This summer I learned – again – to drink my own champagne and it spilled all down my shirt. Metaphorically speaking.
Meaning: I remembered that I have to role model what I preach. In this cause, I had to role model taking a full and complete break.
So I did. Sorta.
Spoiler: I struggled.
As a career coach for global woman in tech, I’ve yet to have a client that doesn’t need to work on giving themselves rest and holidays.
My clients are really good at their jobs, want more from their careers, and are really, really tired. They are tired of doing more and getting less: pay, promotions, acknowledgements, connections, growth. Tired of being ignored or taken for granted. Tired of watching others leap forward in their careers and wondering, “what on Earth?!”
I get it, because my story was similar. It was hard for me to learn that being tired may be common but it isn’t normal. I was a very slow at learning that working harder and longer won’t create results that matter. I was even slower at learning that taking a vacation is my human right, and also the result of generations who fought, hungered, and died to establish weekends and the holidays.
Honestly, for years – yes, I said years – I had to force myself to take time off in honor of my cultural ancestors just so I could create a permission structure within me to take a damn holiday.
And it worked. By the time I hit 30, I felt the importance of holidays and weekends throughout my bones and I whole-heartedly prophesised the importance of breaks to my friends, colleagues, employees, and everyone else.
I mean, for real, my New Zealand honeymoon was a month and I checked in exactly zero times. Funny thing is – just like my mentors promises – the pay, promotion, recognition, awards, and satisfaction grew in line with my self-respect and self-care.
Then two years ago, at nearly 39, I started my own business with relish and commitment. I have never grown as a human and as a professional in such a short amount of time. I have never created so much success for myself and others.
Things are good.
Yes, even with COVID. Even with young kids, schooling from home, a husband suddenly working from home, a cuddle-me dog, some health stuff, a house that needs more care.
Things are so good.
In fact, things were so good that I wasn’t following my own wisdom about full and complete holidays. In two years of business I took occasional weekends fully for rest and relaxation. I indulged in a week-long retreat with my best friend and business bestie. I shifted my family to Pittsburgh for month for different energy when the quarantine got to be too much. We also celebrated my birthday in the mountains for a week.
And: I did not take a full holiday.
Sure, self-care is built into my every day: my business calendar includes a daily, mid-day rest. I judiciously use the airplane setting on my phone and the off button on my laptop. I jealously protect my energy and space. I make space to spontaneously close my office door and spend an afternoon with my kids.
In other words, I do take breaks, mini-breaks, and “breaks” that were actually business-building focused like a retreat, a mastermind, reading business-building books. Not an actual holiday that leads to turn off, tune-out, and let-go.
Finally, in June, when my family transplanted for our summer back home in Germany, I acknowledged the truth: mini-breaks are not full breaks and I wasn’t being the role model I want to be for myself, my family, my clients, or my community.
So, I took a full and complete two-week break. Sorta.
I told all my clients I’d be unavailable for two weeks. I handed over the reins to my private Positive Intelligence cohort. I announced a two-month break on my podcast Celebrate BRAVE.
Then my family of four (pups was back in Colorado being pampered) drove to the wifi-free house in Italy.
At first it was easy: no wifi with an amazing view, tasty northern Italy specialties, and glorious trips to the local mountain town’s café, pizzeria, and restaurant. I leaned into naps and rest, gentle jogs, splashing in the lake, and watching the summer storms climb up from the lake.
But then it got harder: without wifi, no new podcasts and I realised I was still listening to business building and coaching podcasts. I took extra trips to the one café with wifi on the mountain and I realised I was hungering to know how my clients were experiencing their job searches, conflict situations, as well as their own breaks (two clients aligned their break with mine).
My journal pages filled up and I couldn’t ignore how I was still creatively exploring business options and connections for my clients. In short, I was still working on my business.
I argued with myself all the way through my holiday if I was actually taking a holiday or not … if this actually counted as a full and complete break … or not.
As I write this, my holiday in Italy feels both just last week and months ago. My family has already returned to our home in Germany and then back to our home in Colorado. The kiddos have already re-started school, I’m already half-way through my next half-marathon training plan, and we are all deep in 2021. Clients have graduated their programs and new clients have started their journey with me.
I look back at that Nicole, struggling to take a break when things are good, and spending time arguing with herself. Nicole still following her passion and her joy in learning and growing, still committed to both her clients, her rest, and, most deeply and intensely, her family. That Nicole, wasting a lot of time and energy in her head.
I hold that Nicole gently in my heart. She was growing, and it was messy. Because growth is messy for everyone.
Sure, that Nicole may have missed a precious moment or two but this Nicole is very aware that she fully experienced far, far more.
She reveled in the most extraordinary pizzas, pastas, and deserts served up each day. She sunk into a thick, earthy, perfectly balanced cappuccino as the sun rose and eased into perfectly aired and smooth red wine as the sun slowly set.
She was wholly present for long cuddles and storytelling with both of her kids. She felt the exhilaration of splashing in cold mountain water. She laughed through (and lost) many Uno games. She experienced the moment her daughter climbed higher than she thought she could and she was the first person who celebrated when her son swam confidentially for his first time, waves and all.
That Nicole did take a holiday, her first as an entrepreneur. This Nicole is filled with compassion for how she struggled as well as the deeper knowledge that the first time we do anything, we struggle.
Because no matter who we are and what we’ve created, every new skill and each new phase takes us back into the wonder and misery of being a beginner.
First the awkward, uncomfortable attempts that include stumbles, mistakes, unnecessary emotional strife, and even failure. Then, and only then, are we each able to create the growth, the successes, the comfort, and the ease.
So, dear reader, take holidays, practice your own version of self-care, and go out and fail. Be the beginner. Be the learner. Stumble like me and then try again.
My next holiday is already planned. And this time, I will enter it with less confidence and more grace. Most importantly, I will spend less time arguing with myself and more time being kind.
I will drink more, and spill less, of my own champagne and really – fully and completely – holiday.