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


It was no surprise when Shawn Mendes’s fourth album dropped at midnight last Friday. The last time I saw this much press for something was… well, I really can’t think of a time I saw more press for anything. (Zane Lowe, Netflix, Netflix again, a bunch of other interviews, and a suddenly very active Instagram.)

I was concerned that there wouldn’t be surprises because of the ~load~ of content we got in the weeks leading up to the debut, but I was pleasantly caught off guard with some of the songs and the turns they took. 

Mendes is very clear about his influences for this record: The Beatles, John Mayer, a specific Kanye West song — basically a 60s/70s vibe with a ton of instrumentals showing off the magic of music. While I would throw in some Justin Bieber and more pop-y elements to that group, you can definitely hear what he wanted to do. 

I don’t think there’s a weak song on the whole record. At the same time, I feel like most of them are on a similar level. They have noticeably better instrumentals than his other music and definitely more thoughtful lyrics. However, there aren’t a ton of stand-outs, but they flow together nicely. That being said, here are a few that I’ve been turning to more than others. 

Call My Friends — He’s bummed he’s been gone from home so long and misses his friends. He wants a break from his life and to go back to “normal” where he can be with them and get high. I took this as the “pandemic” song of the album even though I don’t think it was meant to be that. As he was singing, I kept thinking about what I would give to be able to sit in a bar with my hometown girlfriends and laugh and just be together instead of on Zoom or over the phone. I miss them so much it hurts, and, like all of us, long for this time a year ago when everything was “normal” and we didn’t even realize it. 

Dream — Here’s The Beatles influence. The chord progressions in the chorus sound almost musically identical to The Beatles’ vibe,  I’m sure of it and will ask my mom for confirmation — she agrees. 

Look Up At The Stars — I love this because it’s so obviously meant to be performed on stage. I miss live music more than most things, and I hope we get to see this on stage at some point. 

Honorable MentionMonster with Justin Bieber. This is a BOP! I’m obsessed. The music video is even better. I’m a sucker for a good JB collab and this is it. (HOLY with Chance is also my favorite. And did you know he just re-released a few of his Christmas songs as an EP?? Okay, sorry this isn’t a Justin post but thought you should know.)

Thank you for sharing your heart and soul with us, Shawn. I’m always here for a musical journal entry. Most of these songs are about his relationship with Camila Cabello which I’m not mad about. If I were her, I’d feel crippling pressure to be the most perfect girl he has created in these songs and that would send me ~running~. I’m not her so it doesn’t matter. Happy they’re happy and we get videos of them trying to walk their dogs to remind us all: celebs! they’re just like us!

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.

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!


Image for post

At the beginning of March, I packed up my life and drove from Chicago to New York City with my dad. We pulled up to my Brooklyn apartment, and in the pouring rain, unloaded the boxes and dragged my mattress up the stairs to my new room. After unloading the car, we walked down the street to pick up sandwiches from the deli and ate them on the living room floor — this was a literal dream of mine, and I could not believe it was real life. I AM IN NEW YORK! The next day, we had breakfast and made a Target run before saying goodbye. He left early afternoon and when it was like college but better because I was in the city of my dreams and classes didn’t start the next week.

My roommate, Lauren, and I both started our new jobs that following Monday. I was ~living~ the dream. I had a morning commute on the subway, I walked through Union Square to get to work (did you know there is a Starbucks on BOTH sides of the park?!), I wandered up and down 5th Ave during my lunch hour and felt wonderfully exhausted at the end of the day just from interacting with people. By the middle of the week, there were whispers in the office about possibly working from home the next week because of Coronavirus but nothing was set in stone. That changed on Thursday afternoon when my supervisor brought us into a supply closet and told us that the office was going to be WFH optional for the next two weeks and not to come in the next day. Little did I know those two weeks would turn into an indefinite 2 months+ of self-isolation.

I moved here with a very specific, idealized life in my head. New York was the only place I was meant to be. I still feel that way even though I can’t do all of the things I imagined like take the crowded subway everywhere, 4AM ultra-thin greasy slices of pizza, Broadway shows with music I’ve had stuck in my head for years, summertime picnics in Central Park and casually running into John Mulaney at a dog park. A few weeks in, I started thinking that I could be isolated almost anywhere and have the same experience because I felt like I wasn’t doing anything other than sitting in my house and occasionally going to the grocery store. However, every once in awhile I have a moment where I think to myself “this doesn’t happen just anywhere.” While Broadway has been shut down for months and most bars are boarded up, I’ve found that New York is still the place I want to be, even during a pandemic. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Reading on the fire escape (even though I’m slightly paranoid the rusted metal will crumble, and I’ll meet my downstairs neighbors right before they have to call an ambulance).
  • Everyday at 7PM, people clap and bang pots and pans for the essential workers who are on the front lines of this battle.
  • The sun glows against the building next to ours at golden hour — it’s magic.
  • Take out/delivery options are endless. Lauren and I take supporting small businesses very seriously so we’ve been able to try wonderful local spots for delicious Thai, Mexican, burgers and incredible bakeries.
  • Speaking of Lauren, I’m so incredibly grateful we are isolated together because there is no one else I can imagine binge watching all TV with while eating cupcakes and drinking red wine in our poorly lit living room on the IKEA couch we so proudly put together during our first weekend.

