Reaching the Perfect Work-Life Balance - Myth or Possibility? 👩💻✨
my thoughts on stress, rest & saying no as a WOC - welcome back to The Slush Pile!
As I welcome you to Issue 04 of The Slush Pile, I want to make it unequivocally clear, in no uncertain terms, that I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t say that to be funny or quirky or desperate to be relatable but to be more vulnerable in this online space. I want to break through the highlight reel cloud of social media that we’re guilty of perpetuating, consuming, and believing. The truth is, despite my aesthetic photos of the books I’m reading, my collections of meticulously timed, taken selfies, all the writing I write, publish, and promote on my social media, I’m stressed out and sad most of the time. And it’s mostly because I have trouble setting boundaries and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Like Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada, I find myself working nights and weekends, through lunches and even (like I had to do recently) during vacations. While it’s rewarding to see my work published on an almost daily basis, to be earning good money doing what I love, to be serving all the communities I fight for, it’s also incredibly exhausting and stressful—and my body feels it 24/7.
Granted, I’m well aware that 99% of my work is done at a computer in the comfort of my own home. Especially during the current pandemic, it’s such a privilege to not have to leave the house or put my health at risk. Working remotely, setting my own hours, having access to reliable technology, walking a few feet down the hallway for meals—these are all luxuries. I don’t want to be ungrateful for the flexibility that my jobs allow.
But I’m also finding that its many blessings are also its setbacks.
Because while it’s nice to be able to work from literally anywhere, that ease of accessibility makes it hard to come up with excuses not to work other than a simple “I don’t want to.” In a system that often prioritizes mental and physical well-being well below labor and its fruit, that reason is not enough. Even being ill or having a family emergency doesn’t always void the expectation of coming into work. No matter what industry, our value under the system of capitalism is based by the labor we contribute and the productive output of that labor. If we don’t work or don’t want to, we threaten the value of our very humanity.
And because I have the freedom of determining my work hours and workload, my extensive to-do lists and physical stress is in part my own doing because I have trouble saying no as it is. I’m often asked to contribute extra hours, write up assignments, expected to overhaul my plans for the day if something important comes along even if I have other priorities. Unfortunately, the work often resonates so much with me and is so rewarding that I want to do it because I know I can do it better than anyone else.
Further adding to this mix is the fact that I’m a WOC working in a majority white industry. I don’t want to disagree or say no and be labeled as “lazy”, “tough”, “sensitive”, or “difficult to work with” when in reality, I’m just tired and afraid to set boundaries. Isn’t that what we learn from day one, how to successfully navigate white spaces even if that means risking our own physical and mental well-being? To be agreeable, not call out microaggressions, be easy? Be “one of the good ones”?
If we were to put all of this into an equation, it would look something like this:
Flexibility of remote labor + capitalistic expectations of productivity + my love for the work + my identity as a WOC = working all the time and never saying no.
So what now? Where do we go from here? Is the perfect work-life balance possible to achieve and if so, how? Is it something I should even be searching for or it is in the same vein as TikTok’s “That Girl” or its much-maligned predecessor, “the woman who has it all”? Phrases that sound like a compliment, an empowering milestone, a win for feminism but in reality just dress up the patriarchy and privilege in different clothes?
Because the truth is that as simple as work-life balance sounds, it’s incredibly tied up in issues of race, gender, capitalism, level of wealth. We don’t all have the luxury of separating the two, let alone trying to.
In my mind—barring a life where there is no labor involved at all—having a perfect work-life balance would involve:
getting more exercise
not spending all day online
not allowing work to consume me
saying no to opportunities sometimes
making plans with loved ones (safely)
dedicating time to relaxing/doing nothing
I wish this newsletter was about me successfully finding the answer to achieving this age-old question. How can I do what I love without feeling exhausted all the time? How can I prevent the need to make personal sacrifices so that my professional life thrives? How can I ensure that who I am isn’t so tied up in what I do?
The truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know how to take better care of myself or how to let go of the fear, insecurity, imposter syndrome, the need to be seen and valued for my labor. I don’t know how to allow myself to be a person other than the one I put forth online. But moving forward, I want to try to:
stay off my phone for longer stretches of time
set automatic response emails and turn off work-related notifications when I’m not in “office hours”
spend at least ten minutes sitting outside
let myself relax and do nothing on weekends (without feeling guilty!)
be more open about how I feel and when I’m at the limit of my productivity
I want to be better. And maybe that’s all I can do. Maybe, for now, that’s enough.
notes from the writer’s desk ✍️
my favorite recently pub’d pieces:
The Latinas of ‘Euphoria’ Leave Me Wanting More, LatinaMedia.Co
Q+A With Naima Coster, Author of ‘What’s Mine and Yours’, LatinaMedia.Co
My first-ever author interview, conducted by the incredible Melissa Nunez, was recently published through Yellow Arrow Journal as part of Women’s History Month!! This was such an exciting opportunity and I’m beyond thrilled to share it. Read it here!
Later this month, I’ll be leading another writing workshop around the theme of letter writing in collaboration with Unpublished Magazine! Keep an eye on my social media channels for full details <3
Searching for your next new read? Look no further than my Bookstagram account @sofieschoice where I review and recommend books, spotlight indie bookstores I visit, and post videos compiling some of my favorite or recent reads, which can also be found on my TikTok. See you there!
other stories i’m loving 📖
The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
Pam & Tommy on Hulu
currently listening to:
“girls girls girls” by FLETCHER
all my love,