A byproduct of these uncertain times (When are they ever really certain?) has been that I’ve looked more closely at the people, places and things closest to me. It used to be I would look just beyond to see what I might spy over their shoulder. Lately, though, I have taken to slowing down and exploring the great indoors of my life.
This has meant fewer Facebook updates, Tweets and Instagram posts. It has meant more eye contact, more hugs, more long conversations and more genuine laughs — rather than “joy” emoji. This reformatted attention has also meant more sleep, a more regular schedule and a bit more time to focus. Work can now be work; life can be life. Exploring the great indoors has meant slowing down the parts of my life that have not been serving me (work travel, the hustle, social media spewing) and hitting the gas on the ones that have (travel to see friends, deploying design thinking in new and interesting ways, taking long walks and not feeling guilty about not looking at my phone for hours).
Those who have e-mailed me have been surprised to get a bounce back message. My personal mailbox, which I used to check religiously for potential work opportunities, has been overflowing for weeks. The storage cap was hit, leading to the bounce backs. A combination of newsletters and spam have been crowding out the voices of friends and family. It has taken me a while to cutback the underbrush and unsubscribe from myriad lists and message threads that no longer serve me, but I am finally peeling through personal messages and responding.
Where I had fancied myself able to write a book, I now realize I was in no condition to take on such a project. Writing a book, at least from my vantage point, takes copious amounts of time to think and process. It is the result of dedication and concerted effort — not desire, fear and frayed nerves.
The past few months have been an exercise in hushing the hustle — that itch in the brain that leads you to believe that whatever you’re doing is the wrong thing even as it leads you to believe you should be doing more of it. It’s a raging contradiction that literally has you scrambling towards everything and away from everything at the same time. You’re a squirrel in the middle of a highway, scampering wildly and never sure whether to advance or retreat. The hustle is not a friend or a mark of prestige. It’s a corrosive that eats away at your resolve, your health and your wellbeing. If I had the last year to do over again, I would have hushed the hustle and taken more time for people, places and things in my immediate environment.
It’s worth noting there’s a difference between the hustle and hard work. Hard work can be done without the hustle. Difficult tasks can be tackled without the hustle. Productivity is not dependent on the hustle. The hustle is a construct developed to make us fearful that however hard we’re working is not hard enough. Sometimes, it actually is enough — other times, it’s more than enough. The hustle will not cure fear of the unknown. It will not silence doubt. It will not make your dreams come true.
Hard work will do that; deep connections to people will do that. Love will do that. But the hustle needs to get its hush on.
Now, here are your five:
Designing a more inclusive city (NYT): It’s not always easy to see the ways in which urban design and renewal exclude people. What may look “nice” may, in fact, be excluding people who have no more or less right to be in a city than you do. This is an important read that sheds light on how one ubranite’s city improvement is another’s barrier to dignity.
The dream deprivation epidemic is upon us (The Cut): Do you live with a “wake-centric” mindset or a “sleep-centric” one? It appears society is very firmly in the former camp. But what if we lived our lives in the latter?
The quality of your mind depends on what you read (Quartz): Be careful what you read, you may become it.
David Sedaris on how to write a diary (The Atlantic, video): If you ever needed an excuse to hush the hustle, this is it. David’s advice here to young writers is spot on. That said, I need to start following it.
If you’re in NYC, check out the Zanele Muholi exhibit (The New Yorker): If I can make it to NYC to see this art exhibit, I will. As Andrea K. Scott writes for The New Yorker of one of the artist's pieces, "It’s a keystone for the entire project, a woman embracing a history of pain and transforming it into freedom."