Are we Glorifying Hustle?

I started writing this article Monday evening. Tuesday afternoon I opened up Jon Acuff's newest book, Finish. Most of us are great at starting something, but not so great at finishing. In his book, he asks why. The simple answer? Perfectionism. We dive into a project or a goal and perfectionism shows up in all its glory. One of the ways it shows up is through the hustle.

Jon says, "More than likely, you've spent most of your life choosing to do more than is possible and beating yourself up for not being able to keep up... Our attempts to do too much feel noble and honorable. Look at us, tirelessly working toward burnout, reducing the quality of everything because we insisted we can do everything. We can share that approach with honor on Instagram. That's the grind. That's the hustle."

The hustle is a worthy endeavor, and often necessary in today's culture. But we need to keep it in check. I'm not advocating for less hustle. In fact, I love the hustle. Who doesn't? Hard work pays off. It feels good to dedicate our lives to something we love, and it feels even better when it finally pays off. But what I am advocating for is more rest. 

Hustle, in some ways, has become a crutch; a cop out. It's no longer only about putting your head down and doing great work. It's taken on a new meaning; of busyness, of burnout, of an unhealthy body and heart. We run ourselves into the ground and we allow our friendships to suffer, all in the name of hustle. 

This doesn't mean we should sacrifice our career, but it does mean we should never sacrifice our personal life or wellbeing for our job. I would argue that a great personal life and healthy mind is essential to productive working hours. According to the New York Times, sleep deprivation is one of the best predictors of burn-out and costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.

The hustle isn't about wearing ourselves thin, making ourselves sick. It's about being prosperous and productive. It's about killing it, not ourselves.

In order to create your best work, you need to be your best self. You need to rest and sleep. You need to drink water. You need deep, meaningful relationships. By all means, hustle. Create. Do amazing work. But an amazing career means nothing without people to share it with and without the ability to slow down and appreciate the work you've done. 

So, I'm not advocating for less hustle. I'm advocating for more rest. And better, bigger, richer lives. 

Work hard. Play hard. Rest well. 

Bucket Lists & Living Well

I have always been a fan of bucket lists. I've kept a running list of things I want to do someday in my head and on pinterest for a long time now. But recently I decided to put my bucket list to paper. I found this journal online, made by Axel + Ash, and it is absolutely beautiful. It even has a space on each page for a photo when you accomplish a goal! 

bucket list-1.jpg

I also set out to complete a 30 Before 30 list (it ended up being a 31 Before 30), which happens to be one of my bucket list items. So two birds, one stone, right? 

I'm sometimes guilty of creating all of my bucket lists and goals centered around travel, so crafting this list was actually more difficult than I thought it would be. But living well isn't just about experiencing new cities and different cultures, although I believe travel is essential. Living well is also about reading great books, and going to brunch with friends, and conquering your sugar dependency.

Below is my 31 Before 30 list. I hope you find some inspiration in this list to create your own. It's much more fun doing things in this life when you can look back and remember them; to be able to read a list of experiences you've been lucky enough to have. 

31 Before 30:

1. solo trip to Niagara Falls, Canada side.
2. read 20 classics.
3. solo camping trip.
4. quit something. (ie: my sugar habit)
5. bungee or cliff jump.
6. attend the Hay-on-Wye book festival.
7. make my living working for myself.
8. master the art of self-care.
9. learn my family history.
10. visit where my family is from. 
11. learn French.
12. re-learn piano.
13. start a book giveaway project.
14. have my ideal wardrobe.
15. be strong, healthy, and in shape.
16. establish a great daily routine / wake up early.
17. submit articles to magazines & blog regularly.
18. get my wildflowers tattoo.
19. learn Stand Up Paddleboarding.
20. take a writing class.
21. start & build a thriving book club.
22. take a class on something that interests me.
23. visit Washington D.C.
24. keep a daily journal & art journal
25. send 1 postcard per month to a friend
26. take a sabbatical
27. start saving for retirement / save lots of money / follow a budget :)
28. learn to love myself and be confident
29. visit London again, stay longer this time.
30. find an organization and volunteer regularly.
31. read Harry Potter 1-7 again.
 

One Year Later

 
 

“Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Howard Therman

I quit my full-time job a year ago today. 

What a strange, exciting, mind blowing sentence to write out loud. I’ve been reflecting back on this past year a lot recently. Thinking back on the opportunities I’ve had, the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the time I’ve been able to focus on my goals. 

I have had the opportunity to be available for my friends, I have traveled Europe for 3 weeks, I have been able to focus on my relationships and my marriage. I’ve been able to focus on being alone, something I didn’t know I needed as badly and as regularly as I do. I have begun to focus on my values, and prioritizing what actually matters to me. I’ve learned who I am and who I’m not. I’ve let go of the fear of what others think. I am choosing to be vulnerable, even though it terrifies me. And most importantly, I have chosen to be present.

Everyone I know has said how much happier, lighter, freer, I seem. And it’s true. It’s so obvious to me now how unlike myself I became. I wouldn’t even recognize who I was a year ago, now. I had no idea a job could harm a person so much.

