Mar 17

Marathon Mindset: Embracing Life’s Slow Burn

Recently I caught myself getting really mad about how long things take. Generally, I’m a pretty patient person. Even though I would like instant validation, I don’t expect it. And that’s because there’s a long road ahead of me. I embrace the time it takes for things to happen because that’s the marathon mindset.

Embracing the Marathon Mindset

I’ve written about the yoga approach to life before, and the marathon mindset is similar. Only with the marathon mindset, you gotta be cool with how long life takes.

Almost daily I hear someone complaining about how people have no attention span these days. They’re used to the immediacy of information accessed from a pocket-sized computer that we call a phone. And maybe that’s true.

But I don’t think it is for everyone. I think most people know that life’s a slow burn.

Sure, I want what I want when I want it. But I’m an adult. I know that I can’t just take a vacation in the middle of the week. I can’t go out to dinner every single night. I can’t stay up late reading just because the book is good. I can’t keep clicking on the next episode just because Netflix has the whole series available.

I mean, I could definitely do all these things. But there are consequences.

It’s kind of like with running a marathon. You can’t blow all your energy by hardcore sprinting the first few miles. Your pace has to be even and measured. You have to strategize. You have to think about how you’ll not only approach the beginning of the race, but the middle and end too. And should you choose to start the race at a dead sprint, there will probably be consequences. That is, unless you’re a super human who can sprint 26.2 miles.

(Side note: I’ve only ever run a half marathon, and I’ve openly and loudly stated on multiple occasions that it was the worst day of my life. This is a metaphor, though. And metaphors mean that I don’t actually have to run.)

I'm embracing the marathon mindset in all aspects of my life. Click To Tweet

So, rather than feeling impatience take over, I’m embracing the marathon mindset in all aspects of my life. Here’s what that looks like:

The Marathon Mindset at Work

In my career, it’s easy to be impatient. I want recognition and validation immediately. I want to move ahead and make a spot for myself, and I want to do it faster than anyone else. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s not about how fast others run the marathon, because if you try to keep pace with others, you’re going to burn out.

Instead, I focus on doing the best I can at work, and trust that I will be recognized when it’s time. Just like when you get the medal when you cross the finish line, I’ll eventually get recognition for the hard work I put in.

The Marathon Mindset at Home

Have you ever tried to remodel a home? Because holy hell. Living in a house with a person you love while trying to be a normal human being and simultaneously remodeling said house is like running a marathon on an obstacle course that some jerk set on fire. Everything is a hazard.

But by embracing the marathon mindset, I can be patient with home renovations. I know that they take time and money, and they’ll be done when they can be done. Similarly, I like to take the long way round when it comes to chores — doing a little bit at a time. It can be easy to get bent out of shape if your living situation isn’t ideal, but be real. When has your living situation ever been ideal?

The Marathon Mindset with Your Side Hustle

This is definitely the hardest for me. I feel like I’ve been writing my whole life, and it’s easy to feel like a failure when you don’t feel success and recognition immediately. But that’s the thing with writing. It’s naturally a slow burn anyway, because who the hell writes a novel in a day? No one.

Embracing the marathon mindset as a writer means that I have to not only acknowledge that writing is going to take hella long, but that achieving any amount of success from it will take even more time.

What does the marathon mindset look like to you? Click To Tweet

So there you have it. That’s how I embrace the marathon mindset in my everyday life. What about you? What does the marathon mindset look like to you?

Dec 16

Busy Is a Choice

Busy is a choice you make.

When I worked for the Institute of Reading Development, we had a very intense pep talk from the head honcho. It was intense because he read some amazing literature to us, and because he dropped the sort of knowledge that I don’t expect from bosses. (Granted, I have worked for all the worst companies in Oklahoma. You can read about the job from hell here.) Essentially, he told us that we had to be on time for the job. But what’s more, he said that being on time is a choice. And I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with anything more.

The reasoning behind it was that you know what time you have to be somewhere. You know how long it takes to get there. You know that there are factors that could inhibit you actually getting there. So you do the math and work out when you have to leave. And sure. This should be a subconscious process. Everyone should be capable enough to arrive on time. Except, think about how many people you know who aren’t.

I’m not talking about the people who are occasionally late, because we all are. What I’m talking about are the people who are ALWAYS late. These are the people who have never figured out how to calculate the time it will take to get where they’re going.

I believe this sort of lack of awareness is pervasive. For surely as there are people who are always late, there are people who are always busy. And these are the people who do not understand why they happen to be that way.

