“I really believe in the philosophy that you create your own universe. I’m just trying to create a good one for myself.” ~Jim Carrey
If someone had told me years ago I’d one day be serving mushroom mafalda to a former VIP client, I’d have laughed in their face. Not an “I wouldn’t be caught dead doing this” type of cackle; more with an “I haven’t waited tables in twenty-five years, why would I start now?” kind of incredulity.
But it’s true. I’ve gone from defining myself as “Career Girl Sam”—toiling in an industry that was killing me—to a far simpler existence. Literally taken from my hilarious one-page resume Positive dining experiences for people.
This trope might seem a bit excessive. Every day, people quit high-paying jobs. Maybe they’re sick of the rat race. Maybe they wake up and realize the lifestyle they’re trying to maintain is unnecessary. Maybe their mental health has been compromised (mine was). No matter the reason, it isn’t unusual to quit a job as a pressure cooker.
Since I walked away, however, I’ve been challenging the so-called “rules” of life. I’ve decided to re-write them. Thanks to the pandemic, I now have the clarity and confidence I had never known I required.
The First Shift
I’ll start with how I saw myself. As with everyone else, I had different roles and wore different hats. It was the one I wore to be Sam, my mother. This hat was functional and meant to keep me warm in winter. This is the one for Sam, the career-girl. It was more of a fashion statement that received many compliments. And, of course, the ones I wore as Sam, the daughter… Sam, the friend… Sam, the sister… I could go on, and so can you.
Over the course of twenty odd years, I’d worn and collected so many damn hats I’d forgotten who was underneath them.
I’d forgotten about the Sam that I am.
Well, you reach a certain age and suddenly you’re aware of time running out. The clock was pounding at night.
When I realized that there was someone inside of me, and she had been hidden beneath all the hats I wore, I knew I had to offer her a chance. The best thing I did was figure out my own path to success, in my own time and with my own ideals.
I don’t hold any secret sauce to succeeding at this game called The Best of Life. But I can tell you, I’m happier these days. It has been a big change to the rules.
You can’t afford to lose the productivity hustle
I’ve been in a perpetual state of anxiety for most of adulthood. I have never been in the moment. Was I there ever? It’s unlikely. Because it was a constant series of this, then that, then don’t forget about these 500 other things I was juggling. These could all fall at any time.
And here’s the deal: I’m not ashamed of my incessant quest to get sh*t done. It’s part of who I am. But I’ve learned some things that shocked me. Thank you, pandemic, for showing me that it’s okay to wake up and know your contribution to the world is simply being alive.
The stripping away of so much from our regularly scheduled days has created space for… well, nothing, if I choose. It is important to understand that this is not a coincidence. Not This is how I roll. When I have the chance, I’ll squeeze 7 minutes from every 5
But it’s unhealthy. My constant hustle was something I projected onto other people. If my husband “sat around” on his day off, it would trigger me. “What did you get done today?” “Ohhhh!, I watched ‘Forged in Fire.’ What is the point??” The poor dude. He’s entitled to rest and restoration. Just because I didn’t allow myself the sAme luxury didn’t mean he had to operate under that hard-core philosophy.
He said to me the other day, “Sam, I’m not you,” and then it hit me. Why am How can I drive myself so hard?
Every second is filled with TO-DOs that do not really add value to my daily life. So what if the house hasn’t been vacuumed in a month? It doesn’t matter if your laundry looks like an enormous mountain of clothes chaos that I only climb when absolutely necessary. I don’t do it often. We are more fond of rummaging these days.
I’ve decided to stop chasing— exalting—productivity. It’s exhausting! Here’s what I now do instead.
Don’t forget validation.
Along the way, I’ve prided myself on being a woman who could pull amazing things out of thin air. I made elaborate costumes at the last minute. Corporate events I’d swoop into and sprinkle my own “something something.” Need a little pick-me-up? Let me rap a song for you and then perform it before all of my peers.
My belief was in trying to get the best out of every project I was involved with. That meant I needed to work at high intensity twenty-four-seven.
It was all documented on social media.
Everybody should see how competent I am. They validated me every day. However, I did so unconsciously.
I actually thought that I was just having fun. In some ways I was. For my friends on Facebook, it was a great experience to be stuck in my red boots at Toronto Airport Security. My keys getting lost in the snow. My phone getting smashed for the umpteenth consecutive time. This was part of my small show. Another persona—Sam, the relatable dumpster fire.
For the last eight months, I’ve mostly been off social media. At first, I wanted to be free from the same issues that you probably worry about. After completing something I had done, I was struck by a feeling of unease.
Newsflash: My desire to be loved and praised was strong. This external validation was not enough for me.
Now if I have a private moment to myself, I don’t feel any pressure to whip out my iPhone and snap a photo. I can, if I want to, but it’s for me. My family. These are sacred moments.
And I’m not pooh-poohing anyone who loves their daily scroll through the lives of others. It’s not my intention to judge those who love sharing. Have at ‘er.
