Why Didn’t Anyone Teach Us How To Create Work-Life Balance?

It’s more than no work communication outside 9-5 and unlimited vacation time.

I graduated in May 2019. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve had conversations with close friends about this post-grad life we’ve been living for about a year and a half.

Most of these conversations have centered around the idea of the “dream job” and what that’s supposed to entail. In college, students are so hyper-focused on getting a job for after graduation, that we hardly had time to think about what life would look like outside of work when there’s no school (and Tuesday Trivia nights at our favorite campus bar) to keep us occupied. In my head, I imagined that I’d have so many hours free from lack of homework and so much excess money from working 40 hours a week (lol) that life could only be amazing. If I could talk to my past self, I’d say, “Hold up, you know nothing.” And that’s where we are.

We (me and the people I’ve talked to) have the idea that life isn’t supposed to be only work BUT if work doesn’t leave you the energy to ~live~ then what are we doing? We strive for this work-life balance but we’re never told how to get that. Sure, companies will say that they encourage a healthy work-life balance by no work communication outside the 9-5 hours or by having unlimited vacation days, etc… but there are so many factors that play into a healthy work-life balance. Extra time isn’t the only aspect of creating that for yourself. It’s key to know how to use that extra time to make a healthy lifestyle for yourself. For example, if I get home from work and immediately put my pajamas on (transforming into my truest form) and lay down to watch TV, I am not doing what I know will get me closer to a healthy balance because I know for myself, specifically, TV isn’t something that recharges me. For some people, it DEFINITELY is! But not for me. Luckily, I have my pup and when I get home, I need to take her for a walk right away so that keeps me from collapsing onto the couch when I walk through the door. Not saying everyone should get a dog (but everyone should get a dog).

My circumstances are also different from many since I’m working in person right now instead of virtually like so many have been in 2020 (and probably will continue to do so). 

My dear friend from kindergarten sent me this Refinery29 article about how a job only needs to be a means to the end. But if the end isn’t fulfilling then what’s the point of putting all our energy into the means? 

I listened to this episode of The Good Influence podcast about Money and Mindset. The interviewee, Natalie Scott, said that we are working to support the lifestyle we want to live, not just to pay rent. That struck a chord with me because right now I feel like I’m working to literally only pay rent which is so sad. At the same time, my friends who are making enough money to pay rent and do other things shouldn’t feel guilty for spending their money on fun things because they are working for a specific lifestyle. So if we are working to support a lifestyle, that should be more than just the 9-5, right? 

Again, during one of these conversations, a friend from college made an offhand comment that as a kid, our main goal is to have fun and enjoy life. Learning and growth are by-products of those that help make us into the adults we are today. Now it seems like we are forcing the learning and growth aspects by pushing ourselves to a breaking point of being burnt out or (possibly worse?) exhausted from boredom. What would happen if we refocused on having fun like we did early on?

It seems to me that we need to create the opportunity for ourselves to be fulfilled outside of work by having fun. All it takes is finding a couple things that bring you joy and make sure you do those on your days off. For me, my non-negotiables for the days I don’t work are going to the dog park and making all of my meals. There’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing my dog fly in circles around the park with the other pups all chasing behind. Also, more times than not, I find myself in interesting conversations with new people while our dogs play. I always leave feeling refreshed. Cooking is something I’ve come to enjoy more with quarantine as a way to take up time as well as keep me off my phone. I feel so proud of myself when I finish a new meal and get to sit down and enjoy it (usually with leftovers to use during the rest of the week when I don’t have time to cook). These are two actions that keep me sane during the week and have nothing to do with work. Some other ideas are reading, working on that book you always wanted to start or even just going outside for a walk if you don’t get enough sunlight during the week. 

I (newly) agree that we don’t have to have a completely soul-filling job to be happy, but I do think that the job needs to give us a sense, even if it’s a small sense, of fulfillment as well as leave us with the energy to do the things we enjoy on days off so we don’t feel like we need to spend that whole time “recharging” for the week ahead of draining work. Implementing small soul-filling things into your free time will create the more balanced lifestyle we keep hearing about. Balance takes practice. I’m sure it’s worth it — I just haven’t gotten there yet. 

I recognize not everyone has the luxury of wanting to be picky with their work, but I hope we can get to a point where everyone finds something they like and leaves them with the energy and time to have a life outside of work. What are some of your favorite things to do outside the hours of 9-5?

