Today, I’m giving up my v-card*. (Drum roll, please.)
*No, not that one. The one about vulnerability. (This is where I break out into a nervous sweat, run my clammy palms down the sides of my jeggings, and ask someone for a sip of water, because HOLY DRY MOUTH, BATMAN.)
Real talk? I haven’t slept without the gentle lulling of a fan in over 17 years. Every day, I listen to roughly 104 songs while I check my email. I watch 2 episodes of 20-minute TV shows, one while I’m scarfing down a microwave burrito, and another while I’m at the gym, (usually with headphones in, my attention divided haphazardly between bopping along on the elliptical, listening to a book on tape, and watching whatever talk show is telling me which celebrity is going to be my new bestie for life.)
I drive while tuning in to talk radio, checking my phone at stop lights. I switch between internet tabs about every 3 minutes, all while telling Pandora, YES! THUMBS THE HELL UP! or No, this is awkward, but I hate this song–thumbs down. Twitter feeds in the 7-11 checkout line. Facebook refreshes before bed. Netflix in the middle of the night.
I fill my days with distractions and my nights with staticked noise—a consistent and unrelenting flood of something—
—because the pure, white stoicism of silence physically makes my shoulders knot up under my chandelier earrings, (in a way that makes me look less like a suave sexpot and more like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but without animated gargoyles as my two best friends). Makes my heartbeat find a rhythm that’s just a little too fast. Makes me the strange sort of crazy where I’m driving through a deserted suburban town at 1:30 in the morning, wondering if it’ll ever be enough–if I’ll ever do enough–if I’ll ever BE. ENOUGH.
So, the question I want to slap onto the table, smother in salt, and offer up for the taking:
When does ambition push you across that hair-thin little line that separates driven from driven to the brink of insanity and two bottles of $7 screw-top wine? When does the constant high-stakes game of checking items off our life list lead to feelings of failure? And when the hell is it time to turn off the noise, sit in the middle of your floor and just breathe?
Look. I know I’m not a total fuck up. In the last year, I’ve sprinted away from a government job in finance. I’ve closed out my 401k. I’ve moved cities, careers, traveled out of the country, taken no effing prisoners, busted my way into TMF, thought heartily about buying a new car, hauled everything I own into a third-floor apartment with wide windows, wrote some good shit, (and some not-so-good shit), been there for every family birthday, (toting cupcakes slathered thick with frosting), walked along ocean coastlines, wandered through foreign alleyways, and gotten weekly drinks with friends. I’ve won a bar trivia match, mastered the art of a wily wink and the wiggling of my eyebrows, and even managed to shed 15 pounds, (while day-dreaming about my future friend-affair with Anna Kendrick, according to The View.)
And yet that cloying feeling, that heavy pressure to always strive and thrive and try and try and fucking try means that we can’t always press pause. Can’t flip the off switch. Can’t mute the music.
Because what if we fall behind?
What if our new found success slips seamlessly through our out-stretched fingers? What if stepping to the sidelines of the rat race for a quick run along the river or a good night’s sleep somehow obliterates our accomplishments, leaving us with nothing more than a wasted moment of peace and pockets full of what-could-have-beens?
It’s scary shit, the quiet.
But it’s those tiny, fleeting moments of pure, unadulterated silence that settle in our bones, give us direct permission to exhale, and remind us to revel in the relaxation.
There’s no question that I am all about the hustle. I’ve hustled my way to my dream apartment, dream career, dream relationship, dream boss. But don’t let the hustle make you hate yourself. Don’t let the pressure push against your chest until you’re hyperventilating in the dark, listening to the quiet chirp of your phone as the emails effortlessly infiltrate your inbox, one of after the other, until you concede and reset your alarm for 5:15 to get a jump on the day. Don’t let the loudness make you lose your lust for life.
It’s the entrepreneur epidemic, an entire group of ball-busting, no-apologies perfectionists, and none of us can seem to find the time to sip our coffee while we watch the sunrise or enjoy a choice cheese plate on the front porch.
So let’s all make a blood pact to spend 30 minutes of our day unplugged. Unwound. Unwanting. Because while we’re definitely going to take over the world, we’re also going to look back and wish we’d given ourselves permission to take a time out—and worry a whole helluva lot less.