If you know me, you probably already know that a couple years ago I got desperately sick on a trip to Malta, landed myself in the hospital, and took months upon months to recover.
It was one of those things that changes the course of a whole life.
I’d been working myself half to death before that. Writing five or six books in a year. Working weekends and evenings. Taking every project that came my way.
But after Malta, I found that I simply couldn’t work that much anymore.
Too much stress, too many long hours, and suddenly my symptoms would come back with a vengeance. Stomach cramps and intestinal distress. Nausea and dizziness.
And once the symptoms reared their ugly heads, they were slow to go away. Even when I cut back. Even when I changed habits and diets and schedules. Recovery was always very, very slow.
And so, in 2016, I made a commitment to myself.
I was going to prioritize my health above all else that year.
Which meant finally going to a physiotherapist for my on-again off-again shoulder issues, trying probiotics and diet changes, focusing on fresh, natural foods, spending real time on my mental health, and—perhaps most importantly of all—cutting back my hours.
In 2016, I promised, I was going to work 30 hours or less per week.
And so I shifted.
I took less projects.
I raised my prices (which I honestly should have done long before then).
I got picky about my clients, saying no to projects I knew would elevate my stress levels.
I let go (slowly) of my book series, realizing that I could make better money and work less hours if I focused on my copywriting work.
And, to my relief and delight, it worked.
It took a long time to feel normal again. To tone down my anxiety. To get my stomach back to neutral. To stop having stress-related outbreaks of unpleasant stomach symptoms.
But over time, things got better. And while there were so many factors at work—from food quality to exercise to therapy and beyond—working part-time was a huge part of that healing process.
And so I kept on with my part-time schedule and my regular exercise and my real-food meal plans and probiotics and daily homemade smoothies.
Until November this year.
When I fell off the wagon.
You see, I’d had a few rough financial months and was feeling the pressure. And then an amazing-sounding opportunity dropped into my lap:
The opportunity to update a travel guidebook for one of the big guidebook publishers.
It sounded like a dream gig and right up my alley: a month of research along Mexico’s most popular coastline. Reviewing restaurants, hotels, attractions, beaches. Exploring ruins. Seeing all that the region has to offer. And getting paid to do it.
I knew the project meant working more hours than usual. I figured it would put me on a more full-time schedule. And I knew that eventually I’d be tired of eating out and touring hotels.
But I also knew that I was well-suited to the project, that I needed a November gig, and that the timing was perfect.
So I took it.
And I hit the ground running.
And running. And running.
By the end of the month, I hit my deadline and delivered the project to the client, but I’d also hit my wall. Whether from something in the food or from the stress of full-time work or from some combination thereof, by the end of the month, I was sick again. Sick and exhausted and occasionally nearly in tears.
Which I suppose is an important reminder that, for me, working full-time—running, running, running—isn’t an option.
My health is too important to me. My body, for whatever reason, is too fragile. And it’s vital to know when to say “enough.”
And so here I am again at the end of 2017 (though it’ll be 2018 by the time you read this) saying “enough.”
In 2018, I’m yet again going to commit to a part-time work schedule. Daily exercise. Real food. Therapy when needed. And a host of other things that make me feel better, like upbeat music and spending time on creative projects.
We only get one life. And I don’t want to spend any more of it making myself sick.
So when you imagine me in 2018, imagine me back on track. Working part time. Daydreaming about Europe. Going for walks and cycle rides. Holding tight to those I love. Cooking like a fiend. Focusing on my health.