17 Reasons to Use Your Vacation Time This Year!

VacationTime

Unlike many Americans, I’ve never had a problem taking vacation days. As a matter of fact, when I was a part of the 9-5 set, I’d use ALL of my sick, personal, and vacation days (and then some) when I needed a break or wanted to take a short excursion because…well, why not?

Despite owning a business and being a freelance writer & author, I don’t believe in working myself until I drop. I mean, there’s a thin line between grinding hard and going “Karōshi” (the Japanese term for “death from overwork”), and I intended to stay on this side of the living.

While most people won’t kill over from putting in extra hours at the office, pulling long shifts can reek havoc on your life, cause relationship drama, and generally suck.

But in case you need more reasons to cash in your vacation time and go on a trip (or just chill), here’s 17 reasons to use your vacation days THIS YEAR!

#1 Working too much can kill you, especially if you work overtime.

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Yes, seriously. Via the Guardian: “The research shows a 60% increase in heart-related illness such as non-fatal heart attacks and angina in those who work for three hours or more longer than a normal seven-hour day.”

#2 You don’t really need a new car.

I know you think you do, and I know they’re pretty, but if you have less than 100k (and maybe even 250k) miles on your hoopty, you need to keep the riding that sucker till the wheels fall off. And even then, they probably won’t. Don’t believe me? Via Forbes: “Today’s cars are built to last as long as 250,000 miles or more with simple routine care,” says ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician and Chicago Tribune auto-service columnist Bob Weber.

#3 Working too many hours can actually make you stupider.

You may think you can pull long hours without consequence, but working too much can actually damage your brain. A 2009 study, found “working hours may have a negative effect on cognitive performance in middle age,” including a decline in reasoning and vocabulary.

#4 Mexican food tastes so much better in Mexico (or in L.A., whichever’s closer).

via thebaldchef.net

nom, nom, nom….via thebaldchef.net

#5 You won’t have to yell at your kids to clean their room if you’re in a hotel.

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#6 There are no dishes to wash after dinner (and you don’t even have to cook!).

#7 You can act a fool without caring if anybody judges you (as long as you keep it off Facebook…and Instagram…and Twitter).

#8 You can have a drink (or 3!) with breakfast and not feel like an alcoholic.

#9 Taking a week off will make your boss appreciate you that much more.

#10 You can finally be the one flooding everybody’s Facebook feed with annoyingly awesome photos that make people hate-like them.

#11 You can finally read that book everybody was raving about three years ago.

#12 You’ve already binged-watched Scandal, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black; your weekends are wide open.

#14 Wait, your passport is about to expire, and you still don’t have any stamps yet?

Seriously? Daaaaamn homie.

#15 You’re young, single, and ready to mingle

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#16 You’re not so young, married, and have a couple of kids; who needs a break more than you?

#17 You’ve only got 2 weeks off, USE THEM!

Got more reasons to use your vacation days? Leave them below! 

Why Wait?

“So many fail because they don’t get started, they don’t go. They don’t overcome inertia. They don’t begin.” – W. Clement Stone

Getting started is tough. Believe me, I get it.  Once we get our “great idea” or set our ambitious goals we talk a good game, we plan forever, we brainstorm incessantly…but we wait for things to be just so, to be perfect, before we begin. And then…just like that, we never get started.

And soon, before we know it, weeks, months, and years have passed by and we just wasted a whole lot of time waiting until things were just right before we began working on our goals. But as you already know, things will never be perfect. Perfection is an illusion.

I was speaking to a Facebook pal the other day when she mentioned a blog project she is working on. Although she had been toiling away for some time, she wasn’t quite ready to release her baby to the world because it wasn’t perfect. While I totally understand, waiting until her blog was amazingly designed or until she collected all of her thoughts into an assemblage of kick-ass blog posts meant it was never going to happen.

Like anything…you have to overcome the inertia and just get started…even if things aren’t quite in order.

After she showed me her blog, I didn’t understand why she was waiting. Her idea was DOPE and it needed to be shared. But still she had doubts. Like so many others, she was stuck in the perfection trap.

But thankfully, there is a very simple way to get out of it.

JUST DO IT!

On his blog, the Art of Non-conformity, Chis Guillebeau suggest folks set a deadline to begin working toward their goals/projects, and then shorten it.

