By Shahida Muhammad
It was beginning to be way too much. My hair was looking like "Who did it and why?" Those lovely bags under my eyes had become even more emphasized and I had a to-do lists that I could never seem to to conquer. I knew I had to let go of something, but was I prepared to make the sacrifice for my general well-being? Was this my breaking point?
Let me rewind a few months. I had been job searching for months after being laid-off of my first job out of college. The nice and cushy salaried job with benefits, had been replaced with the scarce reality of the limited job market. My job search went through phases. There was the 'Stay in your lane' phase where I was striving to stay career oriented, the disappointment of this translated to the 'Screw it -- I'm going abroad to save the turtles!' stage, and as time progressed and reason set in, I became a more flexible and entered into the 'I'll take what I can get for now' phase. As fate would have it, I wound up getting three jobs all within the same week. Two part-time, and the other as often as I made myself available. Maybe Alicia Keys' "Superwoman" was subconsciously playing in my head as I had the audacity to take all three. Wrong move.
These were no sit at a desk and update Facebook gigs. I was teaching during the day, then headed off to a demanding customer service job in the evening. On the one or two weekdays I wasn't scheduled at these jobs, I was on-call as a substitute teacher. And on the rare occasions where I wasn't working, I was trying to get some sleep and vice versa. Missed calls, emails, and several hour gaps in response to texts became all too common. My life became a maze off sticky notes and power naps. I tried my best to map out every detail. There was the friendly "Take your keys!" reminder posted on my dry erase board and a meticulous schedule that included time slots for everything from changing clothes between jobs, returning messages, stopping for gas and that much needed time to pray my way through it all. Hair appointments were supplemented by blow outs and heavily bobby-pinned up-dos and my nails just didn't stand a chance.
In short, I started losing myself. Not only did I lose my self in work, I lost sight of what I was doing all this for. Despite paying the bills, working three jobs made it super hard to keep up with my passion (writing), not to mention family and friends.
While it may feel good to proclaim you are "going hard" or "grinding," is it possible to to get lost in the grind? In my case, I believe I did. In the end, after trying to keep up with all three jobs for five months, I had to let go of one and in doing so I let go of so much stress. I went from working around 46-54 hours each week, to a more manageable 30-36 hour work week. While money is indeed a lot tighter, I find it more fulfilling to have more time to actively pursue goals that I hope will allow me to no longer be boxed in a clock-in/clock-out existence one day.
Of course, everything is real. Bills need to be paid and being idle can be an equally unproductive state. I am no stranger to hard work, but at what cost? If you're going gray in your twenties by burying yourself in a dead-end job, it may be good to step back and see how you can better balance your life; especially if you have passions and goals outside of the daily rat race.
I learned that it is important to make time for the small things. For me, it's things like making sure I get my daily dose of kisses from my baby nephew or having quality 'Me+GOD' time before I start my day. Also, try your best to maintain relationships with those who mean the most to you. I can't tell you how many conversations now start off with "Dag, where you been?" or the annoying greeting of "Hey, stranger!" Be sure to treat yourself to that much needed hair appointment or trip to the nail salon or spa every so often, because chances are you deserve it.
This struggle to find balance in work and life is nothing knew. It can be especially challenging if you are a go-getter or compulsive workaholic as I am. In the economic reality of today we may be compelled to take on more than we can bear. Every opportunity may not necessarily be the right opportunity. Knowing your limits is key. Don't lose sight of your goals. Strive to protect your peace-of-mind.
And whatever you do, don't lose yourself in the grind.