Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ode to the Maturing Overachiever

Day 2. 

Well. You'd think 10 minutes was easy, wouldn't you? 

Not at all. Day 2, and already I forgot, all day, that I was supposed to write today. Now it's 10:00 pm (past my bedtime), I've had my nightcap, spent time with Soul Fry and Mini Fry, and am in bed in a dark room, illuminated only by the cold blue glow of the brand new Mac laptop I just bought today. (Tools of the trade, needed for day job, no luxury, not to be celebrated, nothing to see here, move on ladies and gentlemen.)

And now for the third paragraph, where the story actually begins:

Today's theme? Focus. In that fateful coffee chat the other day, the meeting that inspired this modest writing campaign, my young writer friend pointed to another thing that was getting in the way of her writing: She's interested in too many things, and she only has so much time. She wants to do it all, and sometimes that gets in the way of doing just about anything. What to pick?

She asked me whether the urgency to do just about everything in life fades as one gets older. I told her no; it doesn't go away for some of us. Because I still want to do everything, I said. But two days later, I am rethinking that statement. Actually, I was wrong. And other creative women I've run into lately are having similar realizations. We are actually no longer interested in doing everything (because it doesn't work) and wish to focus.

One musician colleague of mine today told me that she had her epiphany somewhere in her early 40s. She had been working several jobs: teaching during the day, teaching privately on the side, and serving as the lead singer in her own successful local band. At age 43, she realized that she didn't want to work so much any more. So she quit the side jobs, took a significant hit in income, and focused on her teaching. (And her professional athletic career. Serious. Very serious.) And today, she's very happy.

Then just a couple hours later, I ran into a friend as she was rushing to a choir rehearsal that she was leading. She is the director of fine arts for a very large local school district, a teacher herself, the music director at a bustling local church, and is running a production of a musical at the moment. Oh, and managing two young kids. And going through a divorce. And somewhere in her 40s. Worn to the bone, pulled in too many directions, and feeling a little untethered, she melted into tears as we talked. She's just worn out. Incredibly talented, full of energy, but doing too much. Not enough time to center herself. Aware of the problem, unsure of what to leave off, leave out. Too many hours spent doing too many things, all of which she loves. She knows that maybe she could get help from friends if she asked... if she could only find the time to sit down and identify what it is that she needs help with.

How long would it take? 10 minutes, perhaps?

Today was a day when I met highly successful women in their mid-40s who are feeling ready to do just a few things and do them well. That might be the benefit of maturity: You start to identify the persistent themes. The things that matter most. Possibly, you start to feel less fractured, because you start to eliminate the detritus and focus on the most important things, even if you seem to only have 10 minutes a day to do it.

How will you spend your 10 minutes today?














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