During the pandemic I think we, as a society, truly learned how overworked, burnt out, and overstimulated we really are. Though it differed for everyone, for a time the pause on our daily hustles revealed a world of quiet, a world of thoughtful interactions.
However, as the work pace has picked up again, I have definitely noticed those old habits of overworking, overachieving, and perfectionism cropping back into focus. Once again, I find myself striving to be everything, to achieve everything, pulled in every direction without a moment for rest or patience. I’m back into the mindset that the more titles and achievements that I hold, the more that I engage on multiple stages, the more useful and accomplished I am. But until recently I hadn’t realized that I was back into that machine mode.
My better half and I were recently chatting about perceptions, how in our own minds we still feel like those kids we once were, kids who tried desperately everyday to prove themselves. It’s stunning that now as we dance around 40, both of us having done and lived so much in so little time, that we still feel like those kids who have something to prove. By all measures we are relatively successful as individuals and as a couple, but we both still feel like we are playing at success. We then tried to imagine how others view us, how we look from the outside. It surprised me when my husband said that I am seen as smart. I immediately took offence and asked “…and?”
I expected more identifiers. After all I have so much knowledge, early-career accomplishments, and titles. I was offended because there was no way that I can just be seen as one thing. There must be other identifiers that I am associated with, after all I like think that I am kind, stubborn, determined, etc.. When I said this, my husband replied with, “but you’re smart and it’s enough.”
What a revolutionary concept. To be one thing, to identify with one attribute challenged my need to be everything to everyone. It took all that I’ve done in the last 20 years and distilled it down to one key common component. That distillation also challenges contemporary work and hustle culture in that declaring “It’s enough” means that a person doesn’t have to be able to do everything to be impressive or accomplished.
In the end, it comes down to not being defined by what I do, but rather who and what I am. I can go on and on about being a PhD candidate, writer, journalist, and veteran with X number of published articles, scholarships, etc., but none of that is who I am. None of that is my drive. That’s all just arrogant fluff that came about because of a single identifier. That’s all just examples of what I’ve been able to do with a defining attribute.
So, instead of identifying myself by what I do, lets try out this single identifier of who I am. Here goes…I’m Samantha. I’m smart and it’s enough!