Ebbs and Flows

I just finished reading the book Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. I found it to be a really great read. Full of really interesting stories about people throughout different periods of history coupled with prompts for self examination of moral principles. My kind of learning.

One of the things the book tries to highlight is the dynamic nature of life and the need for continual learning and self examination. How this self examination doesn't look the same every day of your life, and that's completely understandable. To be expected even. Just as it isn't all that useful to compare yourself to others, it also isn't that useful to compare yourself to your past self. Well, not to give yourself a hard time about it anyway.

Using myself as an example. I've been feeling particularly activated these past few months. I've been really focused on trying to be more productive and bolder in what I do. But this comes after a good 5 year period of being very much under the radar and happy to be so.

I've written before about how I felt like my mind was complete mush after my son was born. To the extent where I was a little bit concerned about if it would ever come back. During this time I wasn't reading books, let alone writing anything I felt comfortable enough to share. Yes, I was still enrolled in my PhD but that was more out of obligation that motivation. I had made sure I'd done enough work to feel obligated to complete the research papers at least. I didn't hold myself to completing the PhD during this time, but I did feel that I had a responsibility to write up the research given people had been generous enough to be interviewed. That accountability was enough to keep me working on it slowly but surely. But it was accountability, not passion and sometimes not even interest.

For at least a year I felt completely disconnected from the work. I was not reading countless books and listening to podcasts to challenge my thinking as I have been lately. I wasn't even watching slightly educational documentaries. The closest I got to nonfiction was watching every season of KUWTK that I could have access to. Trashy TV galore. And you know what, I enjoyed it. When I allowed myself to be in the moment, "be where your feet are" as they say, I enjoyed it. And every now and then I would get hit with a wave of uncertainty about my future and I would have a bit of a professional-existential-crisis for a while. They'd last a few days, maybe even a month or so and I'd be back to the moment for a while. But eventually, the kids started getting into more of a routine, I started back with regular work days, then with a bit of a work schedule, and slowly but surely my brain turned back on and I reengaged.

The reason I share this is because I think people have a tendency to selectively self-report, which gives the impression that they're only made up of the good moments. And of course that's not the reality for most people. Probably not for anyone. I know that I've benefited from hearing people discuss the challenges they've had to overcome, particularly with mental health, so I figured that I should be open about that stuff too. And for me the transition from full time professional to motherhood has not been without challenges.

Sure, I could beat myself up about my laziness and feel bad about it, but for what gain? Maybe it was what I needed at the time to keep things ticking over while I was focusing on the mega adjustment of going from a family of three to four. And I'm OK with that.