I haven’t written for a while, and not just here. Before my previous Open University module ended in June, I had worked as a freelance copywriter, looked after my baby (who is now two) and begun my degree. Unsurprisingly, it all got a bit much! For the sake of my husband, my son and my sanity, I decided to take a break.
Even writing this feels like an admission of defeat. I had been on a mission for years to prove myself tough, hardworking and practical. A workaholic in the worst way, to step away from the grindstone was abhorrent.
The results for me were mixed. The time I spent with my family was wonderful, but I was dogged by withdrawal symptoms. I both longed for and feared doing anything creative; I felt guilty about doing anything that was not family or home orientated and guilty about not doing justice to my urge to write.
This summer has not been the relaxing few months I had envisaged, but I did learn to accept my limitations a little more, and I think doing so is an important lesson for anyone creative, self-employed or both.
The first step in doing so was identifying what these limitations and natural failings were. Not all realisations were profound. I have begun to make peace with the fact that I like a really clean house; any kind of chaos stresses me out. I have to snack or I become an insane hunger monster. I like to look good- and actually there’s nothing wrong with that. I have come to understand that I am incapable of having exciting dreams: they’re all about finding lost keys and going to Lidls.
More importantly, I know now that I find it difficult to look at work in a healthy way, though rationally I know that working every second of the day is not sustainable. I am committed to putting my family first, which means there are times when my career will come second. However, I am as a member of our family I have a duty to fulfil my potential.
Another limitation that I knew I had already was that I’m bad at accepting defeat. It’s meant that I’ve pushed myself through almost impossible situations- ninety hour weeks working at a commercial restaurant, two-o’clock finishes when copywriting deadlines approached and many others- but no-one can do everything. Time’s elasticity is not infinite. The fact is, that I can’t work, and look after the house, and our boy, and study, and, and….
It was only after conceding these that I could make progress. By the end of the previous module of my course I was thoroughly burnt out, and was close to destroying everything that I had accomplished. With considerable effort, I have begun to accepting these limitations. By doing so I make the most of our little boy’s infancy and work towards a degree that will open doors in the future.
Facing up to your failings and limitations can feel like rock bottom. In reality if you manage to handle it correctly, it can be a fount of new strength.