When I first moved to New York City and went grocery shopping, that bag of frozen peas hit me like a wake-up call. I’m a pretty frugal person and New York City prices aren’t an exaggeration. In my early months here, I found myself perusing the internet for money saving tips.
The articles usually began with the classics of brewing coffee at home, skipping the soda at dinner, and trading a night at the bar for a quiet night in. All I drink is tap water. The articles would talk about finding inexpensive hobbies. My top two past times are running and writing.
It seemed I could have written the articles and no matter what I read, I was already doing it. I was already doing my best.
Recently, I’ve felt the tingling of stress shivering across my shoulders. Frequent readers of this blog or those who know me personally will remember that I have a strong tendency to bite off more than I can chew. I’m quite good at spreading myself thin and quite bad at knowing when to stop.
Last summer, on the verge of a full mental collapse from the strain of commitments and obligations I didn’t feel I could ever live up to, I made a vow to do better. And I don’t mean better with the workload, I meant better by way of myself. I was going to be smarter about saying no and I was determined to never be too busy for a phone call with a friend.
Overall, it has worked. I’ve become a mindful manager of myself. Not only was I falling back to the familiar comforts of reading before bed, but I became better at taking care of myself – really, genuinely, taking care of myself.
Then “recently” happened. I was walking home from the park when I explained my frustration to a friend. I told them that I knew I was hustling. I was working really hard and still saving time for myself. I was sticking to my bed time routine and my morning rituals. I knew I wasn’t headed toward a burnout or mental breakdown of any kind. I was just frustrated.
Finally, I vocalized the overarching ache: I’m doing everything right. I’m doing the best that I can. But it’s not enough. And I guess it’s going fine. I’m not drowning or getting swept under any currents. I’m actually treading water rather calmly. But I want to be butterfly stroking forward, you know?. And I just feel like I’m treading.
I thought back to the money saving tips from my first few months in New York City. Sometimes you are already doing everything you can. So, then what?
You keep doing it. Just because New York threw my bank account for a momentary loop didn’t mean I should also scratch all the habits that kept it afloat. I may have had a wake-up call at the grocery store, but that didn’t mean I abandoned all sense and logic. Just because it wasn’t ideal didn’t mean I should make it worse by suddenly adopting a Starbucks habit.
All of this is to bring me back to the here and now. I’m feeling pretty okay. I’m not panicked. I’m not stressed. I’m just here. Here is where I am comfortable at present. If you find yourself at a place where you feel like you are doing your very best and it just isn’t enough, I urge you to keep doing your very best.
Keep waking up early so you can write in the morning if that brings you solace. Keep holding that laser focus during the work or school day. Keep respecting your time and your nutrition and your wellbeing. You’re treading for a reason.
You’re treading because that’s what you need right now. You can’t be swimming at all times. Life doesn’t work that way. But you can keep treading. And you can keep doing your very best. And I promise that – even if it doesn’t feel like it right now – your very best is putting you right where you need to be.