Busy Is a Choice

Now, let me explain. I understand that everyone has a lot of things going on. Balancing work and life is hard enough. In fact, there are days, perhaps weeks or months when that balance is non-existent. But we’re capable adults. We make things work. And we get through the busy times because we know there will be time off soon. And without those busy times, would we fully appreciate the time off? Would we still marvel at the novelty of sleeping in, or reading a book from cover to cover one Sunday afternoon, or enjoy a Friday happy hour with friends? I maintain that we would not.

Without those busy times, would we fully appreciate the time off? Click To Tweet

And I don’t want anyone to walk away thinking that I don’t acknowledge that some people are busier than others. I do. In fact, I will also acknowledge that if your busyness is a choice, it’s probably because you possess a privilege that others don’t. After all, if you’re working two jobs to keep the heat on through the winter, then it probably doesn’t feel like much of a choice.

If you are that person, I hope something gives and you’re able to live comfortably without having to work so much.

But I suspect the majority of my readers aren’t that person. I’m not that person, and that’s why I can proclaim from the top of the mountain that busy is a choice.

When We Don’t Choose Busy

I’ve been cutting way the heck back on my busy lately. I think a lot of the need for busy I felt came from a place of anxiety. For so long I had to work multiple jobs to keep the wheels from falling off. And for so long I had gone to school full-time while working full-time. My brain was apparently incapable of existing in a world where it wasn’t busy to the point of exhaustion every day.

I don’t do that anymore. I’ve significantly cut down on the amounts of extra things, especially since I spent the majority of the year as a writhing burn out monster. And I do that for my sanity. I do it so I can write what I want to write. I do it so I can devour a book or more a week. I do it so I don’t constantly feel that fight or flight stress. I do it because busy is a choice.

So, if you’re always busy and you have yet to analyze why, ask yourself what choices you’re making. Are you busy, or just manic? Can you cut something out for the sake of your sanity? The answer is almost always yes, and you almost always should. If you feel behind, constantly overworked, or like you’re spinning your wheels, remember that busy is a choice. No one else can get you out of that but you.

I think, by now, the pop psychology of the day has instilled in us the notion that saying yes to one thing means saying no to another. So, I would like you to apply this to busy. Are you saying yes to busy because you’re saying no to a manageable lifestyle? Are you saying yes to a second job so you can afford something that you might not actually need? Are you saying yes to helping someone even though it means saying no to working on your own stuff?

Are you busy? What can you cut out right now to choose a less busy life? Click To Tweet

To bring it all back around again, just as we all know that person who is perpetually late, we also know that person who is perpetually busy. I used to be that person. I refuse to ever be that person again.

Are you busy? What can you cut out right now to choose a less busy life?

Sep 16

The Transformative Practice of Saying No

Before you get too far into this post, just know that I’m not so good at saying no. I’m working on it, which is to say that someday I hope to be an expert who says no to like 89% of everything.

The Transformative Practice of Saying No

Saying no is hard for many reasons. For me, I think it’s a combination of expectations people have for my gender, as well as the how I was socialized to be accommodating and flexible IN EVERY SITUATION. (That’s a whole blog post in itself, and I have a short story I’ve been working with on the subject. Suffice it to say that I haven’t worked through it all and I’m still figuring out how to tell people that I actually have preferences and opinions.)

Even so, I know that saying no is important because I want to have time to do what I want to do. Too often saying yes means adapting to someone else’s agenda for your time. And while there are times when you absolutely have to devote your energy to things you don’t want to, it really sucks when you find you’ve willingly devoted your energy (and the fucks in your bucket) just because you’re being accommodating and trying to help someone else out.

Picture this:

It’s Friday at 5 PM, and you’ve had a terrible week at work. You’ve agreed to go out for drinks with a few coworkers because it sounds fun, but also because it’s habit to say yes. By the time you leave the office, all you really want to do is put on your pajamas and talk to a pile of takeout Chinese about your week, but you go out anyway, because you said yes when you were asked.

You wind up staying out later than you planned, so naturally you sleep in on Saturday. But you still don’t get enough sleep because you told someone yes when they asked you if you wanted to the farmer’s market. While it’s not really your thing, you haven’t seen that friend in a while, and maybe it would be nice to have some local produce.

After looking at vegetables you don’t even like for two hours, you head home to work on a project. Someone contacted you about writing a story for their blog, and you said yes. Retrospectively, it’s nothing you really wanted to write, but you said yes without thinking, so you spend 2 hours on Saturday doing it.

After you send off a crap draft that means nothing to you, you take a shower and get dressed so you can go to a party that is full of people you used to know pretty well, but not so much anymore. You said yes to the Facebook invite, but the whole drive there, your head is screaming no. 

