Upon college graduation, I felt I was beyond ready for the newness ahead. In fact, my 22-year-old ego had me convinced I was made for it. The long-anticipated introduction into the real, full-time working world was here, and I believed I knew which way I was heading (I didn’t).
Phase one of postgrad humblings began immediately after undergrad departure — it was the end of an era. I advanced from my college living quarters into my very own, very small, apartment. What I didn’t advance from was pressing the snooze button until the last possible minute, getting dressed for work Tasmanian-devil style, and leaving tossed aside outfits, well, tossed aside. Rushing to build the ~foundation of a career~, the act of making my bed every morning seemed like a waste of time. After all, I was just going to collapse back into it, right?! Studies illustrated the benefits of bed-making, but I thought I was too busy for pillow talk.
The morning chaos dance left no time for tidying, coffee enjoying, or any acts of mindfulness, for that matter. After work, I’d spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to find athletic clothes (to maybe work out but most likely not) among my garment-strewn empire and perform a tired attempt at cleaning up. The next day, I’d do it all over again. I was, simply put, the worst.
I soon realized this routine was a bit unbecoming, as my mother put it (woof!). Not only did I need to work on my adulting approach, but I also took a major career risk and accepted a new job in San Francisco — for the record, it's the best risk I ever took. I feverishly cleaned out my Dallas-based collection of *things* and moved to S.F., swearing by the less-is-more mantra. Here begins phase two of postgrad humblings. My commute to work left no time for the morning tornado technique; yet, I still hadn’t completely kicked the habit of snoozing. I’d wake up early enough to enjoy a cup of coffee, and make it to work feeling a tad less frazzled than before. I moved robotically through motions in the mornings, assuming that the chaos was part of adulthood. I was supposed to feel like a chicken with its head cut off, or Goldilocks blindly trying out beds but leaving them all unmade, right? I measured my success on how much I could get done in one day, but couldn't quite pinpoint the dull feeling of underlying restlessness. And, I was *still not making the bed.*
It wasn’t until phase three that I had a string of revelations, all of which started with tidying up—physically and metaphorically. I was writing on the side, spending my weekends interviewing artists and photographing their studios. I had to be organized to fit this in, and because it filled me with joy and inspiration, I wanted to be organized. I kept all of my camera supplies together, neatly on a shelf in my bedroom. I felt the joy from my side-hustle overflowing into the rest of my life. The most obvious place? My living space. I needed organization in order to squeeze my newfound hobby into my days. Plus, if my room felt cluttered, my mind felt cluttered. If my bed was unmade, I felt unmade. Alternatively, if I finished these tasks efficiently and thoughtfully, I felt more efficient and thoughtful.
Perhaps tidying up is an obvious tool for success, but I had to experience it to feel it. With a clean space and clearer understanding of my passions, I began to reroute my career to align with the projects I did for free. It may seem like a small feat, but in comparison to mindlessly meandering through my golden-handcuffed days, it’s the most impactful pivot I’ve ever made.
I recently reached out to a career mentor, a successful female editorial leader, regarding my career change. Her wise response put my exact sentiment into words: “Just watch, everything in your life will start to get easier, more bountiful, now that there’s more joy freely flowing through your work... It’s a chain reaction. Good luck...and pass it on.” If telling my story of bed-making benefits is considered passing it on, it's the least I can do.