The Grind is Not My Ministry
There’s a meme floating around social media that suggests that 3 a.m. is the hour of creatives, writers, musicians, and artists. I’ve watched this movement of late nights early mornings for a while. I’d roll over in the wee hours of the morning and see late nighters (or early risers) up and at it — grinding. I’d grow to admire their work ethic thinking that their loss of sleep was a goal to aspire to.
For years I felt that working hard meant working a lot. That success was dependent upon how many hours you put in, and how late you’re willing to work. That staying up and sacrificing sleep was part of the game. So I tried to manifest success in that way, regardless of what my body and brain were trying to tell me. If I was up while everyone else slept, I deserved greatness; I deserved success; I deserved accolades.
At least, that’s what the narrative told me.
I set my calendar to begin writing at 9:00 p.m. and to end at 3:00 a.m. I barely made it to 11:00 p.m. half the time. Night-after-night my juice ran out well before the midnight hour. I learned, quickly, that this type of grind wasn’t my thing. Even as I sat alongside my then-boyfriend trying to match his late night creative hustle, I realized that his energy wasn’t enough to keep us both lit that late; I’d always retreat to bed before he even scratched the surface of his late-night work.
How would I ever finish writing a book if I couldn’t stay up during what’s supposed to be my most creative hours? How would I ever get promoted if I didn’t work past 5:00 p.m.? How would people know me if I don’t involve myself in every organization or activity I’m asked to be part of? How would I ever be successful if I didn’t sacrifice my time, rest, and peace to get there?
Over the past three years, these questions pierced my spirit. I guilted myself into an excessive amount of activities and projects that I thought would qualify me as a mover & shaker. I accepted opportunities that I thought would cement me in a field— any field; my hand was in any and everything. I added tasks to my workload simply for the sake of doing something. I didn't want to be left behind by peers who looked to have been working harder than me. I didn’t want to be ‘regular’ (whatever the hell that means). But burn out is real, and it came fast. I grew weary. I was overworked and had no one to blame but myself.
If there are two things I learned in this game, it's that busyness is not synonymous with hard work, and that the grind is not my ministry.
As admirable as it seemed — people working tirelessly to achieve their ideas of success, staying up late, missing social functions, working nonstop — that wasn’t the life I wanted to lead. No matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise, I didn’t like being busy. I didn’t like overloaded calendars and overwhelming task lists — in fact, they both give me anxiety. I like rest. I like silence. I like solitude. I like Netflix and chill (the non-sinful way). I like dedicating most of my time to self-reflection and meditation. I like unloading. I like to just be. And, despite what I told myself all these years, I could do all this and still be hard working; I could do all this and still achieve success.
Recognizing this helped me settle more into intentionality — only dedicating a certain amount of hours to work certainly made me focus more on what I sought to accomplish during each work session. It helped me recenter to focus more on God’s instruction — doing only what He says I should, and entertaining only the opportunities He provided. It alleviated the anxiety of being constantly overwhelmed and overworked. And it reminded me that I can be exactly who I am (an introvert who honors relaxation and being in bed by 9 p.m.) and still produce quality.
Instead of sacrificing the best of me, I chose to become incredibly deliberate with my time and the opportunities I lent energy to. Instead of operating with a mentality that suggested working a lot gives you success, I chose to recognize that working smart and intentionally is what leads to greatness. Instead of risking my own sanity and well-being for what I thought would take me to the next level, I chose obedience and God’s alignment to present opportunities that would not only propel me toward new heights, but allow me to serve myself and others, simultaneously.
And in operating in this way I am able to prioritize work and self-care. I am able to be effective, productive, and well-rested. I am able to reach success without compromising my physical, emotional, or mental well-being.
I no longer feel sorry for prioritizing self-care over 'the grind'. I no longer overwhelm myself with tasks that God didn’t put in front of me. I no longer burn myself out trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing. I no longer force creative hours that were never my creative hours to begin with (let’s be honest, my most creative moments are during showers and drives home). I no longer take on too much, or sleep too little. I am — and have been for much of last year — dedicated to pursuing peace, joy, and work that best suits my life. And I am finally coming to terms with that.