Based on all the things I post on social media and all of my endeavors (parenting, fiance-ing, work, blogging, hair tutorials, documentary filmmaker, etc), I am often times ask how do I manage to balance it all. In fact, I’ve been listening to more and more podcasts about women, specifically women of color who are entrepreneurs, and that is always one of the first questions (if not THE first question) during an interview. “Such and such, how are you maintaining a healthy work/life balance? What are some good tips?”
First and foremost, there needs to be some clarity around what a healthy work/life balance actually means. More specifically, what the word “balance” means. We tend to assume that balance is equivalent to 50/50 when in actuality, there is no such thing. As much as I love Teddy P and his jam, “When Somebody Loves You Back” (also known as 50/50 love) I don’t find that equation to be relevant… at least not today. AND that’s not a bad thing either.
This concept didn’t become real into me until I was knee deep in college and parenting at the same time. I would always feel guilty because I either felt like I was focusing too much on my studies and not enough on my daughter, or too much on my parenting and not enough on school. It wasn’t until I got to graduate school that I truly understood my journey had to be walked a day at a time – and not feel bad about it. Some days I had to put myself in a zone and pull some late nights while Addy entertained herself and we ate fast food because I didn’t have time to cook. Other days I said “ta hell with class” and slept in or picked Addy up from school early so I could spend some time with her.
I carry that concept universally now. It’s relevant with all of my identities – all of my endeavors. When my hours at my 9-5 get to be hectic, I pull back on one (of my many) creative projects until the tasks are complete. For example, rather than writing 3 blog posts this week, I may only write one to make sure I at least put forth some effort and to stay consistent with my writing altogether.
On days I know I need to film, I try to schedule those days with space in between so my daughter isn’t always away from me (she not ready to be on set yet lol). This works for me.
So how do I manage a healthy work/life balance? I understand that 90/10, 80/20, 70/30, & 60/40 mean “balance” too – not just 50/50. Some areas will get a greater percentage out of me on some weeks than others. I accept that because that is where I am.I’ve learned to accept my “W’s” as they come. I may not cook a nutritious meal for my household everyday but I guarantee you they never go without a meal – whether it’s made by my hands or picked up from the drive thru. I may not be further along with my film than I originally wanted to be but I’m gaining more and more skills by the day.
We tend to get all bent out of shape and frustrated because we feel our efforts or inadequate and half-ass. We set ourselves up with unrealistic goals from the jump and get upset when they aren’t accomplished in the way we originally intended. Ultimately, there is no such thing as 50/50. You do the best with what you have when you have it and you get real honest with yourself.
Just don’t tip the scale over.
Over the past couple of years, the culture has definitely shifted from going to school to get a good 9 to 5 job and ultimately working for someone else to “F the man – I’m working for myself.” There has even been a surplus of FB groups dedicated to encouraging people to quit their day jobs (with a plan in place of course) and fully invest their time (and resources) into their own entrepreneurial endeavors. I agree with some of these sentiments as I’m even in the process of working on my own creative gigs that I hope to turn into my full-time profession, but I can’t dismiss what I’ve gained from working my 9 to 5 that aids in the current success of my entrepreneurial endeavors.
I know it can be hard to shift your brain throughout the day from full-time work to entrepreneur work but as the saying goes, perception is reality. If you perceive your 9 to 5 to be nothing but a distraction and barrier to your 5 to 12, that is exactly how it is going to feel when you approach the latter part of your day. If you perceive your 9 to 5 to be a stepping stone, you will find that it can help boost your daily flow.
Below are 4 ways that my 9 to 5 help boost my creativity and pour into my entrepreneurial endeavors.
For those who may not know, I am immersing myself in the world of filmmaking and currently in mid-production of my first feature film, The Kinloch Doc (view teaser here). Because this is a new endeavor, I can’t even express how challenging (yet rewarding) it has been to manage all that encompasses creating a film…..with a day job…..and a kid….and a fiance…..and etc. My current role is an Administrative Coordinator for a college access program so 95% of my job is to take care of logistical tasks from behind the scenes and make sure everything is in order – emphasis on order. Filmmaking requires a lot of pre-planning and order from scheduling interviews, renting equipment, conducting interviews, editing projects on a deadline, etc. My administrative coordinator role enhances that skillset so I’m more than prepared during production.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust myself to work for myself 100% at this point in my life. My level of discipline is not where it needs to be. Like, if God said “Alana, quit your job and go work for yourself” I’d probably say, “Wait, I aint ready yet.” It’s something about a pre-established schedule and expectations set for me that helps make my job a little easier. Maybe because I’ve been conditioned to learn and work that way all my life so approaching anything new so abruptly would cause more anxiety than excitement. However, I am taking this time to translate my work discipline into my creativity: setting my own deadlines and following them, seeking out people to hold me accountable, task follow through and completion, etc.
