The Math Doesn't Work Out

I'm trying to build for the future. But will it pay off?

watercolor infinity pool with mountains in the background
Image created via Midjourney

Am I being pulled in a million directions all the time? Yes.

When I worked in fintech, I spent zero time on the things that I care about. I'd occasionally write in my blog, but nothing else that fulfilled me creatively. By the end of the day, I was drained from work and parenting.

In early 2020, I finally felt like I had space to breathe. Autumn was a toddler so not quite as exhausting as a newborn. I took up watercolor painting. I'd spend hours per week practicing while listening to audiobooks and watching tutorials to learn new techniques.

But then the pandemic hit and all that fell by the wayside. I was overwhelmed by having all three kids at home. I was back to zero time for myself.

On top of that, by October I was certain that I would pivot careers and focus on writing. I needed to build a portfolio. I was spending every free moment I had writing articles for a content agency.

I found a full-time job as a content marketer, but the pay was a fraction of what I was making as an executive. And I was fine with that: I was starting over. But to supplement our household income, I kept a few freelance clients. Still a lot of work, still very little time for myself.

Enter a second new job in October of last year. I also wanted to continue to grow as a writer and build my online presence. I started a newsletter and created several digital resources.

I had all kinds of plans. But the smallest thing in "life" could derail me. Maybe it was a sick kid or just a day when I didn't feel great. Or writing an article for one of my freelance clients took longer than planned. It always felt like I could plan so much, and accomplish so little. And I was still left with little time for myself.

It's like a math problem that can't be solved. Numbers keep dividing into infinity. There's always a remainder that makes the decimal longer and longer and longer... never ending. I keep shifting my personal goals to accommodate my other obligations and every time I have to do that I sigh. And feel like I haven't done enough. Should I put in longer hours? Try to cut out more distractions?

It's caused me to reflect on a lot lately. What do I enjoy? What do I want to be doing, as a creative person who has never operated in a creative capacity until a few years ago? What brings me joy and what feels like a drag?

I don't have answers yet, but I'm asking the questions. For the first time, I've written out some goals, like "Where do I want to be in 5 years?" I've always wanted to publish a book, but have no time to work on it. So how do I make time? What gives? Or is that more of a "someday when the kids are older" type of dream?

I'm trying to build for the future. But will it pay off?

It's a tricky balance. We also have bills to pay and are accustomed to our lifestyle. When I quit my job in early 2021 and reduced our overall family income significantly, I felt guilty. Like Why should my family have to make sacrifices just so I can find work that makes me happy?  I still struggle with that.

Or am I setting an example for my kids that work should be fulfilling and that it's worth the effort to spend time looking?