One of my best good friends, Susan, told me one time, “Everyone needs to do something that makes them feel good about themselves.”
Not something that they’re good at.
Something that makes them feel proud, happy, good. Something that makes them feel these things inside, regardless of what the outside world thinks about their efforts.
For me, that something changes. I’m sure for all of us, that something changes from time to time. Maybe you knit amazing sweaters or hats and you feel so proud to wear them or give them away. Maybe you racewalk. One of my freelancer friends in Canada does that. Maybe you love to bake and you’re never happier than when you’re in the kitchen, whipping up a family recipe.
Right now running makes me feel awesome. I am a very slow runner. I did a half marathon in the Outer Banks last weekend and my time was 2:55. If you don’t know anything about running, a time of 2:55 is kind of shit, objectively. I finished my first ever half marathon in May (The Tinkerbell), which I ran about 6 months after every lacing up running shoes, in 2:47. As a new runner I was super proud of that time.
What happened here, then? I trained all summer in the miserable heat and humidity. Running might be a fun summer activity in Minnesota. It is NOT a fun summer activity in southern coastal North Carolina. I was super set for fall PRs all over the place (Personal Record, or PB, Personal Best). I couldn’t wait to race my first fall 5k and see what my time was.
Then I got shin splints because I was so enthused about running I did almost no other activity and turns out it isn’t good to run and not do any other physical activity. (That’s another meditation for another day.)
Suddenly I didn’t know if I would be able to start the half marathon I’d so been looking forward to, let alone finish it. (Didn’t stop me from hitting the merch table hard at packet pick up, though, just so you know. I looked like an SNL skit parody of a weekend warrior yesterday on my way home in my t-shirt, jacket, and finisher hat. I wasn’t wearing my medal but heck, I could have. On Sunday I was running to earn my jacket I had just purchased.)
I adjusted my expectations and went to PT and had them tape me up. I put on my compression sleeves (and got a new pair that matched my Sunday outfit. Saturday we did a 5k as well. My orange sleeves matched that outfit, but not my Saturday outfit and I wanted to look good in my finisher picture.) Instead of running 6 minutes walking a minute like I did in Disney, I set my watch to run 4 minutes and walk a minute for OBX.
Then on Sunday I lined up with my buddies and waited for the gun to go off.
At the beginning, instead of feeling my usual first mile funk, I was like “DANG THIS IS A GORGEOUS DAY TO RUN. THIS IS THE BEST.” I took pictures of all of the fun signs the businesses had up for us. (MAYBE YOU’D BE FASTER, KATIE, IF YOU DIDN’T TAKE PICTURES OF ALL OF THE SIGNS. Maybe, but I wouldn’t be that much faster and I wouldn’t have as much fun.)
I saw my friends cheering at the side of the road and I waved at them at every cheer stop.
At mile 6 or 7 I though “HOLY CRAP GIRL YOU’RE DOING IT.” (Because I didn’t really know if I’d be able to do it.)
At mile 8 I looked at the water surrounding me and got ready to run up the big bridge at mile 10. “I AM SO LUCKY I GET TO DO THIS.”
At mile 10 I took a selfie and sent it to my friend. “Only a 5K go to.”
At mile 11 I was done.
At mile 12 I was sooooooooooo done but I high-fived the shark from the Aquarium. (He (or she) was standing by the side of the road cheering for the runners.)
At mile 13 I took a quick video that my Dad immediately texted me to remove from FB in case my clients would see it. The video re-iterated how done I was.
At the finish line I was kind of delirious and didn’t see my friend sitting in front of me taking pictures. I grabbed the food they handed me and an emergency blanket and wandered around.
And then I smiled a big big smile. DANG GIRL YOU DID IT.
Some people can just go run 13.1 miles.
I can’t do that. I find running to be the hardest physical activity I’ve ever done. It is also the most honest. There’s no equipment you can buy to make you go faster. It is you and your shoes and your muscles and your brain. You have to put in the work to train. You have to deal with your own thoughts when you’re getting tired and your feet hurt. If you run/walk you have to make yourself re-start running after your walk interval during the last mile when it would be pretty easy to just walk the rest of the way in.
One time somebody I know wrote in an online forum something to the effect that “everyone wants participation trophies these days” in regards to medals handed out at the end of sporting events. That person is an olympic medalist. Clearly that person has no grasp on what the regular human individual goes through on a regular day and what completing a 5K or a 3 mile paddle or a 32 mile paddle or a half marathon means to a non-olympic athlete.
Lemme tell you what: my running medals are not participation trophies. They are finisher medals.
If I don’t finish a race I won’t even wear the shirt. (Unless I was a volunteer and had a massive hand in putting on the event.)
They are a little token that I finished something super hard that made me feel super proud of myself. I don’t expect or care about a medal at every race, but let’s face it: life is long and hard and sometimes sucky. Why begrudge someone for enjoying something simple like a finisher’s medal.
Looking at them reminds me, every day, that
1. I can finish things that are difficult. I just have to put my mind to it.
2. That everything ends/finishes eventually. The 13.1 mile run. The never ending book project. The holiday marketing season. Our lives. (Sorry to be macabre, but we each only get one. We’d better be happy with the way we’re spending it.)
3. I have a life outside of work. I can look at those medals and remember running on the boardwalk at Disney or over the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. I can remember running onto the field at the stadium where the Colts play and running by the largest sand dune on the east coast. (Jockey Ridge. Below.)
If my entire life and self esteem is tied up with my work, when work is going badly, my life is going badly. And the thing is, there are things about my work that I have zero control over. I can’t control if a client has a bad day and takes it out on me. Or if there’s some massive weather event that causes nobody in a certain region of the country to shop for plants for two weeks or if someone gets sick and can’t work on a project for a while.
I can control putting on my shoes and going for a run.
I have to do something that makes me feel good about myself that only I decide about. It helps me enjoy my one precious life. It helps me feel good about myself so that I can do a great job for my clients. If you don’t think you’re awesome nobody else is gonna think you’re awesome.
YOU KNEW IT WAS COMING
So THAT is why I’m so fanatical about freelancers pursuing hobbies and interests and some time off. I worked really hard before I left for OBX. I put an out of office responder on that said if someone had a big emergency to call me and gave them my phone number. I started two weeks in advance telling my clients I was going to be gone for 4 days and making sure I got stuff done before I left.
AND I DID NOT COME BACK TO AN INBOX THAT WAS BLOWING UP.
Also, despite the fact that I ran 16.2 miles in 2 days which is a lot for me in two days not to mention after 2 months of not much training, I feel rested. Or at least my brain does. So I can do an awesome job for my clients this week.
I say all of this not to be like, “Oh I know what I’m doing with everything and I have my life perfectly figured out and I’m the bomb diggedty,” but rather to share my experience that it can be done. You can go away and come back and not have your whole world exploding. Sometimes the advanced planning isn’t enough or things outside your control happen, but you can try. For a long time I didn’t even try to ever have time off.
If you haven’t grabbed my 8 tips for Quality Time Off, now is the time to do it.
And NO, I WON’T shut up about this because if someone asked me what is my one tip for freelancers, what I absolutely KNOW will make them more successful it is this:
IF YOU TAKE TIME OFF AND REST YOUR BRAIN YOUR BUSINESS WILL GROW.
Grab the tips. Find something that makes you feel good about yourself that isn’t your job. And report back. katie at makemeafreelancer dot com.
(I’m the one with the arms up if you can’t tell.)