But, I’m able to say that I do have more real estate than I think, and that I don’t give a damn about followers opinions. I’m doing me. I agree to these terms. You don’t need permission.
Joy is the most important thing.
I’m not sure why, but I grew up attaching a sense of shame to the feeling of joy. Perhaps it was my mother’s crippling depression. The confusion was kept to a minimum by tiptoeing around. It could have been the focus we put on productivity and success. I’m not sure. What I do know, however is that joy is. Allowed. Joy These are important. And I’m not going to dim my pursuit of it to make anyone else feel better.
Because I’m choosing to find it in the smallest of things. This morning, it was hot oatmeal. How incredible was that first taste—the crunch of the green apple, the punch of the cinnamon I added. This is a brief moment for me.
What is not to love about being able see that little bit of sunlight in your mornings? You might also notice squirrels running after each other. I now find these seemingly insignificant observations, which would not have occurred to me at any other time in my life, part of my continuing quest.
Are you looking for joy in life? It could be in the smiling face of the barista, who made me my latte. What about the spot in my parking lot that I just happened to be able to park? And I don’t just look for it, I want to dish it out. Because it is important. We all deserve joy.
Realize your feelings. Relax and be real with yourself.
I tend to be a person who lives in extreme situations. If things go wrong, I tend to assume the worst. I believe that the best outcome can be achieved when things are going well.
Well, I’ve spent the last year getting real with myself. It has meant challenging my worst nightmare scenario.
To lead these beautiful, international walking trips with women I left my job. I’m oversimplifying, but it’s what I did. It seems so obviously like a pipedream, it’s not even funny. It’s not as easy as it seems. I’m learning this. She says this while popping Tums!
With the pandemic stalling my plans for this new business, I’ve found myself twisted up in even more fear. But I’ve looked it square in the eye and decided I can live with the worst-case scenario: instead of getting this thing off the ground, what if it plummets into cold water like some sloppy cannonball?
That’s what does it mean? I’ll have spent time and money chasing a dream that didn’t work out. Do I think it was a waste? There is no way. Because I’ve always believed we can’t know until we try. Were we going to end up on the streets? I mean, I guess, that’s always a possibility. But unlikely. I have skills, and I’m fairly certain I can just go out and get another J-O-B.
This brings me to the next point.
Asking people about their lives is not the right way to ask. Ask them what they’re about, instead.
I have had to deal with some parts of my ugly ego. I used to feel good about myself when I answered that famous question, “What do you do for a living?” I’d pretend to stammer around, but secretly would be full of pride that I owned a company and worked in finance. Frustratingly, I felt that this was what gave me credibility. It was like I believed I was worthy. Because Sam was my career name.
I’m here to tell you it’s all rubbish.
Partly because I did the Camino, it was partly thanks to this that I realized I’m not. that. The “Sam I Am” is not what I do for a living. Nor does anyone give a rat’s ass what I do for a living, unlike what we’re led to believe. My life could easily be simple and free from the constant scrutiny, regulations, and pressure.
I like my part-time job of serving customers at tables. My hometown has a few good restaurants. Knowing that it was going to result in me bumping into former clients, I wasn’t surprised. But it doesn’t faze me—not even a noodle. It will come one day. I imagine a conversation going like this: “Oh hello, Mr. Former VIP Client! It’s true, I work right now. Any questions about the pasta selection?”
Let’s redefine that annoying question, “What do you do for a living?” Why do we feel the need to put people in boxes? It doesn’t matter who makes the money. They are somehow defined by their jobs. I was once defined by it. Or so I thought, until it didn’t anymore.
And I’m a little frustrated that we start as young as we do, even with kids. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m all for having dreams and a path to work toward. Are we not setting ourselves up to a future where too much focus is placed on our work and its relationship with our value in the world?
I think it would be more interesting to answer the question, “What are you about these days?” or “What matters to you in life?” Next time you find yourself in that classic situation, why not switch things up?
I’m just now figuring out what matters to me in life. It’s not the job. The house. It’s the car. My clothes. It’s not the likes. It’s the comments. The number of holiday cards that I get. It’s not even the hikes I go on.
It is the same things which matter most to me that are important to you. Your family. You self-worth. You should choose a path that you are comfortable with.
So throw out the rules that aren’t working for you. These rules aren’t mandatory.
Sam Plavins, a GenX mom, wife and adventurer is also a writer and recovering over-sharer. She hiked 800km in Northern Spain, and realized that her finance career was destroying her. She decided to take a different path and launch. She Walks the Walk to help women like her lead more authentic, inspired lives. She wants you off society’s treadmill, or at the very least to question it! Find her at shewalksthewalk.com, Instagram, YouTube, or her travel blog, and check out her podcast here.
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You are not happy with your life? Tiny Buddha’s Tiny Buddha first published the post I Made Some Changes in My Life.