Two weeks ago I was on an airplane flying to the East Coast. I have my most profound creative and emotional moments on airplanes. I have come to learn I am not alone — that many people experience intense emotion and feelings of clarity while suspended in air. I have my deepest ponderings on airplanes. I have had some of my most weighty AHA! moments on airplanes, and come up with some of my greatest ideas.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the question, What Makes a Good Life? and on the airplane that day two weeks ago, I was thinking about it deeply (of course). So I took my pen drew the question in my sketchbook (top image, above) while we were flying over the United States, somewhere between Seattle and Washington, DC.
The next day in Rhode Island, our first stop on the trip, I photographed the spread, posted it on Instagram and asked my followers what they thought made a good life. You can see the results here. I also explained underneath the photo that I have been thinking a lot about this question lately, mostly because I am experiencing a new level of weariness in my life, which has lead to more labored attempts at creativity, less motivation and an almost constant state of anxiety about getting things done.
I need to come out of the closet and admit it: Hi, my name is Lisa and I’m fried.
I have a thriving career, a solid, loving relationship, a close circle of devoted friends and a loving family — all markers of my own idea of some of the things that make a good life. I’m enormously grateful for all of those things. But lately I have also been experiencing unprecedented fatigue and malaise. That fatigue and malaise are, ironically, the result of the thriving career I mentioned earlier. I have spent the past six years working long days and with feverish devotion to build my illustration and writing career and take advantage of every opportunity that has come my way. And I have done it with energy, love and enthusiasm. And all of that work has paid off. But, as a result, I am now really tired. The kind of tired you can feel in your bones.
The #1 question people ask me is some version of this: You do so much in your career and you seem to have so much energy! How do you do it? I have never really known how to answer that question, and my answer is usually some version of sacrifice! discipline! long hours! taking the best possible care of myself that I can when I’m not working!
But lately, I’ve been wanting to say, I work too much! I’m burned out!
Truth is, it’s time for me to work less, create space around the projects and travel I do commit to and begin to slow down. My happiness, health and quality of life depend on it.
Okay, back to the question I posed on Instagram. I got over 90 responses in the comments. So on my way back home (also on an airplane) over last weekend, I drew in my sketchbook the most common responses to the question What Makes a Good Life (as proposed my my Instagram followers). You can see a photo of that sketchbook above too.
What people didn’t say was working long hours! success! to-do lists!
What they did say was relaxation! curiosity! mindfulness! rest! family! friends! (and on and on). I couldn’t agree more.
I would not change anything about the past six years of my life and the sacrifices I made. I am gratified by and grateful for my career, following, books, clients, opportunities, travel, new friends, everything I’ve learned — all of it.
But it’s also time for me to make a shift. I will be writing about and documenting that shift here. I am not sure it’s going to be easy. I am not sure I really know how to relax anymore. Or that I won’t want to fill up my new “free time” with more projects. So, this should be interesting! And probably a little bit funny. And I look forward to sharing my thoughts about how it’s going here.
Stay tuned for more, soon.