There’s something really powerful about reading back your old journal entries – I’ve never thrown out my old diaries, for this reason: words that you wrote years ago can speak to you again. The sentences may appear the same but, as you’ve grown, so has their meaning. You can feel totally lost and yet, when you read your own thoughts from an earlier chapter in your life, discover you’ve known the answer all along. If you’ve had one for these moments, you’ll know what a profound, goosepimple-inducing impact it can have.
Recently, at a crossroads in my career, I was brought full-circle with a paragraph I wrote on this site at least 18 months ago, when I was in the whirlwind of The Best First Job In The World and needed something to keep me grounded:
I’m always thinking about balance and perspective. Professionally, that means that the best job in the world would offer me zero comfort if it came at the expense of the other things I consider important. It means working really hard, but learning to recognise when it’s time to call it a night. And believing that a good career is not just about the job you wouldn’t quit if you won the lottery, but the tea-round full of people who’ll never let you stay too serious for too long.
I still believe in all of that, but over time I’d gotten bad at actually living it. Some things, like resolutions, we shout in earnest and then we quietly and privately let slip away. I knew that having quality conversation was important to me, but emailing became easier; I knew when it was time to call it a night, but I wouldn’t stop. Sound familiar?
These little things are important, because they’re not just ‘little things’ – collectively they say a whole lot about who you are and where you’re headed. They’re our personal values, and we have to identify and pay attention to them. Seriously.
So I took stock. I remembered those other things I consider important, and made it my mission to re-prioritise them – at work, and outside of it. Not overnight or solo, either; it takes time, several heart to hearts and a network of your biggest fans going out of their way to help you see yourself as they do. I’d gotten a bit lost, and this put me back on track.
Then truly The Best Second Job In The World found me; I write this a month into my pinch me moment, when I became head of video for HELLO! magazine. And so far, yes, it is as fun and sparkly and exciting and the-good-kind-of challenging as it sounds.
But, because I think we have some responsibility to show the unfiltered angles of our lives online (and because otherwise this really would just be one big humblebrag), I want to be honest about the fact that I actively work on making sure I’m as healthy about it as I am happy. I remind myself to enjoy every day, which is the sort of thing I used to think adults were so weird for saying, like how they have to “try” to relax on holiday. Surely it comes naturally? Well, yes, until we fall into bad habits. As a species we can be pretty good at undermining ourselves like that.
I have a list. Things which make me really happy at work and outside of it. Things which help me function at my best, too. It includes: digital detoxes, reading, bike rides, more sleep, exercise, quality time with important people, talking instead of emailing (spoiler alert: it’s way more fun and efficient). There’s more.
I look at this list before I start a new week or whenever I think I’m about to have been too serious for too long. It reminds me to check in with myself.
I called time on totally aimless scrolling, and scoured the internet and Instagram (and old school book stores) for resources that focused on mind and wellbeing and what it is to be human: thrive, happsters, Words of Women, Option B, and the Humans of New York series. I’d love to hear any that you find helpful. Let’s keep the conversation open and honest. Especially now, when we – quite literally – never switch off, let’s not pretend this doesn’t affect every single of us. If anything, I want more role models who admit that to be ambitious and inspired and creative and successful, they rely on a personal strategy for keeping a balance, seeking all-round development, and building resilience.
And although I fully expect to fall off the wagon every now and then, I’ve come to understand that protecting those personal values and practicing those health and happiness habits is how we invest in ourselves. It’s these small acts of kindness and self-reflection – just like old words in old diaries – that the future you will thank you for, even if you don’t realise their profound significance at the time.