Because I am looking forward to working on my own projects when I clock out, it helps me approach my work tasks with more dedication, discipline, and efficiency. Ultimately, I want to get all of my necessary tasks out of the way so I can start working on what I really want to work on. Consider it rewarding yourself for a job well done.
Self explanatory. For me (and in general), making a film is EXPENSIVE and contingent upon how much money I have available at any point in time, that will dictate my production timeline. You need a steady flow of income that will help fund your other endeavors until those endeavors can consistently fund themselves. I try to treat my film like its own bill and have a completely separate bank account with another institution that I only use for my film and any film related expenses.
I know many of us are counting down the days, hours, and minutes to where we can ultimately be our own boss but until that day comes, find value and contentment where you currently are. I’m fortunate enough to have a job that I enjoy and colleagues that I loooooove working with, AND they also understand and support the fact that this job is only temporary for me. I know that is not a reality for everyone. However, there is reasoning and purpose for the now and with a few minutes of self-reflection and introspection, there are several things we can pull away from our 9 to 5 that will enhance our 5 to 12.
Make it work for YOU.
I don’t know about you, but whenever the end of the year approaches, it sends me straight into reflection mode; borderline reminiscent. Knowing me, I never checked in on myself throughout the year to see how I was doing so consequently, November and December have become my annual “evaluation months.”
Blogging has actually been one of my struggle areas this year so this post alone is my way of holding myself accountable to keep adding to my successes.
It’s one thing to entertain thoughts and then ignoring them when you no longer feel like dealing with it, but having your thoughts written down on paper, tangible and convicting, it moves you to action.
Below are things I have identified as successes and struggles within my life throughout 2017. Here goes nothing:
I knew I would be in repayment this month because that would have made 6 months since I finished graduate school. It’s a topic I willingly choose to avoid and if I don’t wise up, could have very serious ramifications on my credit in the future. In a nutshell, I didn’t plan ahead of time for this inevitable expense that I know would be coming to disrupt my life. I DON’T WANT TO GIVE THEM A DIME! But that’s not an option (not if I want to live a peaceful life at least). I figured if I ignored them long enough, they would disappear. I know. I know. Childish but real as hell.
Quality time with my daughter.
I’m always up on my toes; always on the move. I told myself (and my daughter) that once I graduated, it was going to be more of her and I. Instead, I found other things to busy myself with. While my projects are not bad in them of themselves, I have yet to develop healthy discipline habits and boundaries with myself so I continue to make my daughter a ride-along with all my endeavors.
Oh I’ve been bitten by the spirit of gluttony all year (life) long. I stay spending money on fast food. I justify my habits by saying to myself “I’m too busy to cook throughout the week so it’s fine.” NO ALANA! IT’S NOT! I know I have a spending problem (because I have a discipline problem). But knowing don’t mean nothing if I’m not willing to do anything about it.
With the loss of yet another close family member this past summer, that was the last straw for a lot of my family members. So much discord occurred not even hours after the funeral, and many of us have yet to speak to each other to this day. I’ve become privy to the generational trauma that has impacted my family and finally able to identify and articulate it now. Especially, since it is affecting me now more than ever. Severing ties with certain family members and coming to terms with the fact that some relationships will no longer be as close as they once were (in addition to mourning over the death of a loved one) has taken a toll on me emotionally and spiritually. Apologies need to be given. I just don’t know how and when.
Letting go of Mae’s Closet.
After being honest with myself and understanding my capacity to do (or not to do) everything that I’m currently doing, I made the decision to pause Mae’s Closet in the upcoming year and work solely on my documentary, The Kinloch Doc. That decision was extremely emotional for me because of my reasoning for starting Mae’s Closet in the first place. I had to face my priorities and realize that Mae’s was not at the top (at least not at this moment). I’m going to miss the hell out of it though.
On a more positive note….
On May 17, 2017 @ 7pm, my daughter and I walked across the stage for the 2nd time. I’m the first in my immediate family to get a Bachelor’s degree let alone Masters. Anyone who is a first generation college student understands the weight of that burden. Creating roads as you walk because there wasn’t a guide laid before you. No shade. Just facts. But that was by far one of my proudest moments. I don’t ever want to stop “wowing” myself.
