One of the reasons I moved to Belize was because I wanted a slower pace. Living in my hometown of New York, where it felt like every minute needed to be scheduled, had worn me out. Between working to pay bills, finding time to spend with the people I love and taking care of my own needs, it all seemed to be one big rush, and never enough time to really enjoy my life. With the rising costs of living in the city – financially and emotionally – I was stretched too thin.
I don’t want to be overly dramatic here. I had a good life. I loved my neighborhood, had meaningful work and a supportive community of friends and family. Over time, though, I found it increasingly difficult to feel fully present and engaged with my work and relationships. It felt harder to find the space to just be, to expand my experience of myself and my life beyond all the external day-to-day shit that needed to get done. Mentally, there was a lingering tightness, a preoccupation with wanting more – more money, more space, more time. Combined with the daily realities of walking the world in my black woman body, and constantly having to navigate racist and sexist microaggressions and very real threats to my safety and well-being, I felt like I was struggling to keep it all together.
That struggle left an impact. After so many years, it metastasized to my self-worth and made me believe that I had to be doing everything right all the time, that if I stopped “keeping it all together,” everything would fall apart. Including me.
I’m still healing from that belief.
It’s been a very manual process to unlearn the idea that I am not enough unless I’m earning a certain amount of money or living a life that looks a certain way. As wonderful and exciting as it’s been to move to a new country, it’s also been really tough to go through the process of building a life here and figuring out what I want that to look like. Not having a job has brought me a sense of freedom, and it’s also brought very deep issues of self-definition to the surface. I’ve had to really face how much I defined myself and my self-worth through money and external ideas of success. And I’ve had to work through some very primal fears around stability and security, and create new ways of feeling safe and whole.
Since moving here and creating a new process, I’ve realized that it’s possible to live and work in a way that is more balanced and integrated. I’m learning to find a middle place between anxiety-fueled over-productivity and avoiding things I need to do because I’m exhausted and burnt-out. I’m figuring out how to financially sustain myself by doing the work I want to be doing in a way that makes sense for me, and not scheduling ten clients a day out of fear. I’m recognizing that I have seasons and cycles of productivity, reflection and rest, and I’m respecting them by paying attention to what I need and being intentional about how I work on projects.
It’s not perfect. It doesn’t have to be. I’m learning as I go, moving away from feeling victimized by a “feast or famine” cycle and opening myself to new ways of expanding my work options. And as I experience more opportunity, there are more choices to make. I’m taking my time with them.
Things are more stable right now than they’ve been in a long while. And to be real, it’s taken me a while to shift out of survival mode and relax into the stability and comfort of my life. But more and more, I’m allowing myself to accept and receive the goodness, and not fly into reactivity because I’m worried about when the other shoe will drop. There is no shoe. Life is shifting and changing all the time, and I finally feel like I’m learning to adjust and shift with it.
That’s what work and life balance means to me. It’s knowing that my needs will change and bringing my awareness to how I can best support myself. It’s creating harmony in my relationships and my environment. It’s being honest about when it’s time to hustle and when it’s time to chill. And it’s giving myself the space to do whatever I need to do to be healthy and happy.