An ongoing apology
To the moments, memories, and people I’ve missed, forgotten, skipped, passed up on, and was “too busy for..”
This is for you.
I’ve been working on this post for a long time.
Consider it more a journal. Thoughts, reminders, and messages that I continue to tell myself and practice daily. Understand that I’m a work in progress. And progress is what this post is.
Creating space, carving out time, prioritizing what really matters. These are all important ideas. Ones that are all related, and yet serve specific purposes on their own.
I could go a number of ways here. But when I started writing this, it was because I found myself, again, emotionally exhausted of realizing just how long I’ve been the friend that is forever “too busy.”
The one who everyone assumes will be working or have any and every excuse not to go somewhere or be at something.
And I only have myself to blame.
I began writing when I received yet another text starting with “I know you’re probably busy but…” or “I’m guessing you’re working but…” or “I think I already know the answer to this but…”
Now, listen. Work is important. Exercise, friends, family, rest, pursuing ambitions, etc. All important. But when some of those not only get in the way, but entirely take over and eliminate meaningful moments and memories that could have been created, it’s time to refocus.
So here we are. Refocusing. Remembering when it comes to certain things, like people you care the most about, or the hobby or side hustle that makes you feel alive, or anything that you know will matter more to you five years from now, you have to create the space for it. It must be a priority.
As humans we experience constant shifts in our mindset, changing what we hold as top priorities. Be it consciously or subconsciously, we create the time and space for things we care about. Even if those things don’t really matter at all.
It’s easier to make excuses. And in today’s world, convenience is king. Taking the easy path is what we are programmed to do. Why work through something when you can side step around it and pretend it’s not an issue?
“I have to work.” “I don’t have time.” As we skip yet another workout, fail to return a phone call, or fail to work on the things we’ve been saying for months we want to do. Always placing the blame on something else rather than owning the fact that no, I chose to make this thing here a priority over that thing there and in all honesty. That’s me simply being a crappy person.
Own it. We’ve all done it.
There are those more non-negotiable things that will always be a daily priority. Like your 8 hour work day. School. A business trip.
But are those non-negotiable? Maybe sorta sometimes yes.
How often have you become a slave to your inbox? Forgoing a Sunday relaxing because the anxiety your untouched inbox has created was too strong. The never ending methods of communication designed to make us more productive and quicker to respond. When all it does is enable us to half ass multiple things as opposed to full assing one.
Full assing. That’s a verb.
What about sleeping? Is that a priority? Sometimes?
What about all things outside of your day to day work life. Like a work out. That’s a non-negotiable for me. No surprise there, I know. Although I know many let that one slip because (insert excuse here).
Grocery shopping. Social events. Reading. Cleaning the house. Sports leagues. Video games. Drinking. Calling your mom. Forgetting to call your mom. Again.
Netflix. Your pets. A vacation. More Netflix.
Think back to high school, what was most important to you? Being liked? Your friends? Going out? Other people’s opinions?
As the years went by maybe we shifted our priorities to a job, degree, title, relationship. Or. Other people’s opinions.
We make these mental shifts constantly, as we should. Prioritizing and re-prioritizing what is important and what will get us where we want to go. Setting goals, focusing, hustling, getting overwhelmed and/or complacent, and repeating the process.
Until one day, we realize we’re exhausted. Or maybe lost. Or wondering why we’re doing what we’re doing.
For me. It was a combination of many things. The realization of just how many birthdays I have missed. Holidays I was working. Mother’s day, Father’s day, my oldest childhood friend’s wedding, my best friend’s engagement. The years that have gone by since truly seeing or talking to some of my closest friends.
Never were my friends or family angry with me. They understood. And still do. But that almost made it worse. Knowing that they know that I know I won’t be able to make it. Because I’ve chosen jobs that keep me “busy” every day. Because I’ve chosen side projects that must be worked on during every “off” hour.
Because I’ve chosen to prioritize something else over them.
Stop. Refocus, Em.
Never stop the hustle. But learn when to shift that narrow lens towards what matters. Towards the people and memories that matter.
