Short-Term Goals, Are They the Key to … Everything?

There is something magical about watching New York City wake up in the morning. She does it slowly and then all at once, stretching with the sunrise before delivering a rush of traffic throughout the city.

On one of those rare mornings when I haven’t hit the snooze button into the double digits (or I’m very jetlagged and my body thinks 5am is actually 10am), I like to let me feet wander down to the water, and if I’m feeling really ambitious, across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s perhaps the only time you’re not going to be dodging Instagram influencers or tourists taking Christmas card photos, and for just an hour, it feels like it’s just me and my thoughts and the city.

Normally these aren’t very earth shattering thoughts. Should I repaint my entire apartment yellow or split it up and make the hallway and kitchen white? Am I actually into Birkenstocks and should I buy the copper ones? Where do people go on dates in New York City? Is sitting drinking tea at a cafe and reading a date?

But the other day, like a flash of lightening from the sky, I had a thought that shook my tiny Brooklyn world: I NEVER set short-term goals. Like, ever.

Now you might be asking yourself, Carly, good lord, you’ve talked about to do lists and goals in every article on this blog. Actually you’ve talked about goals for the better part of your lifetime. That’s exactly right, I love setting goals! Writing goals, hobby goals, life goals, physical goals — if you can put a goal on it, I will that. And while my desk is covered with post it notes documenting all the long-term projects and big, grandiose ideas I want to accomplish, I have never even thought to set smaller goals that would point me in the right direction.

Wait, has everyone known about this the entire time? This realization made me feel a bit like that guy we all know, the one who waited to finish the Harry Potter series ten years after the last one was released and finally shows up all ready to talk about it at your 4th of July party and everyone’s like, “Damn it Steve, we already know Fred Weasley dies, thanks for bringing up that painful memory AGAIN.”

Continue reading

Slow Down You Crazy Child

You know what’s funny but also not super funny at the same time? How bloody hard it is to relax, or more precisely, how hard it is to sit down and do nothing. I dream about it loads while my brain is whirling around like an Addams Family pinball machine and yet, when I finally find myself on the couch with an open afternoon spreading out ahead of me, I panic.

I panic because there is always more items to check off on the to do list, because it feels so good to be productive and moving towards a goal, and because — which I cringe to admit — taking time for myself often registers in my brain as being undeserved, selfish, or lazy.

I first developed this productivity idealization in college after feeling such pride at being known as the girl who could do everything at once. A lack of sleep, an unhealthy amount of anxiety due to stress, sacrificing time with loved ones — this felt like the price one needed to pay in order to make their dreams into a reality and every time I reached a new goal, I was onto the next without taking any time to sit down and appreciate what I was actually creating.

This was all going swimmingly (*heavy sarcasm*) until last summer when I hit a wall. Or as blogger Amber Burns put it in her recent newsletter, “I didn’t break up with hustle culture, it dumped me, HARD.”

This January the New York Times published a feature titled, “Why are Young People Pretending to Love Work?” which was a followup to BuzzFeed’s viral op-ed essay, “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.” In both articles, the writers address the growing dangers of “hustle culture” for glamorizing unhealthy work-life balance among millennials, many who have taken on this collective mindset of “work hard, play hard, do everything, you’ll sleep when you’re dead.”

I have definitely fallen into this hustle culture trap, especially with freelance work, where your success is based off how much or little you’re putting in. But what I didn’t realize until I hit my wall was how much I was sacrificing along the way. Sleep, mental health, physical health, time with loved ones, the ability to be spontaneous, the ability to see what things were/weren’t actually working in my life, and just a general enjoyment of the little things in life — the things whose value aren’t related to furthering my goals but simply for making me happy.

This past year I’ve been working on overhauling my knee jerk reaction to overplan and overcommit in the name of the “hustle” (literally just rolled my eyes so hard at my own use of the word “hustle”). I hate to admit it, but it’s a hard habit to undo! At least once a week I catch myself stressing about all the things I’m trying to balance at any given moment. How do I keep up with friends outside and inside of NYC AND work on my long-term work projects AND enjoy my time of creativity AND carve out time for working out AND be there for my family 2000 miles away AND still have time for myself?

The answer I learned after a particularly rough week is that I can’t do everything at once and that’s okay. It’s okay to put some tasks to the side, it’s okay to unplug, and more than anything, it’s okay to sit on the couch and do nothing. Because what matters even more than the external accomplishments around me are all the things happening inside my overzealous, passionate, ever-changing mind and heart.