You leave the party by midnight, and hit the bed hard. There were ten personal projects you wanted to do earlier that day, but you didn’t get to them. And you know that you won’t be getting up early on Sunday to do them because you’re exhausted. Who the hell does that many things in one weekend? Fucking crazy people. You know you’ll wakeup around 7 Sunday morning, which will give you enough time to do a load of laundry and get groceries and maybe prep some lunches for the week before you have to go to Sunday dinner with your family.

So, that whole scenario sucks, and I can’t tell you how many weekends of my adult life have looked like that. It may sound dumb, but I’ve spent a lot of time saying yes to things that I had no desire to do. I mean, I’m an introvert. I like to spend time reading the internet on my couch while my dog snores loudly by my side. I like to coerce my boyfriend into having date night at home so we can have popcorn and watch a movie we’ve seen a million times before. I don’t like going to loud places, being in large crowds, spending money, or feeling like I never got a break when it’s my day off.

So, how do you go from saying yes and giving all your time to others, to saying no and filling your time with what you want?

Saying No Takes Practice

As dumb as it may seem, saying no takes practice. It’s hard to say no when we’re hardwired to be positive. (I don’t know if we’re hardwired, it just kind of feels that way.) Also, the things people ask you to do are generally good things. Even now, if you were to ask me to attend a party, I’d probably say yes out of reflex. Parties are great, right? Well, for some. The thing about parties is that I get a social hangover. I hate having to be “on” for a large group of people, and I hate situations where I can’t just have small one-on-one conversations. Those are very exhausting for me. So parties, for the most part, are a no-go.

One thing I’ve found that makes saying no easier is giving the recipient of my no an alternative. When I tell someone I can’t work with them on a project, or that I don’t want to go to a big happy hour meet up, I usually try to suggest something else. Like instead of working on a project for someone else, I’ll suggest ways we can collaborate that are equally beneficial. I absolutely work one of my goals in there too, so I don’t feel like I’m saying yes and getting nowhere with my own work. If someone wants me to go to a big party, I’ll make an excuse about why I can’t go, but ask if they want to go have coffee or lunch sometime soon.

It’s taken years for me to get here, and I’m not 100% perfect at it, but this is how I started practicing saying no.

How I’ve Been Saying No

I’ve been saying no a lot lately, and more preemptively than anything else. I’ve functionally become inaccessible to my friends, which isn’t ideal, but it’s how things have to be right now. I’ve hit a point where I’ve realized that if I have to give 8 hours a day to a job, then I should also be giving 8 hours a day to passion projects. And saying yes to passion projects means saying no to going out, to hanging out, and to even texting back and forth. (Though, admittedly, I’ve been pretty incommunicado since discovering this super simple phone hack.) I also find that I don’t engage with people who I know will ask me to do things. I get tired of saying no, and I know they get tired of hearing it and sometimes get mad. So, I will simply avoid situations where people can ask me to do things I don’t want to do.

I’ve also been saying no to extra work a lot lately. This semester, I’m only teaching 4 classes instead of 5. (“Only” being a relative term, here.) I’m also trying to be very purposeful about how I spend my non-working hours. This means saying no to Netflix binges unless they happen on the treadmill, and mindless internet wandering. Now, if I could only cut out the mindless Snapchatting, I’d be hella productive.

But Shouldn’t I Be Saying Yes?


No, But Really

Why do we think that the whole world will open up to us if we say yes? I think pop culture and pop psychology want us to think that mindless positivity and acceptance of any and all invitations will lead us to a beautiful new life. But that’s really stupid. Seriously. If you say yes, you have to mean it. And to mean it, you have to want to say yes. If you don’t want to say yes, saying no is really the best answer.

And let me leave you with this. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “Saying yes to something means saying no to something else.” Think about that the next time you say yes to anything. What are you saying no to? And if you’re saying no to something you want to do, then is it really worth it so say yes?

Apr 16

A Lunch Picnic Is Where I Want to Be

Recently, Chris and I were able to have a lunch picnic on a weekday. How did our schedule get so flexible? I’lll explain.

lunch picnic - MarisaMohi.com

For the longest time, it felt like Chris and I were living in a terrible career nightmare. We were both doing things that were paying well enough, but weren’t what we wanted to be doing, or where we wanted to be in life. And it goes without saying that we were in no place to have a lunch picnic on a weekday.