That’s not to say it’s been easy, though. I’m hustling to make enough money to put food on the table, and stressing about how to get where I want to go. I don’t know what my next step is. Sometimes I feel like I’m stumbling around in the dark. It’s been a difficult transition time in my life, but I suppose all transitions are difficult in their own way. It’s change, isn’t it? Change is never comfortable. But if we pay attention, change is the best thing that will ever happen to us. 

I would never, will never, trade this uncomfortable transition for a job that pays well but steals my soul. I don’t regret my decision to leave, not even for a minute. Have I questioned if the timing was right? Of course. Have I wondered if maybe I’m just crazy? Absolutely. But to make significantly less money but feel truly alive is the best decision I have ever made.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that you can’t do it alone. You need other people who will remind you how valuable you are. People who are willing to brainstorm and strategize and dream with you, who will celebrate the tiny little victories with you because they love you. That’s it. It’s simple; it’s love. 

And I am so incredibly grateful to have a community of people who believe in me, who believe I can accomplish more than I feel qualified to accomplish, who will celebrate the tiny little victories with me. I am grateful to lay my head on my pillow at night knowing I will wake up the next day with a new opportunity to love that day, and to help someone else love it too. I am grateful to have the opportunity to realize what truly makes me come alive, and to be able to define what that is. I am forever grateful to feel like I am here for a purpose, and maybe, just maybe, that purpose is within my reach.

It’s not always easy, this life. But I’m grateful to still be here. 
I believe it’s our responsibility as human beings to find the joy, to find the hope, to find what makes us come alive. And then to share it with the rest of the world. 

Thank you to everyone who has shared yours with me. 

SEARCHING FOR SUNDAY

I recently finished Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. The book is Rachel's story of her relationship with the church throughout her life; "loving, leaving, and finding the church." I have heard so many good things about this book, so I had pretty high expectations going in, and the book lived up to the hype. Rachel is such a gifted writer. And on top of that, Rachel asks a lot of the same questions about the church and faith that I have asked; that I think a lot of us have asked. 

My favorite thing about Searching for Sunday is that Rachel doesn't pretend to have it figured out yet. Her story is still going. She still asks questions about the church, she still loves and doesn't love the church. She still goes to church and doesn't go to church. She's still searching.

The truth is that the church is far from perfect. It's messy. It's offensive. But it's so beautiful. To be a part of a community that hurts and offends, and loves through all of it, is the greatest gift. Reading this book reminded me of the reasons I love the church. It's easy sometimes to get caught up on the difficult things that we forget the beautiful things. I would be so lost without the church, without the people who make up the church.

This book also reminded me how important it is for each of us to do our part; for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I know for me it's so easy to forget I have a responsibility as a follower of Christ. It's easy to just fall into the motions of church in America and forget the importance of your life and your actions. But this book reminded me of my importance. So my challenge for all of us is to pay attention. Notice. Be Jesus to people. Don't forget that you have an important role to play in this life. And read this book!

An excerpt from chapter 16, titled Feet:

"For as long as anyone could remember, the ceremonial foot washing had taken place at the grand Basilica of St. John Lateran as part of the Holy Thursday Mass. The pope would choose twelve priests, and in remembrance of Jesus' act of service to his disciples, wash the priests' feet. But in 2013, just ten days after his election, Pope Francis stunned the world and broke with tradition by traveling to a juvenile detention center outside Rome where he washed and kissed the feet of twelve prisoners, including two women and two Muslims.
Traditionalists responded with angst to rival that of Peter, particularly over the inclusion of women, but Francis had captured the attention of the world, reminding us that when Jesus washed the feet of his friends, it was an act of humility and love directed toward ordinary people, not merely a ceremony observed by the religious elite... When Jesus washed his disciples' feet, he was showing them what leadership in the upside-down kingdom of God looks like.

...When we show others the goodness of God, whenever we follow our Teacher by imitating his posture of humble and ready service, our actions are sacred and ministerial. To be called into the priesthood, as all of us are, is to be called to a life of presence, of kindness.

... 'To be a priest,' writes Barbara Brown Taylor, 'is to know that things are not as they should be and yet to care for them the way they are.'
Such a purpose calls us far beyond our natural postures. It means surrendering all cynicism and pride to take up the basin and towel."

LOVE LETTERS

Do you ever just get to a point where you feel empty? Where you feel kind of lost and confused, not sure why you're doing what you're doing?

We all have bad days. We all have terrible days. We all have days where we just simply believe we aren't worthy of having good days. Some of us handle those days better than others, but no matter who you are those days happen, and they affect you. 

I've always been someone who naturally errs on the side of unworthiness. I am really hard on myself. I'm perfectionistic and nothing I do is ever enough. So on days when I am being too hard on myself, I've started a new habit. It's a pretty new idea for me so I'm not very good at it, and sometimes I still let my thoughts get the best of me. But I was talking to a friend recently, and he said that someone had told him once to keep every nice card and note he's given so that he can look back on them when he's having a hard day. I decided this was a really great idea for everyone to implement so I've decided to try it out. 