Originally published on https://link.medium.com/KJfSfkAlQcb

Small Business Love This Holiday Season!

So many of us are trying to support local businesses with our holiday shopping this year so I put together a few that I’ve come across for some ideas!

Anecdote Candles: I came across this brand when I was in a beachy shop in Hawaii. I love the sayings on the labels and feel like there is one for everyone you know in your life. I’ve tried quite a few and haven’t met a scent I didn’t like so I think they are doing a great job! Very simple but thoughtful if you match the right candle with the right person. 

After School Matters: This isn’t necessarily a ~business~ but it’s the store for an organization that supports Chicago teens. Everything in the shop is handmade by the teens. They have beautiful paintings, photos, stained glass, leather bags and even hand-painted furniture. All proceeds directly support After School Matters programs, instructors and the talented teens. 

GOLDE: A Black-owned beauty-wellness brand with the goal to help your morning routine be the best it can be. They have everything from DIY Matcha kits to natural face masks. Everything is 100% natural, vegan friendly and made with superfood ingredients. 

**I fully encourage everyone to follow @15percentpledge on Instagram for a whole gift-guide of Black-owned businesses. There are so many amazing ones!

Fatty Sundays: I haven’t tried these yet, but I’ve had my eye on their DIY chocolate covered pretzel kit and cannot wait to try! It looks so fun and delicious! Would also recommend following them on Instagram because they always post stories of their toddler covered in chocolate and sprinkles and it’s quite amusing. 

And finally, I’ll plug my own small business that is launching today. The Archived by Christine shop is now open! Here is a link to the Etsy shop. You can also see the products on the Shop page of this website. Products are all handmade and super limited! 

Happy Shopping! 

Favorite Books of 2020

I had a goal to read 50 books this year and I honestly don’t know if it happened. My phone lost the storage battle in September and with it, I lost the list of books I had read. Either way, I was on track to meet the goal and I read some wonderful stories along the way.

I love fiction. So, I am not the person to ask for history, biography or anything that might resemble a pandemic or political drama relating to real-life recommendations. I do, however, know a great piece of fiction when I come across it.

Anxious People — Frederick Backman: This is a book where you just ~feel~ for all of the characters. Backman does such an incredible job with his character development. The first book I read by him was A Man Called Ove (highly recommend that one too).

A Very Punchable Face — Colin Jost: I know I said I’m not a huge biography person, but I’m obsessed with Colin Jost and his auto-biography had me laughing so hard I ended up reading passages aloud to my mom so she could understand why I had tears streaming down my face.

In Five Years — Rebecca Serle: I feel like this book was everywhere mid-pandemic because it was such an escape into a very realistic pre-pandemic world. You follow the narrator through so many life changes after her 5 year plan doesn’t quite work out the way she’d hoped, getting lost in her world along the way.

Evvie Drake Starts Over — Linda Holmes: This was the first book I read this year, and I still think about it. It’s a cute story set in Maine and had me looking up waterfront properties on Zillow for the next few months.

Daisy Jones and the Six — Taylor Jenkins Reid: Pretty sure this won Book of the Year last year from Book of the Month so I was behind the ball. My girlfriends and I read it for our book club and we’re all obsessed. I will say, I listened to it as an audiobook and all the characters have different voices which I think made it so much better than other audiobooks — would definitely recommend that format. (I’ve also read quite a few other books by TJR and they are great, quick reads.)

Beach Read — Emily Henry: Loved this! Read it in practically one sitting and wanted more at the end. It follows two writers as they create their next big novels. Always love a book about books.

I’m sure I’m missing a few, but this list is quite representative of how I spent a lot of time this year.

**I am a member of Book of the Month Club and you can use my link to get money off your first book! I’m usually anti-subscription but I LOVE this and will never cancel. Otherwise, I use Libby to read on my phone or listen to audiobooks.

Story Time Series #1

I’m excited to announce the Story Time Series where I share stories of random things that happen to me. At this point, all stories are true and free of embellishment but who knows where we’ll end up!

