Monday morning. The beginning of a new week. And, today, the beginning of the month of May. In a way, it’s an opportunity to reboot, to get myself back on track. Or that’s my hope.
I’ve been at my desk for a couple of hours now. With my Morning Pages complete, I begin by tackling one of the top three priorities I’ve set for the day. I’ve decided to work first on my blog. I’ve sat down several times over the past few weeks — here at my desk, in airport lounges, in a hotel room — to write this blog post. Yet I never managed to finish it. That had me asking this question: Why?
Lately, I’ve been struggling — not with procrastination, writer’s block or doubt — but with balance. I’ve been unable to resist the temptation to rush, rush, rush — to let myself be swept up in the hustle and bustle of life. Unable to heed my own advice, I’ve been trying to do it all.
As an artist (in my case, a writer), it’s taken me a long, long time to understand the importance of balance. Growing up the term artist was viewed with skepticism and cynicism. Being an artist was considered an “unsafe” career choice. Expectations had long been set, and I was supposed to follow a career path that would lead to stability. The “Brules,” as Vishen Lakiani explains in his book, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind. So I went to university, first to study journalism before abandoning it for a degree in French Literature. Here, I’ll let you in on a little secret. No matter how hard you try, you can’t outrun who you are. I know. During my university years, I spent most of my free time writing!
Two years after I graduated I moved to Ottawa (Ontario), where I lived for ten years. It was during that time when I understood that I had to, as Queen Latifah put it, “[…] be brave enough to be your (my) true self.” When I did that, I found my voice. My writings were published. My paintings were included in exhibitions. I wasn’t worried about achieving celebrity status. All I knew was that I had to make time for my art, to do what matters most.
While I tried, I was never able to achieve — in both the public and private sectors — the work-life balance needed for me to husband my artistic dreams. The catchphrase at the time, which is still quite popular today, was “work-life balance.” For some companies, “work-life balance” isn’t just a catchphrase. There are tools, policies and mechanisms in place to help employees achieve a balance between their work and personal lives. Other companies simply don’t make the grade.
My mother’s sudden death in 2010 forced me take stock of my life. What did I really want out of life? What did I need to do to move my dreams forward? I had already left Ottawa by this point and was living in Sherbrooke (Quebec). Step one was for me to take some time to “recharge,” strip away all the doubts, fears and anxiety cluttering up my mind. It was a great opportunity for me to focus on my artistic projects. I wrote, painted and composed music. I was having a blast being my true self.
It was also a time when I had to figure out what I wanted to do for a day job since I knew I would have to return to the workforce. I’ve never bought in to the concept that to be a real artist you have to be a full-time artist. As Julia Cameron reminds us in her book, Walking in this World, “The actual truth is we are all full-time artists. Art is a matter of consciousness.” All I knew is that I didn’t want to go back into an office environment because, no matter how hard I tried, working nine to five felt like I was wearing a straitjacket. It took about six months for me to become bored with my position before I would start looking for another job. I would come home exhausted and often put off making art. What was I to do?
In October 2012, and on a whim, I applied to become a flight attendant. I had absolutely no expectations and no idea about what I was getting myself into. But as training progressed, and then after I started flying, it became so clear why this was the job for me. While I’m travelling a lot, there’s still so much flexibility in my schedule that I have time to write. There is, finally, the work-life balance that I’ve sought after for so long that allows me to follow my heart’s desire. I don’t feel overwhelmed, although some days I’m so tired I fall asleep on the train home. I’m having fun with my writing, and I’ve been able to move forward. Earlier this year, I self-published my novel, which would have taken a lot longer had I been stuck in a nine-to-five job.
On this rainy and grey first day of May, I’m reminded that when we find the balance that we need, there seems to be a natural ebb and flow to life. Everything comes together, and joy blossoms in our hearts. It gives us the strength and determination, if only for today, to keep on keeping on.
Gregory Josephs says
Hello Marcus. As usual, I find myself relating to your blog posts. I’ve spent my entire professional life working non-traditional hours at swimming pools so that I could have the time and freedom to pursue artistic endeavors. Sure, I squandered a lot of this ‘free time’ through my twenties (let myself be “swept up in the hustle and bustle of life”), but after I hit thirty and got serious about finishing my novel I realized what a smart decision I’d made career-wise. I work full time (and up to 65 hours a week in the summer), but when I leave the pool I don’t bring anything home with me. I’ve got the freedom to think and dream and create. . .
For me it’s a situation of “working to live” rather than “living to work.”
I’m glad to see you keep on keeping on. I’m also glad to see you spell grey with an ‘e.’ I feel that gray with an ‘a’ is a color that should only be applied to something that comes out of color inkjet printers (never the weather or the sky).
Wishing you the best,
I think it takes time to find the balance that works best for us. You’ve found it in your job, and that’s the most important thing. When I worked nine to five, I used to get up at four thirty in the morning to write. It made for a long day, but it gave me the “freedom to think and dream and create …” Somehow, things work out – not always when we want them to, but eventually. It’s why I believe we have to always take the long view.
You, too, seem to keep on keeping on. And, as artists, that’s what me must do each and every day.
Hope you have a great week!
A.S. Akkalon says
I admire your courage to follow your dreams.
Thanks so much. I appreciate that and believe we have to make the best of this journey. Keep well!