We’re both creative people. Chris is a graphic designer by day, and by night he runs his own design company. I’m a college writing instructor by day, and by night I kind of just rant on the internet and occasionally write some fiction. Naturally, we’d both love to be in a position to focus on our creative pursuits 100% of the time, but that’s just not possible right now.

What is possible right now is being content with where we are. And I’m not saying we settled for what we have. Far from it. Instead, we’ve worked to make our lives what we want them to be. Basically, I’m saying we have the lunch picnic now, but maybe next year, we’ll have the travel to world for fun and profit lifestyle. Where we are right now is just a step on that journey, but it’s so far from where we’ve come.

Let me explain.

In 2014, I was working for a company I hated. I would commute roughly an hour in the morning, sit at my desk doing menial tasks befitting an intern for 8 hours, and then commute roughly an hour home. Even though in all my employee performance reviews I stated that I would like more responsibility, I was never given any. I was also never actually trained in anything the company did. Instead, from my first day until I left, I was given minor editing tasks, or was asked to burn CDs for clients, or I would test software. This is what I did as a technical writer. And while I’m aware that “other duties as assigned” is a part of all job descriptions, it shouldn’t make up 100% of the job.

So, I left and started my current job teaching. When I started, I didn’t have a full-time position, but I wasn’t going to be deterred by that. I knew it was more important for me to have something that I loved doing. Plus, I was relatively young. It wasn’t like I was making a big transition after being with a company for a long time. It wasn’t like I knew any industry incredibly well. In fact, the longest I’ve ever stayed at any one job has been 23 months. If you were to look at my resume, you’d see that I’ve hopped around from libraries to publishing to banking to defense contracting to teaching.

And why?

Well, the main reason is because I am directly affected by my environment. If you’re company is coo-coo banana pants terrible, I’m going to feel it. I’m basically like a Will Graham-level empath, only I don’t use my skills to catch Hannibal Lecter. Instead, I use them to basically absorb all the garbage in my immediate environment. Which is why I had to get to an environment with infinitely less garbage. (And why I enjoy a good lunch picnic on a weekday — so I can absorb that sunshine goodness.)

When I made the switch to teaching, the emotional change I felt was almost immediate. I’m no longer micromanaged by terrible bosses. I’m no longer expected to be chained to a desk for 8 hours a day. I’m no longer discouraged from socializing with coworkers. I’m no longer asked to copy files from one area of the server to another. (This shouldn’t make me as happy as it does, but until you’ve done that almost exclusively for nearly two years, you start to wonder what it is about you that makes your employers think you are a moron.)

Instead of working in a very cement-heavy urban area in a terrible part of town like I used to, I get to work on one of the most beautiful college campuses in the state. My daily walk from my car to my office takes me past trees, flower gardens, statues, and so many different types of architecture. Hell, I’m just overjoyed that I can open my office windows. It’s a joy to be so close to the outdoor world all the time. And it’s a joy to get to move around during my work day. (If you follow me on Snapchat, I share a lot of campus pictures! Username: gentlemarisa.)

I’ve also been given so much responsibility in my current position. And everyone in my department respects my opinion. In fact, I have not encountered one inferiority complex in my department since leaving that terrible job. (That was the biggest change for me, since the CEO at my old job basically turned his personal castration complex into the company’s mission.) On any given day, I can go to my supervisor and have an open and honest conversation, completely devoid of gossip and racism. (That shouldn’t be as novel as it is.) I can ask my coworkers their opinions, and they give them openly. We can all come together and share information in a very productive way. It’s amazing.

But, perhaps the very best part of my job is the freedom — and ability to have a lunch picnic — that comes with it. I teach 5 classes a week, and I have office hours each week. But I don’t have to be at my desk all day. I can grade papers at home or at a coffee shop if I want. Recently, the back patio has been my spot of choice. Just me, Rosie, and my laptop. It’s been fantastic.

And because I only teach 4 days a week, I don’t have to come to campus on Fridays. Typically, I use this day to grade and catch up, and, let’s be real here, take a nap at 3 PM on the couch with Rosie. (Before you call me lazy, know that this nap only lasts for about 10 minutes before that damn dog pushes me off the couch.)

Chris has found himself in a similar position lately. His company now offers flex time. He has changed his schedule so he’s working 9 hours Monday through Thursday, and he works a half day on Fridays. He can also start his day at 7 AM, instead of 8:30, which used to be the start time. This means that Chris has so much extra time in the afternoons and evenings to work on his company, which is amazing.

And last Friday, we took full advantage of his half day and met at the park for a lunch picnic. It may seem small, but it means more than just eating food outside. And it may not be where I want to end up, but a lunch picnic is where I want to be right now.