#1

I stepped off the A train onto the subway platform and headed toward the exit. It was a sunny Saturday morning so the station was emptier than on my normal commute days. I turned toward the stairs to make my way above ground, when a guy dressed in a black sweatsuit and a black baseball hat pushed past me, clearly in a hurry. I moved to the side to let him by and continued up the stairs behind him. We were the only two on that set of stairs leaving the subway. He was a few feet in front of me when a large yellow envelope fell out of his coat pocket onto the steps. He didn’t notice as he hurried away. I called out to him, “Hey! Excuse me! You dropped something!” He had headphones in and couldn’t hear me. I picked up the envelope, and I kid you not, on the front was the word CONFIDENTIAL written in red sharpie. So obviously, this is the moment I run after this guy and save his life by delivering the envelope. I call my boss to quit my job and join his international spy team. Then I become the #1 spy in our agency, saving the world along the way, we fall in love and live happily ever after. This scenario runs through my head before I get to the top of the stairs. He is at least 6’3” and a very fast walker. I start chasing after him, “Excuse me! Sir!” Even an exasperated, “Dude!” escapes my mouth. Ick. I finally catch up to him in the middle of a crosswalk. I reach out to touch his elbow (I can see the meet-cute being written now), he turns to look at me. His expression turns from confusion into… is that annoyance? “Um you dropped this on the stairs back there,” I say as clearly as I can muster with this handsome stranger glaring at me. 

He reaches out to take the envelope I’m shoving at him, “okay,” turning away to walk across the sidewalk. 

Okay?! Are you kidding me?! I just saved you so much stress! Not even a “thank you”?! I find myself indignant in the middle of the street. Trying to gather my bearings, I realize I just ran a block and a half away from my work and the light just turned green, giving the line of cars I’m blocking full permission to run me over. I jog back to the side of the street I came from and turn around to look for the mystery man. He’s gone, and I’m left to believe I imagined the whole thing. The only thing that says otherwise is the heaving of my lungs from chasing after him.

20 Things I’ve Learned In 2020

Obviously 2020 hasn’t turned out the way any of us expected. While it may have been the most turbulent while simultaneously the most stagnant feeling year of my life (everyone’s life?), I’d be remiss to say it wasn’t one full of lessons. Some of these aren’t necessarily learned but lessons reiterated this year. 

  1. I won’t combust if I’m not productive for many, many days in a row. 
  2. But that will make me sad.
  3. An emergency fund is non-negotiable.
  4. TV is more entertaining with friends. At the beginning of the year, Lauren and I watched ~everything~ from Love is Blind to Game of Thrones. When I went back home over the summer, my parents and I watched most of the Marvel movies and Schitt’s Creek. Now that it’s just me and Beezy, TV isn’t as fun. 
  5. Driving through the Holland Tunnel from New Jersey to New York costs $13.75. 
  6. Hobbies are more important than I thought. Now I guess we all have an answer to the question, “What do you do in your free time?” I haven’t become a chef or an incredible artist, but I did learn a couple different ways to make chicken and broke out my watercolors for the first time in a long time. 
  7. Art is everything — I’m forever in debt to my favorite authors, the creators of Game of Thrones, Dan Levy, Vogue Youtube and every tik toker that makes videos my sister sends me. These have kept me sane and, at times, blissfully disconnected from the dark world around us. 
  8. Eating outside is better. I love feeling European during a meal and hope outdoor dining is here to stay. 
  9. People at dog parks are so nice. 
  10. Nothing is certain. I had a whole ~foolproof~ plan of what this year was supposed to look like with very tangible goals planned out for each month. I can say that after February absolutely none of those have been accomplished. I’ve come to terms with that and have further accepted that I need to be better at going with the flow. 
  11. Patience is key, especially with the highs and lows we’ve experienced. Knowing that tomorrow might be better is always helpful. 
  12. Speaking up only during the news cycle is not a way to create lasting change. We saw this clearly with the murder of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. We have to make real changes in our everyday lives (where we buy, what we read, who we follow on social media) to alter our minds and behaviors. 
  13. Celebration is more fun with people (and strangers popping champagne) — aka Biden/Harris winning the election. My aunt texted our family group chat that NBC confirmed the nomination and I kid you not, 30 seconds later I heard the streets around me erupt. I quickly put Beezy’s leash on her and we ran outside to join the festivities. Like Meggie said, it was as if the hometown team won the World Series. People were banging pots and pans on their balconies, truck drivers laid on their horns as they passed by, everyone was cheering. In a corner apartment building, a guy brought speakers out to his balcony and started blasting music. There was dancing in the streets and pure relief radiating from everyone.I have goosebumps thinking about it now. A guy nearby popped a huge bottle of champagne and started handing out paper cups to everyone, pouring the celebration into a drinkable feeling. Chrissy Teigen said it best when she tweeted, “I feel like I just took off a weighted blanket, unhooked my bra and took out my extensions all at once.” Literally.
  14. Going outside is a game changer. I went for super long walks most days in the middle of quarantine and they completely changed my mood and mindset. 
  15. Soft slippers are so important. Quality loungewear in general is so important. I’m very lucky that I grew up in a house that values being cozy, but that has taken on a whole new meaning this year. I’m here for it. 
  16. Virtual happy hours are ~almost~ as good as real happy hours. They usually last much longer because you don’t get kicked out of the restaurant because they closed so that’s a positive.
  17. If you buy something at Zara and carry it in their paper bag and walk to the subway in the rain, the bag will rip and all of your belongings will spill onto the gross ground. 
  18. Face masks are great for keeping warm in the windy cold winter months. I wish I thought of using them in Minnesota. 
  19. I have everything I need, and I am so grateful. Letting go of the need to make a huge plan for next year and doing my best to find peace with whatever comes my way.
  20.   