My place of employment is well aware of my other endeavors and fully support me as I work on them. My job provides me with the flexibility to work on my passion and for that I am grateful.
Alana Marie Productions, LLC
My production compant was birthed (in addition to Mae’s Closet, LLC). I want The Kinloch Doc to be housed under my own production company as I know I will be evolving in the field of media production. Makes me feel all official or whatever.
Paid off my credit card
and increased my credit score. I feel a certain way about the establishment of credit (like who created it and what is its true intended use) but since we need it, might as well work it in a way that will make my life easier.
My baby started second grade this year.
I can’t believe I have an entire 8-year-old. And she reads at the 5th grade level. I want her back in my belly…. sometimes.
for The Kinloch Doc this past April
I was accepted
into the inaugural media production program with Continuity, a local non-profit working to expand diversity within media production. Out of over 100 applicants, I am one of ten who was accepted.
One of the successes that I am most proud of, I started going to therapy
this past October. I’ve never been to therapy before and I always told myself I was too busy to ever go. I have a lot of unsettled issues that have grown to be excruciatingly bothersome over the years and I honestly feel like I am becoming stifled if I don’t get them addressed. People who know me know I don’t like asking for help (because I don’t always know what I need help with), so this is a big step for me.
I have a desire to be intentional about my growth and progress, my healing. While I am grateful for my accomplishments, I have enough discernment to know that there is more in store for me and there are many areas of my life that are in need of improvement. I am appreciative of every occurrence and circumstance from this past year and I’m looking forward to going into the new year with a renewed mind and grateful heart.
“I wish I could read for leisure more but I am just too busy” – said all of you. Ok, that’s an overgeneralized statement but I do see and hear that being said from many of you. One of the greatest lies ever told is that we simply don’t have enough time to (fill in the blank). It isn’t that we don’t have enough time; if we are honest with ourselves, we most likely don’t have enough discipline. I have that same issue and talk about it here, but I am proud to say that I have grown to be consistent over these past two weeks with a book in hand everyday. A few days prior to the new year, I made a commitment to read every single day from the books that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf. In fact, I am in the process of reading two books: I read 1-2 chapters of Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend every morning and I read 1-2 chapters of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond every night. These two books are of two totally different genres but both keep me equally engaged in the pages. I highly recommend both and will follow up with a book review for each once completed.
I am over halfway done with both books and I wanted to take the time in this post to share some tips that helped me get back to my favorite pastime.
- Do what I did above – make reading a part of your morning/nightly routine. If you want to start off slow, choose the time in which you have the most energy. I am everything but a morning person but the book I am reading (Boundaries) serves as a devotional to me which helps boost my day. I only read one chapter so I don’t get overwhelmed (unless that chapter sucked me in and I can’t stop reading. The book I read in the evening (Evicted) has longer chapters than Boundaries but is a highly engaging read and is relevant to what I am studying in my graduate studies program. It only takes me 30 minutes or less to get through one chapter per book.
- On your lunch break, leave your phone at your desk, in your locker, in your purse – anywhere but in your hand and take a book instead. You’d be surprised how much time we waste on the phone during the breaks we have allotted to us throughout the day. 30 minutes here to an hour there – you’d be done with a book in no time.
- We are the “continue to sit on the toilet even after we are done using it” generation. If you are going to just sit there, take the book with you. Try this out the first few times and I guarantee by the end of the week, you won’t even miss your phone.
- Scheduled any appointments for the upcoming week? Hair, dental, OBGYN – all good places to have a book handy. You already have to wait in the waiting room and then have to wait in the room before your doctor is ready to see you. Those few minutes slowly but surely add up so go ahead and knock some pages out.
- If you are so pressed to believe that you simply do not have the time to physically sit down and turn the pages of a book, try e-books. Download them and listen to them during your daily commute, while you exercise, while you are cooking, etc. It won’t feel as though you are interrupting your “most important” tasks throughout the day and you are killing two birds with one stone. Personally, I love the feel and smell of a good book and I need to see the words in order to paint a picture as I read.
See, five very doable ways to incorporate literature into (or back into) your schedule without hindering your fake ever-so-busy schedule. Try one, or several, of these tips for the next 7 days and keep me updated on your progress.
