When the Hustle Is Paused (Or Hasn’t Even Started)


Road – Mesa with Mist, 1961 – Georgia O’Keeffe

“The right thing will come when it comes,” I told everyone as college graduation approached this spring. We should just be in the moment like the magnets on my childhood fridge suggested. I make vision boards, you know.

My adviser said this was okay, so I decided it was okay. While my friends took on informational interviews and searched job sites, I learned reiki and listened to SuperSoul Sunday. I turned in my thesis and cried about endings and emailed my high school English teacher.

Thinking about it now, this was perhaps forced mourning or a new, intensified form of four-year perfected procrastination. Or perhaps it was reserved relaxation? I’d worked hard, after all.

Exactly hard enough to get what I wanted in the moment.

But that moment had passed.

“The right thing will come when it comes,” I either wrote or thought about writing. For a couple of days post-graduation, I turned off the weekday alarm, deciding to just be. I read My Year of Rest and Relaxation. I got a second part-time job and some freelance gigs and tried to revel in aimlessness

Now, three months in, I’ve made it through my pile of unread magazine back issues. I take lazy mornings for granted and wear linen overalls almost exclusively. But even in my semi-lazed summer haze, I know this can’t last forever. The right thing will come when it comes, and it might not be for a while. But if it’s soon, I want to be ready and able to welcome it.

There’s a new question lingering these days. It’s no longer, “What should I study?” and not necessarily, “What’s next?”

Instead, the vital question I’m asking myself is, “How will I get there?”

Regardless of age—me at 22, and you absolutely anywhere else—how can we prepare ourselves for the next batch of hard work? Who will we be once it arrives, and can we find that person beforehand?

I assume these are questions many of us find ourselves asking, no matter the stage we’re at in life. The feeling of uncertainty as we prepare for our yet to be realized future is something we all experience at one point or another. We’ve felt it before and we’ll feel it again.

Three months into the “real world,” I wake up at a different time every day for my multiple part-time jobs. At one, I listen to celebrity gossip podcasts, my mind slacking as I fill out spreadsheets I’ve been updating for years. At another—a truly brilliant restaurant—I fold menus and offer reservations and try to soak up every morsel of information from the artists around me. I keep mental notes on wine, mushrooms, chocolate, phone manners.

This is information I may have never learned otherwise (both the celebrity gossip and the hospitality wisdom), which brings me to a possible answer to the first of the aforementioned questions:

We may not be able to fully prepare for the next big thing, but we’re always learning—about ourselves, the cities around us, what time of day we feel most inspired. These lessons will come in handy, whether or not we realize how in the moment we’re learning them; they are, in fact, part of the preparation.

We may not be able to fully prepare for the next big thing, but we’re always learning—about ourselves, the cities around us, what time of day we feel most inspired. These lessons will come in handy, whether or not we realize how in the moment we’re learning them; they are, in fact, part of the preparation.

If I were going back to school this fall, this could be a how-I-spent-my-summer-vacation essay. I’d write about soul-searching and self-improvement, another summer spent planning my return as a better person, a harder worker, a more thorough studier.

But these lessons don’t have to be integrated into a grand return; they’ll creep in slowly and when I don’t expect them. Maybe someday I’ll be a restaurant critic. Maybe next year I’ll write for TMZ.

My current life is one of maybes and what-ifs, possibilities and uncertainties. I’m learning to be okay with that, as I continue to steadily and surely move in the direction of my future.

I wear my graduation present—the perfect work-appropriate laptop bag—to work and then to the coffee shop where I do my freelance assignments. Its professional leather contains my journal and water bottle and a couple pairs of earrings and a book and absolutely no special work documents or homework assignments (though the stress dreams haven’t ended). Right now, it doesn’t have to stand for anything except personal style. It’s a work bag, but right now it’s enabling self-work.

I’m learning that maybe there is no one correct way to prepare for what’s next, in any stage of life. Part of the preparation is taking tiny steps in what feels like the right direction—forward, incremental progress every day. Maybe the real preparation is about knowing yourself. Accepting who you are now and how that person will play into the future version of you—a version who’s maybe a bit more stressed out, a bit more entangled with work, and, hopefully, a bit more sure of who they are.

Maybe next year I’ll dream about time off and remember how good it felt to eat peaches and cream for breakfast in my days of aimlessness. Knowing this, maybe for now I can forgo the to-go mug in favor of some time in the sunniest part of my apartment. Maybe I can savor and feel that part of myself and be able to reset.

Maybe in times of rest and change, we can learn to accept where we are in the moment; we can learn to relish in the times of quiet in order to allow ourselves the space to figure out where to go next. You are you while you’re busy and you while you’re not, but it’s special to know yourself in both positions.

Because, as it so happens, in-between places are both fun and scary. If we can figure out how to trust the process, to trust that we are indeed growing and changing and learning the lessons that will shape us into our future selves, we’re going to get through to the other side.

When the next big thing comes you’ll be ready, even if you don’t feel like it. Try to be good to yourself for the time being. It’ll help.

There’s no right way to prepare for the future. The right thing will come when it comes.

And if it doesn’t? We can make another vision board.

BY Sophie Vilensky - August 24, 2019

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add a comment

  1. Molly

    August 24th, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    “We may not be able to fully prepare for the next big thing, but we’re always learning—about ourselves, the cities around us, what time of day we feel most inspired.”

    I love this.

  2. When the Hustle Is Paused (Or Hasn’t Even Started) – Business Blog

    August 24th, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    […] Continue reading When the Hustle Is Paused (Or Hasn’t Even Started) at Wit & Delight | Designi… […]

  3. Kathleen

    August 25th, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Poignant, beautiful, and so comforting to read.

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