Leaving #20 blank because we have a whole month to go, and I’m sure I’ll learn more than one thing in that time. Would love to know what you feel are the biggest things you’ve learned this year!

Harry Styles & Niall Horan: An Emotional Maturity Scale

After my freshman year of high school, my two cousins and I flew from Chicago to LA for a long weekend that just happened to be the same weekend One Direction’s debut tour passed through the City of Angels. This was the beginning of my interest in the group which has sustained until now — nearly 10 years later. Needless to say, I was thrilled when all members of the band released solo music within a few months of each other.

Harry’s album, Fine Line is spectacular. The musicality and the story line along the tracks give you a painful insight of his crashing in love to the heartbreak that follows and the eventual reconciliation with moving on from the past. We get Paul McCartney and James Taylor vibes all throughout.

After listening to Niall Horan’s newest album, Heartbreak Weather, I can’t help but compare the two former band members. Niall’s music is full of negative language that essentially blames this woman for his feelings. After listening to all the songs, I think he needs to figure out a better post breakup coping mechanism.

The two opposite breakup reactions blew my mind. The artists have had very similar last few years, are about the same age and in the same industry. Unintentionally, they have created a spectrum of emotional maturity that I can classify nearly every male (okay, female too but that isn’t what we’re focusing on here) I know along. Harry addresses his own flaws, calling out his faults in numerous songs, owning up to his mistakes and then giving credit to the woman who he shared such an important and formative time with. Niall tends to play the blame game with his ex-partner. He sings about the breakup and then immediately goes to sleeping around with girls, one night stands and then feeling either guilty about it or like a “powerful man”. This leads me to believe that Niall has pushed away feelings acknowledging the past by ignoring his heart and moving on before he is ready. This is a recipe for disaster, but also brings excitement for what his next album has the potential to be — an self-actualizing introspective piece of art? Who knows?? We have seen what Harry is capable of, while I think Niall should strive to hit his mark a little higher next time. Heartbreak Weather seems like therapy which is great, but the product after therapy can be even better.

John Mayer had an Instagram live the other day (everyone should follow John Mayer on Instagram) where he said he can’t write a song about his feelings of anxiety and dread during this Coronavirus right now because you need to take the time to let it all sink in. He said you don’t write a breakup song as it is happening and demonstrates this while acting out a breakup scene and writing down emotional (and beautiful) lyrics on a pad of post it notes and asks the imaginary partner to use her phone so he can record a voice memo. This is exactly what Niall did — he didn’t take the time to listen to his heart and hear what he needed to hear from himself. Instead, he threw himself into the writing process and churned out an album before he was actually ready to create something worth listening to. I don’t mean to say there aren’t a few good songs here because I really like San Francisco and Black & White. The music is so similar to the likes of One Direction — very pop-y. They don’t show off that he was the only member of the band who actually knew how to play an instrument while they were in the band. He needs to play off his strengths along with his emotions. While I think raw emotions are important, there are other ones that make better songs for an album and can paint him in a better light instead of a selfish guy who can’t take responsibility for his role in a relationship.

I’m looking forward to see what comes next — how the sounds change over time. This may seem like a bash on Niall’s music, but it’s not. These are simply my observations! Thoughts?

Originally published at https://christine-michelle.medium.com/ on April 9, 2020.