Happy Fourth of July everyone! On this day of American Independence I write to you about wearing hats and some hazards of wearing, perhaps, the wrong ones. Enjoy!
I am an insanely busy person. The sheer amount that I get accomplished in a day is mind-boggling when actually looked at and picked apart. I’ve narrowed down the name of the hats that I wear most frequently to six: The Dancer, The Editor, The Poet, The Writer, The Teacher, and The Supportive Friend. These by no means encompass ALL the hats I wear. For instance, sometimes I’m The Sci-Fi Nerd or The Anatomy Buff and whenever I get to talk to my parents I’m The Youngest Daughter. Mostly I move seamlessly through the transitions of these hats. But really, when it gets down to the brass tax, these are merely aspects of my personality. And we all know that well-rounded personalities can seem schizophrenic when we put them in writing (a good character wears many hats too!)
All of that being said, my type A personality frequently takes on more than I can handle. I have a really hard time saying “no” to anyone.
“Could you come into work a half hour early?”
“Can you cover my shift while I’m on vacation?”
“Will you come to my show?”
“Will you read my book/paper/research project?”
All of this “yes” aired with my numerous odd jobs means that sleep, if I get it, sometimes happens on the subway train or in the middle of a book I’m attempting to read for pleasure. So the best advice to the wearers of many hats like myself and like many of the beauties who write for this blog, is to learn how to say “no” with conviction and no guilt. Let me say that again: LEARN HOW TO SAY “NO”.
In order to achieve some kind of personal happiness, we have to be selfish on occasion. Those moments of self-sacrifice are wonderful but you must allow time for yourself or you will burn out. This is not to say that you should overdo it and be selfish 24/7. You don’t want that and the universe won’t reward you for it. Binging and purging with anything leads to a kind of unhappiness that’s hard to get out of once it becomes habit.
This is where I’ll get a little personal. Two years ago I was wearing too many hats, trying to please too many people. I was in grad school and had two campus jobs: working as a writing tutor and as a research assistant. I also had a waitressing job and was involved in a dance company that required several hours a week. And for some crazy reason, I decided to join the Student Government at my school as a representative of the graduate students schoolwide. I had little to no time for myself and what time I did have I found that I was investing in relationship with people that I didn’t know at the time were toxic.
I said “yes” constantly. I worked longer hours so that other people could study or go on a much needed vacation. I said “yes, yes, yes” even though somewhere deep down I was screaming “NO!” This was the busiest I had ever been and the most social I had forced myself into. Outwardly, I looked happy. Inwardly, I wasn’t enjoying any of it and I couldn’t find satisfaction in any of my many accomplishments.
I have a crazy but super supportive family living in Florida. I would call home from Brooklyn on 2 hours of sleep and mumble through my anxieties to my mom. She warned me of taking on too much that wasn’t part of my passion.
“Asja, it isn’t worth it if it doesn’t further your dreams. If you aren’t able to pursue your dreams, if you’re compromising yourself at every turn you’re going to get sick. You’re not going to be OK.”
Taking action to regain control of where my happiness came from (not others or activities, but from an internal satisfaction) turned things around for me. I quit my waitressing job. I quit the dance company that I felt was using me rather than supporting me. I removed myself from the toxic relationships I had forged and I set out to get some better hats.
Now I’m happier than ever and still super busy. Instead of saying “yes” to everything I have begun to say “yes” only to things that made me happy. I’ve stopped taking jobs just for the money (and yes, this is very hard when you live in New York). I’ve stopped investing in people who don’t care about me. I’ve begun to recognize my worth. Today, I work as an editor for a small press, a teacher of children under the age of 5, a dancer for 2 professional companies, I write poetry and fiction, and I support my artistically inclined friends by going to concerts, shows, and readings. I still say "yes" too much, still don’t get a ton of sleep and I’m switching hats multiple times a day, but I’ve never felt happier nor more like I’m doing what’s best for me.
Wear hats. Wear a million of them. Try them, throw them out, recycle them. But learn how to take care of yourself. Say “yes” when you want to. Say “no” even if it means disappointing people.
Now let's all go eat cake and BBQ and watch fireworks!