Welcome a new contributor to the Eat. Drink & be Skinny contributor community, Sabrina Must! I met her an an event here in San Diego through mutual friends and found her incredibly interesting. She is a creative who uses the power of the written word and photography to tell stories about connection and growth. She believes that when we live and speak authentically and vulnerably, we give others permission to be. This excites her. She writes unapologetically about her life—both joys and struggles—to inspire others to live more honestly. I think she will bring an interesting perspective to our conversations…
The summer when I was 10, the nights I had trouble falling asleep, my dad would crawl onto my bottom-bunk twin-sized bed at our cottage and nestle in next to me. Wearing athletic shorts he bought from Costco and a button-down shirt he wore at work, stained with watermelon juice, he’d say, trying to alleviate some of my anxiety, “When I was your age, I struggled to get to bed sometimes too. So I’d shake my head side to side until I got so tired I’d pass out.”
I tried it a few times; it never worked. I was sure my dad either lied to me or knocked himself unconscious instead of getting “tired.”
My sleeplessness was something new—I was the kid at my sister’s bat mitzvah party who took a nap on the couch in the restroom because by 10pm I could barely keep my eyes open. I was the kid whom my parents carried from the car’s back seat to bed every night we had gone out to dinner. I was the 20-year-old curling up on a couch in the middle of a dance club in Bangkok, taking a quick nap before joining my friends on the dance floor. A friend nicknamed me “Narcolept” because when I need sleep, I need sleep. There is no “powering through it.” When I don’t get enough sleep, I get sick.
I also know if I don’t exercise, if I don’t fuel my body with the foods that energize me instead of weigh me down, if I’m stuck driving instead of biking, if I don’t write and work in a way that makes me feel inspired and purposeful, that’s when I’m less “me.”
So everything I do is about attaining more of “me.”
But when you’re building a business, when you’re on a mission to make your vision a reality, your head gets clogged. You’re not just moving along, you’re sprinting, like the Nigerian marathoners I’d watch zoom by my Chicago apartment window at 7am, miles ahead of the rest. You metaphorically return to your bottom-bunk twin-sized bed, staring into the darkness, unsure how to force your mind to stop, to rest, to not feel like it’s running toward your dream, but instead willing to give it time to recharge.
Balancing drive with self-care has always been a struggle. Like in 5th grade when I insisted I complete the project at home before school on Monday that my teacher said we’d spend the following week doing in class. I refused to leave the house and do anything fun until it was done–which was Sunday afternoon. The poster display had to be perfect, using my mom’s X-ACTO knife and framing tape to outline the photos I had her print at Kinkos that detailed the U.S. territory acquisitions.
I couldn’t control my urge to do it, to get it done, to finish it before everyone else, to make it perfect, like perfect. I think I drove my mom half crazy that weekend.
I sat at my desk the entire school week, with nothing to do, watching the other kids work on their projects that they waited to start on Monday as our teacher instructed. I couldn’t help but feeling a sense of pride in the early completion even if it meant I was bored.
A couple months ago, when I realized I needed to redo my website and combine my blog and personal site into one, I bulldozed my way through the project. Every waking hour, when not on my surf board or bike or skates, I was tinkering with the site, messaging my web guy, who annoyed me because he was moving at 5 mph while I was going 100. I was up and down, up and down all night long, checking emails, checking the stats on blog posts and Instagram follows and Facebook likes, checking ways to adjust plugins, adding bits and pieces to articles on which I was currently working, trying to fit it all in. And I did it—within about 10 days—but with interrupted, minimal sleep.
No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I need to exercise in the morning and at night. Movement brings me great joy. The “ugh I don’t want to workout” thing isn’t part of my DNA. I wait for chances to be active, to sweat, to feel my heart practically bounce out of my chest cavity. But sleep is equally important.
I spent two and a half years in Austin waking up every weekday at 5 am to run boot camp workouts. That was tough. Many mornings the only reason I pulled myself from my cozy bed was the looming fear that I’d be fired if I ever missed a workout. But then I moved to San Diego and my 5 am alarm was no more. Sleeping in ’til 7a for yoga was a godsend. And I quickly realized how valuable that extra hour or two of sleep was—I no longer was exhausted by 3 pm.
My primary school teachers used to talk with my mom about how to slow me down, make me less serious, to not put so much pressure on myself. And while I have quelled some of that insane drive over the years out of necessity, it’s still there.
I only know one speed. When it comes to dating, most often that’s detrimental. When it comes to business, it’s my strength. Still, how do we balance ourselves so we can sustain that Nigerian marathon sprint without injuring ourselves? So that pace becomes healthy and normal, not disastrous? So we don’t burn out on mile 10 but finish strong all the way through? How can we temper our greatest strengths so they’re useful and well directed?