Rediscovering Sanity

Ever feel like you’re going absolutely mad? Like if one more person at work asked you to do something or sign something or email someone, you would completely lose your marbles?

I’ve been there. And I’m guessing many of you have too.

A few years back, I was a teacher and academic dean at a private K-12 school in New York City. It was a stressful job, no doubt, but I had my summers all to myself–three whole months to do whatever it was my heart desired.

There were planned and unplanned trips. There were breakfasts (and dinners) in bed. There were naps on hammocks in the middle of the afternoon and letters I’d write by hand in the middle of the night. My job was challenging, at times all-consuming, and it certainly taxed my patience, discipline, and commitment. But those summers managed to save me every time. Even if I felt like I’d lost a bit of myself during the academic year while grading exams, conducting parent-teacher conferences, and managing challenging classrooms, summer would come and I’d find myself again–a little sleepy, a little lost, a bit hidden beneath all that paperwork. But there I was, ready to watch that movie, take that drive, look up at that sky, and remember what this life and this girl were really all about.

Then I entered the news business. The funny thing about news is that it doesn’t stop just because you need a break. After the first year, I remember a telephone call from my mother. I’ll never forget what she said before hanging up: “Think about what you love. And who you are. Make it a part of your day. That’s your key to sanity.”

I stayed up for hours that night thinking about what she had said. It was as simple as it was brilliant. Leave it to a mom.

I took her advice and began to think about the things I loved, the things I knew could heal and awaken and force your eyes open whether you wanted them that way or not. And then I got moving.

For me, sanity emerged in the form of…

Family–You can’t beat my 99-year-old Brooklyn grandma’s late-night inappropriate humor.

Fitness–A strong body makes for a strong mind (also works the other way around).

Music–It always makes me think about where I’ve been and figure out where I want to go. The Pogues led me back to an old high-school journal. Tom Odell got me thinking about the kind of love I want for my next chapter.

Food–Downtown Manhattan’s midnight pizza and my best friend’s experimental home-cooking reminded me of the trip to Italy I’ve been postponing for far too long. And the friendship that has made my life. 

Fantasy–Sometimes movies are just movies. But every now and then, they teach you what you love and who you miss. They inspire phone calls and self-reflection. (And the occasional purchase of a superhero costume, but I digress.)

Our jobs may be different, but we all know stress. CEOs, moms, artists, teachers, doctors, executive assistants, you name it–we all know that feeling when you just might be about to lose your mind. And we all need to find a way to grab that sanity and hold onto it for the rocky ride.

My job hasn’t changed, but the eyes I see the world with have. So, take a minute to think about what you love. Make room for it. Your sanity will thank you. And one day, when you look back on your life, you’ll thank yourself too.

Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila