It’s always on the heels of hectic days like yesterday, that I am so full of angst about being busy. On the one hand there is a sense of satisfaction at the end of one such day, or even five, a week too, but on the other hand, there is the truth that I’ve come to realise. And it is this: I do not feel this same sense of satisfaction when too many such days stack up. Being busy is not always fun.
I love my work but I also love my space to do other stuff. To read, to watch Grey’s Anatomy, to go out for a run, to meet my friends, whatever it may be. I have always liked work and life to be distinctly separate, and get very antsy when one bleeds into another. Especially after the uber “successful” (and I use that term in a very loose, generic fashion right through this post) year I had, and the slump that hit me in January, I’m a bit wary of veering off track and finding myself back there again. Because, this. Happens to me. A lot.
So it takes constant reminding to slow down, make time to unwind, savour aloneness, enjoy bouts of peace in between bouts of hectic work. Time and again I have realised that although I thrive when I am challenged with projects that not only make me flex my writing muscle, but also make me venture into spaces I didn’t, and learn things I didn’t already know, it is not the centre of my life. It’s possible that the typical definition of success is in days packed to the brim with that kind of work, and it will most definitely have the cash endlessly flowing into my bank account. But that’s not where happiness is. Not for me.
I know it sounds like fake modesty when I say this but, I think the sweetest spot for me is right in the middle. A simple life, with just enough. Enough to do, enough to live, enough to survive. And that’s why this quest for balance is such a big deal in my head.
And so what if the kind of existence I love and thrive in, is seen as merely mediocre by the world at large? So bloody what? I’m growing so tired of the constant messages of productivity, perseverance, reaching above and beyond, delivering excellence, excelling standards, reading new benchmarks. Why does everything have to always be bigger and better. What if I’ve found what works for me, and I’m okay to just let it be.
I’ve tried doing it the way the world does it. Worked like a mad dog, earned more money than I ever wanted or thought I could earn at a point in time, surprised myself, and kept running that way, until I was burnt dry. only to realise that it’s not what I wanted.
I’ve said before, I’m just an ordinary 99%-er. An average person with no outlandish ambition to be excellent or stand out in the world. I’m very happy to bumble along, as long as I’m happy doing what I am doing, I’m being useful in the world and not getting in anybody’s way. My idea of ambition is pretty limited. There is no higher purpose or point to my life. And I’m inching close and closer to accepting fully that it is enough.
I keep harping on about this with respect to my work, because it does occupy a large space in my daily life and it js what I invest my energies in the most, but I also see this to be increasingly true for me in other aspects of my life as well.
More and more I’m discarding the idea of perfection, especially where I’ve realised it’s not my idea of perfection but something I’ve imbibed along the way. I’ve lost the will for that perfect, beautiful home. I’m happy if things work, are clean and I have a home to come back to everyday. I no longer chase crazy standards of domestic goddess-level perfection in the kitchen, the way the home is decorated or in keeping up with pressure to entertain folks. I have mostly lost interest in anything that needed to be done for an outward display, unless it is something that makes me innately happy, or is crucial to my very existence.
I used to be so filled with angst about my inability to socialise, to be a gregarious “out-there” kind of person because that’s the kind of person the world likes no? That’s the kind of person who gets ahead. I know this has held me back at work in the past, where I constantly felt the pressure of having to step up and be a certain way. Something always held me back though. Perhaps it is the gut feeling of knowing fully well that it was not something that would come naturally to me.
I said this in a comment on this post, and I’ll repeat it here. I have a history of being good at most things I took up — in school, college and even the first few jobs I took up. I got through with above average results with very little effort. And this was not limited to academics alone. Extra curriculars, socialising, sport. Now, the game has changed. Previous levels of perfection are rendered useless and there are new standards to ascribe to. Not only does succeeding take a lot more effort, I have also realised that there is no joy in it for me. That is not my idea of contentment and it’s not where my sense of purpose and validation comes from. Successful the way most people expect it to unfold, takes a lot more effort, in the face of competition, criticism, instant gratification. It takes a lot more than just showing up and delivering. And most times I couldn’t be arsed to go that far.
I do have my moments of enthusiasm, when I push myself to my limits. But they’re few and far between these days. Mostly I’m at peace with being a full time freelancer working from home, settling for a smaller income than I’ll ever make in a full time employment. But what I make, it’s enough. I’m growing to love the sense of home the way it is around me, my space, and not some pinteresty re-creation. My home is warm, neat for the most part, and that we can afford it and have a peaceful life here, is enough. I’m growing more and more comfortable with my natural oscillations between mild extroversion and extreme introversion. I venture out when I feel the innate need for it, and I stay in and say no when I no longer want company. I choose my own company more often than not, because I am enough. I’m far more forgiving of my perpetual food-baby, the wideness of my hips, the disheveled eyebrows that frame my eyes. I exercise like a maniac, knowing fully well that I no longer chase an insanely unreal image of thinness. I no longer do my eyebrows. I feel healthy and strong when I workout. I like the face I see in the mirror. And that is enough.
Yes, so I sometimes eat bread and butter for dinner. Yes, 7 out of 10 times I procrastinate like crazy before I deliver my work. Yes, I sometimes forget to do the laundry for a week and I routinely find myself in the car with the petrol indicator on E. Yes, there are days when I want to be a bum, and I have the luxury and privilege to do so. Yes, I’m not always on top of everything. But what I am, is enough.
The usual checkboxes for a life well lived, a successful one as it were, looks nothing like mine does right now. There’s a lot of scope for what people might call improvement. But you know what? I don’t even have the ambition to aspire for it. I’m stuck in the middle – in that sweet spot between what once was, and how far I’ve come. And I’m happy to be here, taking it one day at a time. This is the sweet spot for now. It’s where the happiness is. Where calm breathes. Where peace seeps in and reminds me time and time again that it’s okay to be mediocre.
It is enough.