ASH AMBIRGE

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What to Do When Your Work TAKES OVER YOUR ENTIRE LIFE—and You Need to Get Some Friggin’ Boundaries, Up In This Joint

In: Feeling Disillusioned With Life

I have a little ritual called Eucalyptus Spearmint.

I’ve got it in body lotion, and in spray, and in candle (obviously), and I’ll put my little feet up on the ottoman in the living room (okay, fine, they’re big, entirely undainty feet), and I’ll slowly, and tenderly, give myself the best fucking foot massage this side of the equator.

Then I’ll squirt more lotion into my palm, warming it between my hands, and then spreading it all over my calves, and up my thighs, and around my kneecaps, slowly, deliberately, like I were totally sexing myself right up. Before you worry this is about to turn into a porno, do you know the reason why I do this to myself every day?

Because it’s my cue ball.

IF I HAD TO GUESS, I’d bet that you’re over there hustling in your corner of the earth today, with 5,000 things in your head, and your wrists are sore from typing, and your brain is sore from thinking, and your ass is sore from sitting, and your hair is oily because you didn’t even shower yet. *looks at you knowingly* And maybe you’re freaking out because the rent is due, and so is that other heinous bill you’ve got, and you can’t even think about taking five minutes, let alone giving yourself a seductive little leg rub.

And IF I HAD TO GUESS, you’ve probably told yourself that next week you’ll ease up. Next month you’ll get your balance back. Next year things will calm down. Soon you’ll find your equilibrium and get back to a more sane schedule. Buttttttttttt, I think you know that’s a crock of shit just as well as I do. But then again, maybe you don’t. Because maybe you’re like I was, when I first started working for myself. I would write, write, write and hustle, hustle, hustle, and then after the first eight hours, I’d move onto something else for the next eight. I never stopped working. It was always go, go, go, and once I was done with one thing, I’d be on to the other,  and then the next, and then the next, because there was always something else.

And you know what ended up happening?

There was still always something else.
And then something else.
And something else.
And I lost years off my life before I even picked my head up.

Not because an internet gremlin stabbed me with a moldy knife emoji, but because I was just going through the motions—and let me tell you what: All those motions don’t add up to some grand finale. In fact, they don’t add up to anything, because you don’t REMEMBER anything. Days blur into others, and nights blur into more, and the next thing you know, years have slinked on by, and you didn’t enjoy a single one of ‘em.

I’m telling you this because it’s dangerous, and I love you, and I want to see you do well. And because I want you to do this the BEST way you can—not the shitty, crazy, frantic, insane way where you lose yourself in your work. Because we all know that when you start working for yourself, every hour you’re not working is money that you could have made. And that can be so, so dangerous. It can be downright addictive. And if you aren’t careful, you can end up really causing yourself harm.

So why do I slather on Eucalyptus Spearmint every day at hour marker eight? Because it’s a cue to stop. It’s a ritual that helps me to transition. And—this is important—it’s not just some mental chanty chant or some happy horseshit thoughts, but an actual, PHYSICAL act of kindness. Something very specific, that you PHYSICALLY do. An action that you take. Something that signals to your brain that it’s time to switch gears. And it’s one of the biggest secrets I’ve got when it comes to keeping sane with this online business stuff.

One specific, physical act of kindness for yourself at the 8 hour mark—or whenever you’ve decided that you want your day to be over.

  • Maybe you read eight articles in the New York Times. (The specific number is important—it helps you think of it as a real ritual, and something that you can feel okay with giving yourself, because you know it will end.)
  • Maybe you microwave a potato and eat it in a new way every day. (Wouldn’t that be a hilarious ritual?)
  • Maybe you eat it in the same way every day.
  • Maybe you take exactly thirteen pictures with your camera, no more, no less.
  • Maybe you turn it into a game, and only take pictures of the color blue one day. Or the color red. Or the color fuchsia.
  • Maybe you call your best girlfriend and speed chat for 11 minutes, on the dot, for exactly 11 minutes, every day, without fail.
  • Maybe you open an encyclopedia—an actual hardback version—and flip to a random page every day and read about something new.

Whatever it is, make it totally weird. Make it totally indulgent. Make it yours. And make it happen. It gives you some sense of structure in a life and career that can otherwise make you feel like you’re constantly drowning. And besides serving as a cue to transition, it’ll help you feel less resentful about all the hours you do put in, because you’ll be assured that no matter what, you will ALWAYS do this one thing for yourself. And always doing the same thing doesn’t have to mean boring routine.

Sometimes, always doing the same thing is a fine little luxury that you can look forward to.

Sometimes, having a little structure can help us get crazy in our work, because we know that we can always come back from the mess to find order—

—and know that not everything is a giant shit show.

With the exception of your oily ass roots of course.

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