Time has progressively shown the value of education and has proven that the further along you go, the higher your salary will be depending on your profession. There has been an influx of adults choosing to go back to school just to keep up with the market and many adults are going back with an already full plate: full-time job, spouse, and kids. If you are a traditional college student (enroll and complete college straight after high school) there are tons of resources readily available for you. There is a large population of students who fall into the non-traditional route but provide a unique perspective in the classroom from being outside of it for so long. As a non-traditional student, I had to learn as I went and figure things out by failing and making other attempts until I got it right. There were some resources provided for me but I had to search deep down yonder for them. For those of us who happen to have more responsibilities than the average student, here are a few things to keep in mind if you are considering going back to school or finishing up your degree.
Identify the Purpose Behind Going Back
College is expensive and the price of education is never going to stop increasing. I personally believe in the value of formal education as well as real world schooling but I found purpose behind traditional higher education prior to going back. Are you going back just to say you went to college or is there opportunity for growth in your current field or you are considering switching fields? Prior to going back to school, I worked in a high school as a College Adviser where I constantly challenged my students to think critically about what it is they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. I am currently pursuing my Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Social & Economic Development and Policy. I see problems and I want to fix them but I also understand that in order for me to make a decent living, I need that degree.
“If money was never a factor and you could choose one thing to wake up to everyday, what would it be?”
The cost of college isn’t just tuition. Add books, fees, health insurance, daily living expenses (rent, car insurance, phone bill, gas, etc.), childcare. It is never the sticker price. Essentially, it would be cheaper to attend a community college than a four-year university or at least spend the first couple years at a community college and transfer to save money. Will your current place of employment help pay for your education or reimburse you? Complete your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to see your eligibility for financial aid at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Contact the financial aid adviser at the universities of your choice to discuss funding options (loans, grants, scholarships, work study, etc.). Never take no as the first answer. I contacted my financial aid office several times until I was able to speak with the head person in charge about increasing my financial aid so I could cover all of my expenses. Remember, there is ALWAYS money.
My grandmother was 51 when she completed her Associate’s degree after having been married for over 30 years and 7 children. I cannot fathom how hard she had to work just to keep up and the amount of resources and support system she needed to be able to finish. As an adult student, our needs are different. It may take us a little longer to read and complete assignments, classmates may have to work around our schedule for group projects, professors may need to extend grace for us to submit assignments past the deadline and may need to allow us to bring our children to class if we aren’t able to find a sitter or take them to school. These are all questions that need to be asked prior to enrolling so departments on campus that cater to adult students are easily identified – that’s if the school offers resources for adult learners period. Do you have a learning disability and need to be accommodated for that? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 8.2 million people over the age of 25 million enrolled in college. That is a large percentage of people who require greater support to navigate their college journey.
Research Accommodations for Student-Parents
Being an adult learner is one thing but continuing your education with dependents is a whole different monster. Choosing to go back to school may require you to leave your full-time job or at least cut back on hours but that doesn’t mean your bills cut back and neither does the time that you have in a day. Does the school you are choosing to attend have a family-friendly policy? Does the financial aid office increase your package to accommodate childcare expenses? Is there a childcare center on campus and does it provide a subsidy and stipend for students to enroll their children there? How many other students attend that campus have children and can support each other? Are there readily accessible lactation centers throughout campus? Is there a policy in place to grant extensions if your child is sick and you aren’t able to attend campus that day to submit an assignment? College is so much more than completing a degree. It is a life-changing journey that affects more than just you so the babies need to feel as secure as you do.
Retention Rates & Testimonials
How long does it take students to graduate from the program? How long does it take students with children to graduate from the program? Have you reached out to alumni from that university to ask about their experience and what they are currently up to? Ask them what advice could they offer you to best help you make your decision on going back to school. Don’t invest the cash and time if the chances of you completing are slim to none. There are always exceptions, but fortunately, numbers don’t lie.
You will need help! You most likely need help now and you haven’t even started school yet. There will be times where you may need to enroll in an evening class or your child’s daycare/school is closed but you still have class. Who is in your life that you trust to help you while you finish your degree? Can watch the kids when you have class? Can pick the kids up/drop kids off when you aren’t able to? Can help tutor you if it’s a subject you don’t understand? Can slide over with a bottle of red wine when the semester just gets to be too much? Are there other students you can identify with (specifically minorities, older adults, and parents) and you all can support each other throughout the program? Inform the people closest to you about what you are getting ready to do and provide them a schedule and requests you have of them ahead of time. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to help you finish school.
Most importantly, it is never too late to acquire education. Whether that is formal or getting schooled in life. Enrolling in college is a milestone regardless of age and should be given much time, patience, and effort.