Now. The balance. Being able to do it all. That is a constant work in progress. Because we all need to keep learning and growing. Learning how to carve out time and space for every piece of our crazy lives. I’ve become much better at compartmentalization. After you suffer through enough breakdowns of letting every single area of your life weigh you down until you completely crack, you kind of have no choice. A concept I intend to address in a different post.
Today is for the big picture. For the people I care about. And for those moments I’ll never be able to get back.
If we’re smart, we prioritize the areas of our lives that help us create the happy, secure, and successful life we always hoped for. Grades, internships, experience, connections, discipline.
But if we’re wise, we know many of those aforementioned areas will sort themselves out if we instead prioritize the smaller, yet infinitely more meaningful aspects of our lives.
Family, connection, movement, sleep, nourishment, reflection, drive.
Prioritizing what matters so that we can be whole, full individuals. Understanding that to exist for something beyond ourselves will motivate and drive us to achieve the job/status/security we all seek.
Many can earn a title. Can climb the ladder to a bigger salary. Can impress their friends with their TVs, new car, clothes, toys, whatever.
But how many can earn back lost friendships?
Can recreate holidays, relive birthday parties, or rebuild the bridge you burned between a family member?
How many people have you allowed to slip away because staying on the couch instead of picking up the phone was easier? Or checking your email was more important than texting back a friend?
Because a few days from now, will you remember the email you furiously typed away or the phone call you had with someone you care about?
My problem exists in work. It’s what I have. It’s what I know. It’s in many ways what has saved me. And it’s something I genuinely love.
But I know this strength is absolutely my downfall.
I believe we all have to be driven. To have ambition. In fact, I think it’s one of the most essential things for a person to possess. However, when we (me, myself, and I) allow those things that we feel we need to work on or get done get in the way of what matters, we’ve lost.
I have failed.
And what did we get?
I can speak from experience that while I don’t remember what I was necessarily working on, I sure as hell remember what it felt like to miss a dear friend’s wedding.
I’m a hypocrite. There’s a reason this post has been stretched out over weeks.
It’s difficult to write about lessons I’m still learning and ideas and truths I’m still telling myself daily. And some days I fail. I’ll only do something when it’s convenient for me.
But I’m trying.
I lost it about two weeks ago. Not the first time. I allowed work to overwhelm me. Allowed commitments I felt I had to be present for stress me out. Almost allowed this self-induced stress be my reason for missing yet another party of one of my closest friends.
Until I didn’t. Life would go on if I didn’t go to this event. That being there solely because it was a good look and sure, would have been a lovely time, was more important than someone I’ve known for 15 years and someone I never want out of my life.
So guess what happened. I let work be work and I went and saw friends I haven’t seen in years.
And it was amazing.
Since then I’ve made more moves. I’ve planned a trip to Chicago to visit my best friend from college before she gets married in September. Her wedding shower was this past weekend and yes. I was there. And it was lovely. Seeing her, her sisters, friends from college. That’s not a memory I would have been able to get back.
In this day and age it’s so hard to master it all. There’s so much stimulation, social pressure, and responsibilities weighing us down. But we don’t have to master it all. If we master it all, we wouldn’t have anything to keep working on and learning from.
Instead. We can breathe. Focus. And remember that nothing can bring back moments or memories you were “too busy for.”
I’ve started with small things. Check in texts. Weekly phone calls. Drives to see my family. Coffee dates. And as I’ve said, I’m a very messy work in progress. But I’m good with that. Because I won’t stop.
Now go call your mom.
Some ideas to start mentally refocusing..
*Keep post-its nearby. Write down what you need to get done. Write down everything. Stick it to your mirror, laptop, wherever.
- Time management
- Remember multi-tasking is more often than not bullshit. Set three top priorities for your work day
- Early AM and after work PM hours are yours. Use them wisely
*Keep a calendar somewhere. A big one. And plan ahead.
- Getting out of the house
- Rest day(s)
- Face to face meetings with peers or team members
- Calling home or connecting with friends
- Reflecting on daily priorities and how successful you were in achieving what you said you would
- Knowing when to step back and get away from work
Monthly and yearly priorities
*Write. Down. Your. Goals. And. Be. Accountable.
- Don’t get lost in the hustle. You’ll wake up and you’ll be a year older yet still feel like you’re 21
- Active reflection and redirection on goals you have set