He writes, “Find a way to launch your project within 30 days of conceiving it. If that feels uncomfortable, make it 3 days.”

Making yourself uncomfortable often causes you to feel a sense of urgency, which will help you overcome the inertia and begin taking actual steps toward your goal.

About a year ago, I bought BritniDanielle.com and planned to unveil it to the world…one day. After a year of putting in work for others trying to kick my freelance career into gear, I decided it was past time to put in the same amount of work for myself.

But after weeks of toiling around, looking for WordPress themes, color schemes, and playing with Photoshop, I decided to just roll it out to the world. To do this, I created a sign-up page to let people know when it is going to go live and—although I never thought I wanted to ever write one—I’m working on a very short ebooklet that will explain what my site will be all about—helping others reach their goals while I work toward mine.

Will it be perfect from the beginning? Certainly not, but just getting started is the best way for me to get as close to perfect as I can get. Because inaction, certainly won’t get me any closer to the life that I want.

Have you been procrastinating on something you’ve wanted to do? What’s stopping you from just getting started?  

Underneath It All: What’s Holding You Back?

Taken at Abalone Cove...underneath the water lie a flurry of sea life. We had a ball!

You can see it clearly. You know exactly what your ideal life looks like–what you’d do, how you’d live, and how you’d feel if you were just able to live exactly how you wanted. But time, life, circumstances, or finances are in the way and you just can’t make it to the life you so desperately crave.

Sound familiar?

For most of my life I’ve always held back. I’ve always been very measured, even-tempered, mild-mannered, quiet, and lived in my head. I guess that’s why I’m a writer. You know the phrase “still waters run deep”? That sums me up.

Despite my outward, reserved demeanor, my mind is always moving—racing, even–as I think about the life that I want.

As I mentioned before, I have an issue sharing my truth. While I think everyone should keep a bit of their business to themselves, my “truth” (read: most everything about my life) typically stays with me. I don’t talk about it, I don’t share it, I don’t allow people to give me their opinion on it. Nada. Why? I don’t want to hear people’s judgments, pity, and most of the time, their point of view. It sounds harsh, but underneath it all, I like to project an air of calmness, of togetherness, and front like I have it all under control. I like to appear perfect.

But perfection is incredibly oppressive (peace to Anne Lamott), and the more you strive to be perfect the more trapped you’ll be by the illusion you’ve created for yourself. I learned the hard way, but slowly (veeeerrry slowly) I’m letting go.

Last night, I watched Oprah and Bishop T.D. Jakes talk about living with purpose, and one of the things Oprah said that resonated with me was, “Even if you’re in the middle of disaster, you can use that disaster for direction.”

That really struck me because I’ve had my fair share of disasters. Getting fired from my first “real” job; finding out I was pregnant while unemployed and in an unstable relationship; raising my kid alone…all very big disasters. But instead of being crushed by them, I was able to respond to each of them in a way that didn’t break me, but rather made me stronger and more resilient.

What I’ve learned throughout the years is that how we respond to life’s disasters is vital because it sets up our next big thing.

Typically people respond to a crisis in a few ways:

1) Go into paralysis & become completely stuck.
2) Go into problem solving mode & look for a solution.
3) Choose not to deal with it and move onto something else entirely.
4) Distract themselves with vices (drinking, sex, gambling, food, escapism, etc.).

Personally, I’ve done them all (no sex, though…sadly lol). But while I may have wallowed in feeling stuck or decided not even to deal with a crisis, at the end of the day, I have been forced to deal with things head one. While I’m not superwoman and haven’t conquered EVERY challenge (I’m still working on a few), there is something very powerful about finding solutions and knowing you can change things.

How we deal with life’s adversities can either be our undoing or our catalyst to something greater.

Which do you choose?

Yes, the Truth Can Be Scary

getting to work...

They say the truth can set you free, but I think it can also set your house on fire if you let it go unattended.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I have an issue with the truth.

While I’m not a liar, per se, I just don’t like to divulge certain information about myself willingly. While this seems counter-intuitive for someone who lives her life (very openly) in the digital space, there are certain things I no longer talk about because–frankly–it’s none of your business.

But in writing this book (oh, I didn’t tell you I am writing one?), I’ve come face-to-face with the truth, and I’m wondering just how much of it I want to tell.