You can keep all of these notes on your phone if you don't prefer paper, but I'm a paper lover. So I am gathering all of the nice cards people have given me and I'm currently working on putting them into my notebook. I also keep a note on my phone for the random times that someone does or says something that makes me feel loved, I plan on including these random moments in my notebook as well. 

While we're on the subject of making sure you take care of yourself and remind yourself how enough you are, let's be sure we're telling others how enough they are. We are so scared of being rejected that we keep our mouths shut when we feel we should speak up. People need to hear how you feel about them. And they need to hear it often. It's not enough to tell them one time. People forget so quickly how good they are. You should remind them constantly. 

We're only human, you know? We can only do so much. And no matter what you've done in your life, you are worthy. You have the right to take up space. You mean something. Don't forget that. 

FLORENCE & ASSISI

If there's one thing I noticed about Florence, it's that it is definitely not lacking on beauty. From the fashion, to the art, to the people, to the cars, to the street decor, everything was so beautiful. Our first day in Italy was spent in Florence with the kindest, most generous family I've ever met. They took us all around Florence, treated us to gelato, bought us wine, and took us to an incredible restaurant where we had the best pasta I have ever tasted. Florence was beauty in so many ways. 

The next morning we woke up and caught a train to Assisi. I can't even begin to describe how much I loved Assisi. When you imagine Italy, you imagine these cute, adorable little towns with windy streets and cobblestoned sidewalks. Assisi is exactly what you imagine. 

Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend reading Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron. It's about this megachurch pastor who has a crisis of faith and goes on a pilgrimage in Italy, following the life of St. Francis. To be honest, I was never really interested in Italy before reading Chasing Francis. It has never really appealed to me. While everyone else here in the US romanticizes Italy, I romanticize London, and Scotland, and Sweden, and Amsterdam. But then I read Chasing Francis and knew I would visit Assisi one day. It turns out I would visit just a few months later.

The first thing we did was head straight to St. Francis' Basilica. We wandered the church for hours, trying to absorb all of the beauty and history. If there's one thing Italy does well, it's beautiful art and history. I wish I could find words to describe the feelings I felt in the church, but truthfully you just need to go experience it for yourself. There's nothing quite like it. 

After a while we wandered outside to this terrace overlooking a courtyard. It had started raining. The rain, for some reason, is my absolute favorite. It softens things; it makes the world less harsh. I took a moment for myself and walked to the railing of the terrace, feeling so at peace from wandering the church in silence for hours and feeling the fresh rain on my face. I wouldn't really describe myself as a peaceful person. Quite the opposite actually, but in this moment, God reminded me that peace is possible. He told me to hold on to peace. He said, "Don't forget the rain, Sarah. Don't forget this moment." 

I haven't.

TRUTH & BEAUTY

 

Most of my life I have been trying to quiet my mind. It's noisy. I think a lot of thoughts, I notice a lot of details, and my mind gets cluttered with ideas and questions. One of the ways I have always dealt with this mind clutter is by finding beautiful quotes that speak to my situation. I don't know why words became my safe haven, but I have loved other people's words from a very young age. Mostly, I think I find comfort in the fact that someone else said the words that I'm feeling, and in the tiniest way, I know I'm not alone. 

The last few years I started posting some of the quotes I love on my Facebook. I didn't have any intentions when I first started doing this, but I think I continued it for a few reasons. 
1) It helps me process, combing through quote after quote to find the perfect one, and then sharing it with others because I believe in the words.
2) I think sometimes other people need them too.

I've gotten some questions and comments about the content I post online. People wonder if I'm depressed, they say I need to be happier, they say I need to quit being sad. And all of these concerns are probably valid, I don't know, but when I hear them my immediate response is to close myself off because "no one understands." Which I guess to an extent is true, that they don't understand, but that's okay. That's the point of community, isn't it? That's the point of being a human. To misunderstand, but to accept anyway; to misunderstand, but to love anyway. 

The truth is I just love beautiful words. Sometimes beautiful words are sad, sometimes they are encouraging, and sometimes they are a hopeful kind of sad, a sad that trusts it's going to be okay.

Truth is not always pleasant, and beauty is rarely painless. And I just believe in showing every side of myself. I believe there's beauty in admitting you're scared or hurting or confused. I believe there's beauty in saying that you feel tired, but you're not giving up. On social media, where comparison rules, and it seems everyone has a better life than you, I think it's brave to be honest about your bad days. People need to know they aren't alone in their hurt. Don't get me wrong, it's just as important to show the world your good days too, everyone needs to smile. I'm just saying that maybe we shouldn't dismiss or repress the sad, the questions, and the confusion. Maybe someone needs to know that they don't have to be ashamed for what they're feeling. 

Have I been depressed? Yes. Have I struggled with anxiety, stress, fear? Yes. Have I struggled but come out smiling? Yes. This is why I write what I write, and why I post the words that I post. My hope is that I can help someone else come out smiling too. We're all in this life together. It's messy and painful, but it is so beautiful.