Have you thought about going back to school? If so, what do you want to go back for?
“I don’t care what the statistics say. This little Black girl believes in the power of prayer as well as counseling and therapy” – this is a status I posted a few months ago to FB and it continues to resonate. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to use this platform to address this topic as my very own mental health was threatened quite a bit over the past couple of months as well as the mental health of others who are close to me.
Being enrolled in a Social Work program, you are bombarded with statistics and information about marginalized & impoverished communities and a whole bunch of other academic terms. It gets beyond exhausting and discouraging to see Blacks at the bottom of every positive list and at the top of every negative list, relatively speaking. Historically, mental health and the Black population have had their own set of challenges. Even with all the pain our culture has endured for hundreds of years, one would think that alone would cause us to jump leaps and bounds to seek out help but our actions are the complete opposite and continues to be. According to Mental Health America, 63% of Blacks consider depression a personal weakness, 56% of Blacks believe depression is a “normal” part of aging, and Blacks are less likely to take antidepressants for treatment of depression.
Therein lies the problem. Not only is it a shared narrative that Blacks can inherently withstand harsh treatment and it is “normal” for us to suffer, but now we carry that same belief that continued pain, depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns are a normal part of our lives – that it’s just supposed to happen.
I, too, believed the hype. Back in February, I wrote a post titled No, I’m Not Ok and in there I made the claim that I was not depressed.
D.E.N.I.A.L. Symptoms of depression reared its ugly head not too long after making that post and it affected my world a great deal.
On top of taking 18 credit hours in a graduate program (I will never do that again…EVER), 3 jobs, Addyson, my relationship, Mae’s Closet, social life…. I lost it. My desire for church fizzled out because Sunday mornings were the only time I could actually sleep in and that’s all I wanted to do. Besides, being in church only caused me to think about all the things I still needed to get done that day once church was over. My appetite decreased causing me to lose weight (hell, I’m already small), Addyson & I would go weeks at a time with the same hairstyle because I simply did not have the time nor the energy to switch it up, I grew irritable and moody but everything I was doing would continue to feed my depression rather than address it. My craving to stay busy was the very thing that enhanced my mental health concern and I didn’t know how to get out of the cycle. To this day, I am still battling with the idea of taking a break and not feeling guilty about it because “things still need to get done.”
Let’s just say, I’ve come to the end of myself and only by prayer and wise counsel from others am I able to get back to a healthy state of mind. The idea of enduring pain for long periods of time and sitting in “funks” no longer felt normal to me and I wanted to do something about it. That’s the crazy thing about depression. You hate the state that you are in but it becomes so comfortable that the idea of physically having to do something different causes even greater anxiety and you fall into a state of complacency. Don’t let social media images and successful posts fool you. I’ve attained a lot this year and last year and am very grateful for it, yet and still, feelings of gloom still consumed me.
Having quiet time with God in the mornings before I started my day used to give me a great boost but the idea of having to get up early in the morning would mean I would have to miss out on much-needed sleep and I wasn’t ready for that – even though I knew it would help.
Eating healthier meals would help me focus more on my work and give me the energy to keep up with my busy lifestyle but that would mean I would have to actually cook more often and meal prep, and I just didn’t feel like it.
See where I am going with this?
Depression is a constant cycle of defeat and if we aren’t careful, it is so easy to get stuck there.
Since coming to the end of myself, I’ve forced myself to get up and attend church service, made some healthier food purchases, removed some social media apps from my phone until I’m ready to hop back on, and for the first time in SEEEEEEVERAL months, I had quiet time with God this morning. Rather than pouring a cup of coffee, I had a smoothie. All baby steps BUT it’s a start and today, I feel better.
Depression isn’t normal. Suicidal thoughts aren’t normal. Not eating isn’t normal. All these things are very common but it doesn’t make it normal. They are all a detriment to our livelihood and we have to take these things seriously when they arrive.
Even though it doesn’t feel like it, we have control over those thoughts. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”– 2 Corinthians 10:5
Just because the seed of depression is planted doesn’t mean we have to water it.
Seek help. Unashamed. Black, White, Green, Fluorescent Beige – whatever your color is. There are professionals in the field whose sole job is to provide that counsel to get us through those seasons.
Address that feeling of being down and feeling complacent. Stop normalizing suffrage and reclaim joy. Research different therapists and counselors in your area, what your insurance/employer will cover, and what sessions are free. The resources are out there. We just need to take that step towards peace..
“Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” – 2 Corinthians 3:17