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Being Present

I started mindfulness practices a few years ago. Back then, I focused on daily practice for a few months when I was feeling super anxious, and wanted to start my new path on the right foot. However, as it often happens, taking care of myself got placed in the backseat when things get going.

Today I was feeling really anxious. Someone shared this image with me a week ago, and it resonated strongly with me. I did mindfulness meditation, and the focus today was on taking things one step at a time, and I realized that I have not done that since I started working for myself.

Anyone who first starts out working for themselves might tell you the 9-5 job is so clear - you know what you need to do, when you need to do it, and when to leave. That’s where I started my professional journey 25 years ago. I worked for a consulting firm, and I worked a 40 hour week. Then I transitioned into teaching, I quickly realized what I was trading. I traded a job that I didn’t take home with me, for a job that went everywhere with me. Most teachers will tell you their day with kids may end at a specific time, but you either bring work home, or the thoughts of Johnny or India with you. After almost 20 years in a public school setting, I then transitioned to a boarding school, and I traded big classrooms for full day commitments. I no longer brought thoughts of Lamar and Jenny home with me, but I physically went home to them. After 18 years of public school, and 1 year of private school, I decided to trade all that in to work for myself.

What did I trade in? Mostly, I traded in the knowing for the unknowing. How do I know when a day is done, how do I measure success when I am just building a network of people? How do I know if I am doing a good job? There is a lot of unknown, but I also traded waiting for recognition from someone who was too busy to notice the work I was doing, for myself being all knowing of everything I am doing. I am my own measure of success. I set my goals, I set the expectations, I decide when and where I work. It is freeing, but it is uncertain. I am not sure I LOVE it yet, but I do love the feeling that I can give myself the recognition I want, when I need it most. That is what gets me up in the morning, and puts me in front of the computer again.

None of the jobs I have done in my life have been easy (well, maybe my first 9-5 job was easy), but each of them taught me something about myself, and each one got me closer to today. When I feel overwhelmed by the tasks I want to complete, or the deadlines I set for myself, I need to stop, take a breath, and remember to stay present. Multitasking may feel more productive, but in all honesty, flipping back and forth to my email to see if anyone asked me for work stops the flow of what I was doing. I wonder how many of us are multitasking all the time now, with our phones within reach - the ping of a text, or email, or social media notifications. When was the last time we were present in the work we were doing, truly present?

Life is a journey, from the day we are born to the day we die, what we do with that time is mostly up to us, even when someone else is setting the schedule. How we focus our attention is solely our choice. I want to try and be more present, even when I feel scared or overwhelmed, lonely or sad, happy or energized. Each of these emotions or sensations help identify our needs, and we are not often tuned in to what we need to attend to ourselves. I am on the next step of my journey, and I don’t want to miss the thrill by multitasking to feel successful.

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