A dear friend has been in town for the Ohio leg of her book launch. When she had a break, we had the opportunity to hang out for a few hours. As usual, we dove into some big life stuff and the conversation was incredibly satisfying. It was also terrifying in that “this-is-bringing-up-a-lot-of-stuff” way. The stuff it brought up was mostly about the intersection of art and money, as well as how we juggle multiple projects. Or, even more confusing: how we sew all the disparate pieces of our lives together.
I often refer to my friend as “a filmmaker, pie baker, and poet.” It’s true that she is all of those things. She’s made films. She has a pie company. Her book of poems was just published. She’s also a wife and mother and daughter and friend. And, she still waits tables part-time.
Besides the sewing, there is always the funding.
To fund our lives, we work. In the personal finance world, we talk a lot about EXTRA work. Get a side job, be sure to hustle, find a side hustle good things come to those who hustle hustle hard play hard…
You know the drill.
Especially if you’re paying off debt or saving for FIRE or even just saving for a home or big trip, you must hustle hustle hustle. If you want freedom in any way, you must hustle.
I bought into this while I was paying off debt, and it worked for me big time.
But, after paying off the debt, I was adrift. I felt goal-less. I felt lost in my own blog. I had lots of ideas and dreams to pursue. There were essays to write and trips to plan. There was a bucket list. There was a to do list. I had a big vision and a daily grind. But, I could not (cannot) get them to align. Instead, I searched for more hustles. I talked about how I felt spread thin and couldn’t do everything well while also applying to part-time retail jobs and scrolling through the “Etc.” jobs on Craigslist.
Thinking about the hustle at least kept me from working on my essays. I let the hustle be my main form of distraction.
Not so long ago, I gave up a freelance gig. I spent a month or so working one job (with the exception of putting together a literary event.) And I wrote a little for myself, when I wasn’t looking at seasonal positions at various stores.
It’s hard to let go of the hustle when the hustle has helped you in the past. But, the hustle can be harmful if you hold on to it for too long.
After the event, I had a week of rest. I didn’t hustle at all. I went to my friend’s readings and spent quiet time by myself. Some evenings, I sat quietly with the dogs and thought about the next phase of my life. I thought about all of the things on my bucket list. I thought about all of the causes I want to support. I thought about putting together a five year plan.
I thought about how lost I felt.
And then I thought about a poem that was a personal favorite of my filmmaker, pie baker friend.
When we’re working toward debt repayment or any financial goal, when we don’t know what to do, it’s always easy to curb the uncertainty with hustle.
But don’t let the hustle get so loud that you can’t hear what you really need.
Don’t let the hustle stop you from your real work.
Don’t let the hustle disorient you from your real journey.
When you’re desperate to see how all the pieces of your life fit together or you’re searching for a linear narrative in your life, don’t hustle. Rest instead. Listen.
It’s okay to tread water for a little while. Better yet, it’s okay to float. The destination will still be there once you’re ready to swim again. By that time, it may not be the destination you wanted to reach anyway.
It’s okay to feel a little lost. It’s even a good thing. Because that means you’ve reached the point of your real work. Do the real work.