My eyes fluttered open and I looked at the clock: 7:00 am. Jumping out of bed, I waved a quick hello to my first grader, who was reading quietly in the living room, and reached for my phone. Two Facebook business pages: check. Two Twitter feeds: check. Pinterest: Check. Three email accounts: check, check, check. By the time I glanced at my daughter again, my head was filled with all the tasks I’d need to do as soon as she left for school.
After I hurried her and her dad out the door, I turned on my laptop and set to work, knowing I’d take a short break in the late afternoon for school pickup and dinner. Then I’d dive back in for a few more hours online before falling into bed. For over three years, I’ve happily toiled away from dawn till dusk, understanding that long hours, often without pay, are a basic requirement for someone who wants to create a name for herself in the digital space.
Have I been wrong?
That’s the question that popped into my head about six weeks ago. When I couldn’t come up with an easy answer, I did my best to ignore it. I love what I do. I love being part of an industry that ignites revolutions, connects people, shares breaking news, and hosts fiery debates – all through our fingertips and a decent internet connection. But recently I’ve gotten a sense that the digital space is about to undergo another big change, which will mean more big changes for me. Before the next wave crashed down, I knew I needed to clear my head. But I didn't have any idea how to do so.
On a particularly dark and cloudy March morning, I escaped to the gym, where I noticed a newly installed Workout On Demand system with all types of exercise videos. A spinning bike beckoned me from a corner. Without thinking, I dragged it to the center of the room. I found a 52-minute spin class that would take me on a scenic journey through Ireland and hit play. After a few minutes of adjusting the bike, filling a water bottle and tying my shoelaces (yes, I was stalling), I got on and proceeded to spin my ass off.
I was hooked.
Early each morning I’d head to the gym, hop on the bike, crank up New York’s Z100 in my headphones, and ride like the wind. Buckets of sweat pored out of me and my thighs screamed in pain, but I felt glorious. Look at what my body can do! All the questions that have been plaguing me lately – about what I’m doing with my life, my career choices, and the fear that I’m letting others down – felt decidedly less scary while biking the virtual mountains of Vancouver and New Zealand. During those long, arduous workouts, not once did I wonder if I am failing.
I went on like this for weeks, feeling a sense of pride in my body I hadn’t felt for a long time. I added some extra cardio and even did yoga in the evenings. I found that pushing myself physically eased my mind and I felt a sense of calm and confidence in myself that I hadn’t experienced in years.
I kept up with those intense workouts for over a month, until it came time to bust out the spring wardrobe. Trying on a pair of pants one day, pants that have fit since six months after my kiddo was born, I had to pause – and sigh – when they wouldn’t go up past my thighs. I’d worked out so much that the upper section of my legs had exploded. They were now the same size as my husband's, which I know because he was kind enough to measure them as he handed me tissues to mop up my tears.
Apparently, my thighs had become a metaphor for my life; I’d pushed myself so hard that I was outgrowing what once seemed like a perfectly acceptable fit. I decided it was time to go easy with the workouts and stop stressing about all the questions related to my career. Something new and exciting is around the corner, even if I’m not quite sure what it is yet. Perhaps I can apply to this next phase of life what I learned on the bike: to pace myself and enjoy the ride, even when I don’t know where it’s leading.
(photo credit: sakhorn38/freedigitalphotos.net)
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