Some things you just can’t work your way through

Today was crazy. I’m sure your day was crazy as well. Whether you’re employed or forever stuck in job limbo you probably had a full list of things to do that did or did not get completed as planned. Do you keep lists? I keep lists. Sometimes they keep me on track and sometimes they remind me how easily I get distracted.

Things took a turn for the worse when a call came from home. A private family matter has come up that is entirely out of everyone’s control and there is nothing we can really do except continue moving forward — into a holiday that is all about family. I will not get into the details here, but suffice to say it was the kind of thing no one ever wants to receive a call about.

I was in shock. My heart was racing and my body was felt like it was riding a literal rollercoaster of emotions while my brain tried to process everything at the same time my stomach was probably starting to digest the last drops of my morning coffee. The holidays are right around corner and a trip back home was going to happen regardless of the latest developments, but suddenly the distance felt greater and the time even more precious.

It’s funny how we typically only consider the value of certain things – the most important things – in moments of crisis.

Time passed. I don’t know how long. Twenty Minutes. Maybe thirty. A ding from my computer notifying me to an incoming email snapped me back from the daze I had been lost within for the better part of the last half-hour. This week is usually quite slow, but with both major holidays beginning on the weekend people seem to be pushing their time at work a little later than usual. I read two emails and then read them again, trying hard to process easy information. My brain knew what it would typically be doing and wanted to go back to that routine in order to try and calm the rest of my system, but unfortunately for it and me it wasn’t working.

I had already worked on the social posts and blog content for the day, so my brain switched tasks and attempted to focus on those instead. Was everything timed well? Did I need to edit my writing again? I scanned and scrolled, but if I tell you the honest truth it all felt like a blur.

Frustrated, I turned my back to my computer and decided to take lunch. If work could not solve my problems I assumed tacos could. This theory was based on previous experiments that yielded great results, and I thought a little time in the sun might do me good. I put on music, then a podcast, and headed out in hopes of taking deep breathes of cool winter air. The cold wind on my face was a good distraction. The tacos were even better. In the end, however, I  was alone once again with only my thoughts and will for creativity at my side.

We live in a world today that tells anyone with an inkling of creativity that they need to channel everything they experience into their art (and by art I probably mean brand). Did you have a good day? Share some optimism with the world. Did someone break your heart? Write a song about it or draft a screenplay where you say everything you didn’t say in the moment. Take the moments that define who you are and make it something people can connect to because the only way to be anything anymore is to define yourself by being as relatable as possible to the widest, yet most niche demographic we can find.

I’m not saying I wanted to turn my recent family hardship into art or profit, but I am saying that when faced with the need to confront something difficult the thing my brain chose to run to was work. Imagine it as if a part of my brain were poking another part of my brain and slyly suggesting, “Why deal with this when we could do that thing we do with the things we’ve already dealt with? You know, get to work. Create!”

But working right now doesn’t change the fact that there are more important matters at hand. Getting to work will not undo or otherwise void the way life is changing around me and I need to process that. Anyone who finds themselves in a situation where close friends or family come calling needs to know that answering their call and taking action is what matters most. How we deal with things and how we alter our own paths based on the changes we are faced with will come in time, but first we have to step back from our work and art and whatever else we busy ourselves with to fully embrace our new realities. There is healing that needs to happen. You have to acknowledge the pain in order to allow that healing to begin.

So yea, today was pretty crazy. I learned something about myself that told me I need to focus on disconnecting from work in order to devote more of my attention to what matters most in the new year. Finding a perfect balance is probably impossible, but it’s worth working toward.


James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also the Film Editor for Substream Magazine, the host of the Inside Music podcast, and a 10-year music writing veteran. You should follow him on Twitter.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.