply got too tired. Or lazy. Or I haven’t followed through on steps I should have.
But you know what? At the end of the day, you have to cut yourself some slack. Because it’s not the end of the world! (Pre-sabbatical Laura would gasp in horror at that statement).
I’m not saying I want to let myself get too lax or stop setting challenging goals for myself. I just don’t want to spend so much energy beating myself up if things don’t work out the way I had envisioned.
At the end of the day, I have to remember for whom I’m doing all of this. It’s not my peers who I used to work so hard to impress. It’s not my friends. Or my family. It’s simply … me.