A few months ago, I visited my best friend, who lives in New York City.
NYC is one of those places that simultaneously overwhelms and invigorates me. I’m a small-town girl at heart and after a few days in the city I crave green spaces, but I still love the never-ending possibilities that cities seem to represent.
I’m not romanticizing the hustle and bustle. New York City is dirty, crowded, crazy expensive, always in a hurry, and often a lesson in the ups and downs of humanity. I could live there; I think I might even like it on most days; but I’m not sure if I could ever call it “home.”
Even so, I sometimes feel a strange camaraderie with The City That Never Sleeps. I’m not a restful person, I can’t sit still for long periods of time, and I have a very, very, difficult time quieting my mind. My yoga instructor always jokes that of course Shavasana (the corpse pose you do at the end of class to decompress) would be the pose I struggle with most, and she might be onto something.
New York makes me feel like there are infinite possibilities for my life, and like I’ll never possibly accomplish them all.
This is also how I feel on a typical Wednesday, in my quiet rural office, and yet somehow the idea that I’m running out of time, that I’m not doing enough, that there are too many people to meet, and still so much to see and experience and achieve, seems to make more sense against the busy backdrop of one of the world’s largest metropolises than it does in my sleepy little hometown.
I am restless. I think I have always been restless, and I often worry that I’ll be forever restless.
Sometimes, this is a good thing. I believe that my sense of restlessness has often propelled me forward, first into a succcessful academic career, and then into a proactive professional mentality. It’s enabled me to tackle projects that may have otherwise seemed impossible; to take career risks that a different person might have avoided; and it’s given me the courage to travel to places I’ve never been, where I don’t speak the language, and thrive.
I like the part of my personality that is never satisfied; that is always searching for a way to do more, to do it better, to see more, and to understand more deeply. This is the piece of me that I think could make a difference in the world; it’s the part of me that was initially drawn to nonprofit work.
It’s the little voice inside my head that says, “That’s a problem, but you can fix it . . .” and then does.
Even so, some days that restlessness is difficult to reign in, and I feel like I am making all the wrong choices while the clock keeps ticking down.
My NYC friend, who’s been on a one-man mission to get me to “relax a little” since we first met, summed it up quite succinctly the other weekend. He suggested that I have an “athlete mentality.”
I laughed at first, considering that my preferred workout is Kitten Yoga (yes, it’s as cute as it sounds, and may explain why I’m terrible at Shavasana, because who can relax when there are kittens around?!?), but then I got distracted by the Lobster Benedict on the brunch menu, and he was able to continue. “What I mean is that you’re extremely focused and goal-oriented. When you check one thing off the list you immediately push on to the next challenge. If you were an athlete you’d be the kind who never learns to take time off in between training, to just sit back and be proud of what you’ve achieved. You’ve gotta learn to admire your medals every once in a while.”
I hate to admit it (especially in writing, on the Internet, where it will live forever and he can irrefutably prove that I said this) . . . but he’s right.
I genuinely struggle to balance my restlessness with restfulness – so that I won’t burnout before I hit thirty. I’ve always known that I trend towards warp speed and an over-the-top to-do list, but I’ve never, ever, been good at slowing myself down. I don’t want to sit back and admire my “medals,” because I feel like there is still so much to be done, and so little time to do it.
What I’d love to know is if anyone else ever feels this way – this burning desire to be in constant motion – or if it’s the side effects of too many years of too much coffee finally catching up with me.
If you do struggle with a restless soul, do you embrace it? Do you dig in deeper to focus on fixing a world that will always need work? Or have you somehow managed to find that elusive balance?
*Main image via WordPress, all others my own