Over the past year or so I’ve spent a lot of time reducing my commitments, purging unfinished projects, and generally trying to learn to say no. I’ve stepped off of a few boards. I’m trying to simplify.
It’s been interesting, to say the least. People have noticed, and I’ve been asked if I’m doing this because I’m running for council (nope), or because I’m not well (nope). After a bunch of self examination, I can identify two things that caused me to recede: Kale asked for more of my time, and good ol’ burnout.
Since our trip to Portugal last October, I have focused on giving up things that don’t add to my life, and reducing the number of things that Kale can’t be a part of. Saying “no” has been the hardest lesson I am trying to learn. Even today, I said no, to something I would have enjoyed being a part of.
This is not to say I don’t still have a few items on my extra curricular list. I’m still the PAC Chair of Kale’s school for one final year. I still help organize Pecha Kucha New West but I’m not doing more than I want to do and I can see the end of my time there far off in in the horizon.
A big change for me is my work. For 8 years I have been solely self-employed, first with a partner and then as a sole proprietor. In the beginning I was terrible at setting boundaries: working late late late into the night, being available to clients at all hours, never saying no to work even if my capacity was maxed, and rescheduling my life to suit the work. I’ve learned this is damaging. It also sets a dangerous precedent.
And if we’re being honest here, (and duh, honest is like, “my brand”, so of course we’re being honest), I don’t like living my life online all the time anymore. I don’t like having to learn about algorithms and how to game systems. I don’t like having to learn new tools that are irrelevant to me. I had a big moment recently and at first it was a whisper and now it is a roar: I don’t want to do this anymore.
For a lot of people this is no big deal, they just deactivate accounts and choose to remove themselves. But when a big part of the company you have built is focused on managing, teaching, and living social media, and you don’t have it in you to “do” social media for a living, it is disingenuous to keep offering this as a service.
In June I accepted a part-time position at a local government. My role is to organize an event I love that I previously organized as a contractor. Only this time, the event is now recurring rather than a one-off and they opted to hire a part time employee to do the work. I applied, interviewed, and was offered the job. The hours are ideal, the work is exciting, and it just. feels. simpler.
I still have a few of my favourite personal clients outside of my workday as well, but this change has given me the chance to rejig my business, changing up the services I focus on and a rename as well. (Jen Arbo Consulting if you’re interested in learning more about that side of my life).
We spent a luxurious week on Vancouver Island / the Northern Gulf Islands at the end of Kale’s transformative week away at his first sleepaway camp. He got to share this experience with his life long friend, and on pickup day we hung out. There is nothing grander than walking along unused tracks, whacking weeds with sticks in the late summer light.
We parted ways with our friends and spent two nights camping on an island that took two ferries to get to, just us three and Ebi, our dog. Kale and I went for a two hour walk while Ross explored by bike and Kale and I just… talked. About video games. Friends. Anxiety. Travel. Food. Why my work changed. School. Trees.
After, we spent another few nights on another coastal island with friends. This one with no electricity and nothing but views and tall trees. We watched the tide come in and out and talked about wind speed. Read books. Threw rocks into the water. Kayaked. Sat in the sauna late at night until we were burning and then ran and jumped in the phosphorescent ocean, shrieking, laughing, and giddy.
Look, here’s the thing.
We always grow, we always change. But it’s not always clean and tidy and sometimes it’s a fucking mess, and it is the adult keen awareness of change that makes it so hard for me to adapt. It’s hard to let go of comfort. It’s hard to navigate newness. It is awkward to realize that relationships built on social media might be different in real life and to have to put in the effort to make the change navigable and still very authentic.
I need to spend less meaningless time on my devices, and make the time I do spend count. I need to give myself space to daydream, to write, to have coffee with a friend and workshop an idea for a podcast or an idea for a short story. I need to go out for tea/wine/beer by myself once in a while and get comfy back in my own brain. I might be complex but my life needs to be simple for me to do that. Time to simplify.