Leaning Out

by Valerie Haberman on June 9, 2015

As modern day British philosopher Lily Allen has said, it is indeed “hard out here for a bitch.”

As women, we are given conflicting expectations. We have Vogue telling us to be thin, but the hospitality industry telling us to go out, eat and drink until we are physically unable to do so anymore. Then we have our parents telling us that we need to settle down.

We have Sheryl Sandberg telling us that we need to lean in at work, but our own internal clocks telling us that maybe we should begin to think about motherhood.

We have the responsibility of paying an extortionate amount of rent each month, but we also have every source of media telling us to spend the money we have put aside for our (most likely bed-bug ridden) apartments on things like clothes, films, vacations, electronics… and everything in between.

So many conflicts….Can we please just lean the hell out for a minute?

To the people who believe that we really can “have it all,” you are wrong. No one can really have it all.

It is beyond human capacity to eat as many cheeseburgers as you want without actually dying, or at least feeling uncomfortable in a bikini.

It is unreasonable to suggest that you can have a thriving, high-powered career without having to sacrifice some form of a personal life.

It is not possible, without a trust fund, to travel the world and see all its splendor, unless you want to surrender yourself to even more credit card debt that you already cannot pay.

And for the love of god, it is not easy to find someone to love who is indeed worth loving.

In the game of life, I am a single 29 year old woman living in an overpriced city. Getting paid over market salary to compete with the overpriced city that I live in. My career takes up 60+ hours of my time a week. I laugh to my friends and say I am dying because I am so tired.

I cry while inhaling a bag of Ruffles in my overpriced apartment in my overpriced city, because I feel like I am, in fact, dying. Once I have completed my latest session of emotional eating, I have something new to bitch to my friends about: the fact that somehow, I just keep getting fatter.

There is not enough time in a day, or enough Xanax, to medicate the professional working class to forget that we really cannot have it all.

We live in a world in which we are encouraged to say “yes” to everything. Encouraged to spread ourselves into hours of a day that do not even exist. Encouraged to keep pushing on, to continue to stay awake, continue to exercise, to eat, to drink, to see concerts, to stay up to date on Game of Frickin’ Thrones so we have something to talk to our co-workers about.

But it’s just not possible to say yes to everything without feeling like you’re in the process of actually digging your own early grave.

Sure, saying yes can offer a sense of opportunity and enjoyment. I like saying yes to concerts and traveling just as much as the next person. However, our culture needs to learn that it is OK to say no. It is OK to take time for our bodies and our minds to recuperate from all of the saying yes.

So, what can we do? How do we break the mold that is set out for us? How do we manage all of these competing expectations that are coming from so many different places?

From our jobs telling us to work more, while our families are telling us to love more, to call more. The cities we live in demand we pay stupidly expensive rents, while Sally Mae is insisting that we pay our never ending student loans…how in the name of hell are we supposed to succeed at fitting all of this in to our already overtaxed and underfunded lives?

If I had the answers to this, I am sure I would be much wealthier, would not be living in a studio apartment in the San Francisco’s Tenderloin, and probably wouldn’t need or want to medicate myself every time I get another bill in the mail.

While the answers may not be something that I will ever have on offer, I can share one thing that I have learned over the years.

Despite society’s best efforts to tell me to Lean In… I have to say, the most important lesson I have learned is that sometimes, we simply have to lean out.

We have to learn to compromise. When to say no. What to care about. What to give up. We need to learn what is worth the consequences of our actions.

The joy lies in figuring all of these things out – it’s the hardest thing you can ask yourself to do.There is no clear cut way to figure out what matters to you. It takes a lot of time. A full lifetime, in fact.

As you grow older, things that once were important to you will no longer have the same value. Maybe going out and drinking seven nights in a row was really important at 22, but by the time you approach 30, your body starts to hate you for all of the shit you have put it through.

Accept that your definitions of what you say yes and no to will change over time.

While we are all swept up in the grandeur and the grind of our lives, make time to evaluate the priorities in your life. This is one thing you should certainly say yes to. All the rest? That’s left for you to decide.

Cheers to saying enough is enough and leaning out. Cheers to saying no.

Valerie Haberman has been writing inappropriate reviews and nostalgic stories since 2007. While she one day hopes to be able to get paid millions of dollars to write her opus about how no one will date her, she currently complains to her friends about this at gratis. Follow her on Twitter @Vhaberman or stalk her on Instagram @vhabers.

Filed under: National Politics