It wasn’t until I began regularly using the term “human time” — which, in my mind, was any period of the day not dedicated to frantically meeting deadlines — that it occurred to me I might need to rethink things. An unexpected deluge of work in the fall left me feeling thrilled and grateful and deliriously anxious all at once, and my life — which, until then, had never been so busy that I couldn’t indulge in a night off or a moment’s reflection — felt as though it had been put on pause.
“I’m just taking some time to feel like a human again,” I’d say, wild-eyed, as I stole five minutes here and there to make the bed, or trim my nails, or cook a meal. Some weeks, even sleep felt like a luxury, and those precious reminders that I was human (and not, in fact, an extension of my laptop), were sometimes reduced to fleeting bits of the morning’s early hours, listening to the conversations of passersby outside and taking long, slow breaths.
I flew home to LA on the 18th of December. My flight left Newark at 7AM, and the hours leading up to my departure consisted of two hurried meals with friends, a stretch of frenzied packing, several last-minute edits, and exactly no sleep. I left my apartment at 4:30 in the morning, was airborne three hours later, and, thanks to the wonders of westward travel, on my parents’ couch in California before noon.
My three weeks away, which I briefly recapped here, were spent between LA, Joshua Tree, and Portland. I slept for hours. I sat in the sun. I watched my one-and-a-half year old nephew dig in the dirt.
I still had work to do and emails to write and deadlines to meet. But, mysteriously, I did them and wrote them and met them in a way that felt far from frantic. In fact, I found myself wanting to work — or at least be creative. The change of pace and scenery, however short-lived, allowed me an opportunity to recalibrate in a way that made me wonder if there can be a middle ground between chaos and inactivity. It occurred to me, though perhaps it should have been obvious all along, that I can be simultaneously grateful for work and mindful of wellbeing. That there isn’t a point at which real living starts or ends. That all of it — stresses, shakiness, and sleeplessness included — makes us human.
I’ve been back in New York now for four days. It’s freezing and everyone is going back to work. Since returning, I’ve already felt the madness of a new year looming, fresh with possibilities. But if I have one goal going forward, it’s to remain clear-headed, and to remember to breathe.
As my friend Brian Paquette wrote on Facebook the Sunday before everyone returned to their jobs: “Gearing up for a crazy day tomorrow of back to work? Stop. Crazy begets crazy. Busy begets busy and busy just isn’t interesting. Interest, success, and quality come from a clear mind, with clear goals, and without a need to prove your worth based on work load. Go forth, fellow creatives, and do beautiful and thought-provoking things. I believe in you.”
In some ways, it feels like a very adult thing to prioritize health over hysteria. But my resolution for 2015 is something we’re told is most important as children: I’ll do my best. I am, after all, only human.
You can find my previous POV entries, here. Thank you so much for reading, as always. Photo by Julia Robbs.