Here are some heart-warming observations I’ve seen on my walks around the neighborhood:

  • Parents reading and doing homework with their kids outside on the steps up to their apartment.
  • Our neighbor isn’t going to let stay-at-home orders keep his son from practicing for next basketball season. (I’m just a little concerned the boy is going to shoot a basket next year and be very surprised when it’s not 6 feet off the ground).
  • Two friends volleying a tennis ball back and forth in an empty parking lot.
  • Three guys playing guitar on their brownstone steps and someone else singing along on the sidewalk.

Sure, you can find most of these things anywhere, but they are just a little sweeter for me because I’m in the city I always hoped I’d be right now. Life hasn’t stopped. It just looks a little different than I imagined — still beautiful. I hope you’re all healthy and safe. ❤

Originally published at https://medium.com/@christine.michelle/i-moved-to-nyc-and-it-shut-down-4-days-later-83a21cce0832 on May 12, 2020.


Even though a tour doesn’t look promising for the near future, we can still talk about the music we can’t wait to see live, right? Here is my exceptionally late review of Harry Styles’ newest album:

Image for post

Overall, I LOVE it. I think the order of the songs tells such a beautiful story. We travel from infatuation to love to heartbreak to acceptance to moving on. The vibe of each song reflects the mood he’s going through which is all connected by the lyrics. While some of the songs can get a little repetitive, I think each has such a vivid story that can relate to the listeners in different stages of life.

Song by song thoughts:

Golden — WHAT A START PEOPLE! So poppy and energetic. Here he is encouraging another person to embrace their vulnerability. He wants us to enjoy the moment because everything is fleeting. It reminds me of how golden hour is so beautiful but doesn’t last long so we need to hold onto it while it’s here. The object of the song is “golden” aka the fleeting beauty.

Watermelon Sugar — This is carefree, summer lovin’ vibes. The horn section in this one is ~ everything ~ and gets me dancing every time.

Adore You — Reminds me of how I feel towards my dog when she doesn’t want to hang out with me. He is in love with someone who is unaware/doesn’t care/will not be bothered with his emotions, but that does not stop him from loving him/her/it with all his being. If you haven’t seen the video, stop everything and watch it here. You’re welcome.

Lights Up — Here is suddenly super introspective. We get a peek into his subconscious while he questions so many decisions and who he is as a person. It sparks the question of how confident we are in ourselves when the opinions of everyone else seep into our brains. Do you know yourself enough to not let those opinions form the one you have about yourself?

Cherry — One of my favorites. I love the imagery we get here. I can’t help but be heartbroken for him when he says he misses her accent and her friends. The song is almost a James Taylor/Paul McCartney vibe with the imagery and the soothing tone of his voice.

Falling — This one just kiLLS. The memory of the one he loved and coming to terms with the fact that she doesn’t need him anymore. Had me feeling too sad for weeks.

To Be So Lonely — Vibe switch here! Now he is over her?? A beautiful change of tone that gives new hope to the listener. Also the percussion repetitions really bring everything together. (I know nothing about music production so you probably make these with a keyboard or computer of some sort?)

She — My other favorite on the album. The instrumental at the end really gets me going. It gives me Eleanor Rigby vibes. Creating a vision of this perfect woman he doesn’t even know but fantasizes about. He is falling in love with the “idea” of a person instead of the person in front of you which evokes these expectations of people that we make up in our heads.

Sunflower Vol. 6 — Upbeat and optimistic but also a little nervous about the future? @everyone, especially us with the post-grad scaries. The strange noises at the end are great and grab my dog’s attention each time.

Canyon Moon — Love this moon title. I feel like I’m on a summer vacation with my family because of the breezy and carefree tones throughout bringing him back somewhere with less stress. *goes to happy place*

Treat People With Kindness — Suddenly we are in a MUSICAL! I can imagine the dancers shuffling across the stage with props in an opening sequence and HS breaking through the middle with a top hat, cane and gigantic smile across his face.

Fine Line — We’ve come to the calming end, giving us time and space to evaluate what we just experienced. He leaves us with an encouraging “we’ll be alright” to move on with our days. Isn’t everything a fine line??

These are simply my thoughts and interpretations of the songs and are not affiliated with Harry Styles at all (even though I wish he had given me his input.)

Here is an interview by Zane Lowe with Harry. Highly recommend for some beautiful content and insights into the writing process.

Originally published at https://medium.com/@christine.michelle/fine-line-harry-styles-186c684d371 on February 7, 2020.