Play Time

As a freelance writer and yoga teacher, often times I get to set my own work schedule. For years, I worked in offices, usually the old 9-to-5. I wore heels, suits and mascara. Toward the end of my office life, I drifted toward wedges and no makeup. Anyone who was watching could see I was slowly but surely heading toward simply not caring what

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Suzanne Wentley: Young Professional

others thought of me. But I tried to hide it.

I was a young professional. For a while, I was working four days, 10 hours a day. Before that, I had a 32-hour work week. Before that I worked what felt like all the time … although I was always careful to track my hours and receive the appropriate amount of “paid time off.” Ah, PTO. Benefits, what a beautiful thing! Wow, I even had a pension. Remember those? That’s something that I’ll never be able to say again! Can the same be said for health insurance? Probably.

For some office jobs I worked in a cubicle. One job found me in a cubicle in a hallway for a while (such was the non-profit life). For a couple jobs, I had offices with a door. For a short time, my office was ridiculously large, and I’d joke that I could roller skate in it. Faithful followers of this blog know that I skate like a champ.

But even with these office jobs with benefits, I was always working more than one job. There was a while there when I was working 40 hours a week, teaching seven yoga classes a week and writing three or four freelance magazine articles each month. Somehow I was also able to date men (who were wrong for me, but that’s another blog post) and hang out with my friends. I was late for everything that wasn’t a class I was teaching or an interview for a magazine assignment. I had stress acne. It kind of sucked.

So it was great when I met a guy who offered me a spot on his boat for a while to go sailing. I quit my office job, my yoga classes and my local freelance assignments, and we left for the seas. I became part of the new economy – I learned how to work remotely. I started researching magazines that might like stories about my boating adventures. I found an online agency looking for copywriters. I hustled.

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Me at the gym. I guess this is as good as it gets, people. I could do 50 pushups, so there’s that.

Since my overhead was so low, I was also able to relax. Every day before I set sail, I went to the gym. I then ran a couple miles. I scheduled in a 30-minute nap every day. I did yoga and baked bread. I gave away all my heels and suits.

That was almost two years ago, and guess what? I’m still alive! I haven’t starved! In fact, I haven’t even dipped into my savings. Sure, I’ve got a groovy, little studio apartment now (read: rent), but I now live in a place where I don’t need to buy things all the time. I don’t spend money on new clothes until my old clothes wear out. Rum is $7 a bottle. I buy bok choy on the corner from the farmer for $2. What more does a girl need?

So this was the backdrop of today, when I found myself without a whole lot of work. I wrote a press release. Three of my clients were reviewing work I had already done and hadn’t yet gotten back to me. I have a few projects in the pipeline, but nothing due today. I had a freelance article I needed to edit, but I’m not sure exactly where to do with it. Even though I relaxed most of my Sunday, as one should do, I suddenly found myself with an abundance of time.

I turned on music. My friend just hooked me up with The Codetalkers with Col. Bruce Hampton (RIP). I grabbed my hula hoop and went outside to my big deck and got down. I hadn’t hooped in so long! The sun was shining and glistening down on the shiny tape of my hoop. I was digging the music and dancing around my hoop for no one to see. It felt great! It was playtime, and we all simply do not get enough of it.

Unless you are a cigarette smoker, taking breaks is generally frowned upon. There’s no office where it’s normal to take a hoop break! Some office workers I know will walk around the building. One job I had, part of my duties involved walking a super-cute

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Look at that smile! Ozzie and I took breaks together.

English bulldog, and that was a pretty good break (except when Ozzie would sneak a chicken bone left on the side of the parking lot! Bad doggie!). Breaks are only OK when you’ve scheduled a vacation – and don’t get me wrong, during my office days I enjoyed every single one of my vacation days! But taking a break during the day is a luxury for the working stiff.

I still eat lunch at the computer. I’m doing it right now! Even though I set my own schedule, my work ethic is such that I continually feel the need to be productive. But when we’re productive all the time, we miss out. In yogic terms, we are too rajas.

Breaks help us connect to our creative and spiritual selves. All my best problem-solving came from meditation breaks. My best writing and marketing ideas came as a result of down time. The more breaks we have, the better our work.

So consider this a call for play! Bring recess back into your life! Sometimes I pull out my djembe and sing. Sometimes I put on music and dance. Sometimes I call my mom and chat. The other day, I put down my work and painted my toenails and watched the new Louis CK special on Netflix. It’s hilarious.

We all know stress is the enemy – so make it your job to get rid of it in your life. Take more breaks. Play more, smile and, for the love of God, wear only comfortable shoes!