^^ Favorite Billy Joel song that I listen to on repeat when the stress sets in. ^^

This is all easier said than done and this past month I’ve been doing a bit of a life revamp, or a mental decluttering if you will. This means I’ve been slowing down and prioritizing self-care over everything else, which is hard! Choosing to go on a run, or sit and read, instead of driving myself crazy over a pitch letter has felt like I’m reseting my mental code. But this time around, this mental decluttering has truly allowed me to re-engage with productivity in a more focused and intentional way — which feels like a breathe of fresh air. Now I set timers for how long I’m going to work on something each day, I don’t try and do 18 things in my two free hours after work, and in general, I feel more on my own team. It’s a work in progress but it feels good to be doing it slowly but surely.

So if you’re in the same boat, consider this my permission slip to you to slow down you crazy child, and do something just for the joy of it today. All the chores will still be there after you take 30 minutes to turn off your phone and paint your nails but your mindset will have shifted into an entirely different space. You can still be ambitious and passionate and yes, productive, while also having a healthy, balanced life. This is not something you have to earn, but something you inherently deserve.

So best wishes my recovering over-productive friends, you are worth all of your dreams coming true as well as the time to sit and enjoy the hell out of life in the most unproductive, spontaneous, adventurous, relaxing ways.

To be honest, I think this might have been my own permission slip as well.

What is Creativity Anyways?

Hey, long time no see! Would you believe that I’ve been working on this post for weeks and every time I sat down to give it a whirl, found myself needing to suddenly clean out my closet or re-seal my bathtub? Sometimes it stuns me how much a break can affect my entire creative routine and despite me loving writing, how hard it can be to jump back on the horse.

Since June I have been struggling with my creativity and lacking what my therapist recently named as “my muse” — which made me feel like an 18th century painter. It just seems that every time I sit down to write I feel so overwhelmed to make something perfect that I often don’t finish anything at all. As any good overthinking introvert would do, this entire experience has left me questioning long into the night the concept of creativity: Is it a muscle that needs to be worked everyday or do I give it a rest and wait for it to come back? How do I stay focused in the midst of longterm creative goals? And how do I get creative with my creativity? (To name a few.)

Lucky for me, I’m not the only one contemplating these big creative life questions. While stumbling around in the dark trying to find my own answers, I found that The Layman has been doing the exact same, and it got me thinking: Where does creativity come from for me?

[Shameless plug: The Layman is a new 1021 Creative YouTube series hosted by one of my favorite humans Alex Sargeant. After years of making YouTube videos for other people, Alex is stepping out on his own to answer life’s big questions with the help of some very smart people. This episode above features one of my best friends from childhood Robbie McCarthy — a former Master Lego builder, classical composer, musician of all the instruments,  and founder of Air-Schooled. The episode is all about creativity and it’s definitely worth hitting that subscribe button for.]

Continue reading

The “Perfect Moment” Myth

^^ Saw this shared by Curly Girl Designs this morning and it felt like a sign to sit down and finally write this post. ^^

The idea of opening this blog started rattling around in my head about three months ago. Last year I made the decision to close down my longtime blog the Curious Case after an experience pushed me to reconsider the way I was sharing my life online. Once the dust had settled and I’d gotten back on my feet, I began to realize how much I missed having a corner of the internet to share my ideas and experiences upon — both the profound and my arguments that mariachi bands make everything better. But the more I got excited to start this, the more I found myself dragging my feet to get the work done.

Before I could possibly write, I’d think to myself, first I needed to clean my desk which would then turn into the entire apartment. I’d search Instagram and YouTube for “inspiration” and an hour later lament the fact that it was 11pm and I had nothing on the page. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to turn this idea into a reality, but it just wasn’t “the perfect time” I’d tell myself. Once I had organized all my spices, called every single family member, and planted a garden –essentially all the easy stuff on my to do list– then I’d be primed to devote all my energy to writing. Finally, after months of dragging my feet, I realized that I needed to reconcile my idea of “the perfect moment” if I was ever going to get this blog (and the countless lists of other passion projects) off the ground.

I often catch myself in the midst of a self-imposed “perfect moment” paradox. It’s not the perfect time to go to yoga because the house isn’t clean. It isn’t the right time to launch this blog because there aren’t enough blog posts on it. It isn’t the right time to date because I’m still working on figuring myself out.

The myth of “the perfect moment” is by far my biggest productivity road block and at the end of the day “my perfect timing” excuse comes from being perfectly nervous to fully commit. Because what if it doesn’t work out? What if all that dreaming and hoping and hard work comes to nothing? What does that say about me? It’s scary to give your ideas a real shot because when they’re floating around in your head they’re still untouchable to reality. But they’re also untouchable to anyone else but you.

Continue reading