She appeared to be in her late 50s, early 60s. Kitted out in colourful, well-fitting attire. Freshly showered. Rested. Cheerful. I, on the other hand, had turned 31 six days earlier, and was dressed plainly in a black shapeless dress – perfectly complemented by black shadows under my tired eyes. I’d also skipped my morning shower in exchange for 15 minutes extra sleep, and was buried under a mountain of heavy boxes, with a folding chair hanging off one shoulder, and a tote off the other.
The Lady was friendly enough, but I felt a surge of anger towards her, and I found I had to force myself to respond to her in a polite manner.
“I guess we’ll find out!” I laughed. The Lady chuckled and kept walking.
I run a small jewellery business. And I mean small. I decided I wouldn’t go back to work after having my daughter so that I could focus all my time and energy (read: 1.5 hours per day while my daughter is napping) on growing my business. I had signed myself up for quite a few weekend markets knowing full well I would miss out on valuable time with my husband and daughter.
Marvellous they may be - markets take me away from my family. Are they 'worth' my time?
Which brings me back to The Lady. I wasn’t angry with her because she didn’t offer to help me carry a box. I wasn’t angry with her because she blocked the pathway and made me walk around her. I wasn’t angry with her because she was fresh and free and I was stale and committed to a full day’s work. In fact, I quickly realised I wasn’t angry with her at all. I was angry because she had tapped a nerve. And dammit, I hadn’t even had a coffee yet.
The ‘Is it worth it?’ question circles its way around my brain on a daily basis. Is it worth leaving my crying daughter at day care on Mondays so I can try and cram in a gym session and as much work as possible? Is it worth having a list of things to do ordered in my mind so that I can go go go instead of rest rest rest as soon as I put her down for a nap? Is it worth popping her in front of a cartoon while I edit an article or make a new pair of earrings? Is it worth working my weeknights and weekends away for such a small monetary return?
I don’t know.
I don’t know if my business is going to flop or take off. I don’t know if an article I write is going to be accepted or rejected. I don’t know if all the hours I take away from my daughter will equate to success, or failure. I just. Don’t. Know. And this makes me feel guilty. Because I’m sacrificing time with my daughter for something that might have no pay off. And I am never going to get that time with her again.
A snapshot in time: our family as we are today. A reminder to cherish our days together because when the sun sets - that day is gone forever. Illustration by the incredible Megan Rennie.
So. What to do? Stop doing all the things I like because I’m not sure if they’re worth it? Maybe. I resigned from my job as a copywriter because I wasn’t sure that working that particular job full time would ever be worth being away from my daughter so much. I didn’t even try to make it work – I just quit. But what about my small business that I put so much of me into and barely bring home a paycheck – do I just quit? The articles I put together with so much passion and love, and then painstakingly tweak and edit – do I stop writing? The running – SO MUCH RUNNING – then coming home and still not being able to fit back into that dress I bought in New York – do I stop running? Are any of these things worth it?
Well, I have come to the realisation that it depends on how you define ‘worth’. If my definition of worth was bringing home the bacon, while wearing my skinny jeans without getting that red mark around my belly – then at this moment in time, nothing I fill my life with outside of my daughter is worth it. Nothing.
But what if I were to measure the worthiness of a particular activity by the amount of happiness it makes me feel? In other words, what if I kept my life the same but changed the way I look at it? Well then I could easily say that my little business, writing and running are 110% worth it, because they fill me with a happiness that I subsequently fill my home with.
Of course, I wish it were that easy – just flick a switch and bam – mentality changed. Cue rainbows, glitter, and unicorns. The reality is, though, that it’s a work in progress. Everyday – shit, multiple times a day – I need to actively choose not to label my life choices ‘worthy’ or ‘unworthy’ based on how much money, or how thin they make me. Instead, I need to focus on how they make me feel. If they make me feel good – keep doing them. Simple. Instead of feeling guilty about the time I spend away from my daughter, I need to practice being present when I am with her. I need to stop obsessing over ALL THE THINGS that need doing, pick up ‘Where is the Green Sheep?’ and read it to her for the 74th time. With feeling.
When it comes to time: quality over quantity. Always. This is me and my little love at Studio Cats.
Oh and the next time someone asks me if it’s worth it, I’ll ask them to share their definition of worth, because I’ve learnt that everyone measures worthiness differently. And while lugging heavy boxes around sans shower and pre-caffeine o’clock on a Sunday morning might not be The Lady’s cup of tea – for me, it was exactly where I needed to be.