Back in 2010 I saw a therapist. He told me I was brave, and back then I believed him. I set about creating goals, working toward my dream of becoming a full-time writer, and freeing myself from the overwhelming feeling of being stuck. Despite the progress I made I still have an issue with disclosing certain things about myself that I’m afraid to share for fear of other’s jugement (no, I’m not as tough as I look). Let me be clear, though. Strangers? I don’t care about sharing with them. My peoples, though? Scared to death.

I shouldn’t be, though. They’ve always held me down, but somewhere there is always this voice inside that tells me to hold back a little and not say too much or else they’ll give me THE side-eye of all side-eyes and begin questioning what the hell I was thinking.

That’s all too much. And I don’t want to think about it.

But in writing this book….I’ve come to the realization that the truth will come out, and however it shatters this facade I’ve created is just how it goes down.

Last night I began writing #TheBook.

I took a cue from Anne Lamott and just began getting it all down. You see, I know what my idea is and where I want to start, but making it sound just so can be paralyzing. So I just began culling my memories and writing.

And then this happened:

The night I brought him home from the hospital he cried and cried for hours until his little tawny face turned bright red. I didn’t know what was wrong. He wasn’t wet or hungry or sleepy–although he should have knocked himself out from all that crying. I know he wore me out.

That night his dad called from Men’s Central—he was still being held in L.A. then—and Little O cried his heart out while his father asked if he was hungry or hurt and why I couldn’t get him to stop.

No. My answer that night was no. He’s fine, but I have no idea what his problem is. Maybe he’s crazy like you, I offered.

I remember being angry that his dad was gone. Pissed that he’d gotten arrested and was missing out on hearing this kid yelp in real-time. I was upset and angry and tired my damn self that he could only be with us on the other end of a phone call. I was still hopeful then that he would make it home before Le Kid learned to walk or talk or remember he had been missing. But that wasn’t the case. Six years into motherhood and his dad still parents over the phone.

That night I nearly drowned Little O with baby gas drops, hoping they’d pop the imaginary bubble I thought was growing in his belly. I worried I was overdosing him, although the bottle said it was impossible. But who can be too sure?

Maybe he was just mad. Who knows. But I’m sure my neighbors hated my guts that night. It was the first time I thought that perhaps that abortion I’d considered when I found out I was pregnant might have been a good idea after all. If this is what our first night looks like, I thought, how the hell would I handle the next 18 years?

I’m not sure where this all will lead; the truth has a way of dragging you along for the ride.

But what I do know is that if I honor it, write it, share it, the truth may indeed set me free after all; and if not, it will lead me exactly where I needed to be all along.

Please tell me I’m not alone in this–can you relate? Do you have a problem telling your truth? 

So You Leaped, Now What?

Did you recently make a major, potentially life-changing decision? Did you agonize over the details before making such a move, or did you close your eyes and jump?

No matter what method you used to restart your life/career/health, one thing is common (aside from saying, “holy shit…what did I just do?!”), after you’ve taken a major leap of faith in your life and come down from the high of pursuing your dreams, you look around and ask yourself, “Now what?”

Six months ago I made one of the biggest leaps of my life, I quit my teaching job and began writing full-time. Although I had run the numbers, looked at my budget a million times, and knew I could make it financially, six months later I’m still having a “now what” moment.

About two weeks ago I learned that I’d be cutting back on my “day writing job,” and with that cut would come a decrease in income. Almost immediately, I started to panic. How can I make my ends meet if I had less income coming in? I started to go into full-blown, what the F&*$k did I do mode? I started to doubt my choice to switch careers, and I almost….almost picked up the classifieds to see if I could snag a barrista job.

Then I remembered something: I’m a writer with contacts and talent. I control my income, not any particular publication or job or editor. Me. It was time to kick it into gear.

I snapped on the beach in Santa Monica

Ironically, the day before my “oh shit” moment, I took a little walk along the beach and had a talk with God. You see, I’ve been tremendously blessed in my life, and for the most part…whenever a door closed, another door, or two windows opened in return.

Years back, I moved to New York City with no family, no friends, and only two suitcases. Despite landing in one of the most expensive cities in the world, the Universe/God provided. I didn’t have a dime saved up and before I could find an apartment, I had to return to LA because my grandfather died. The day before I left I meet a soror who let me crash in her place…for as long as I needed. After about a month of soaking in the city (and attending grad school), I landed a job at an ed tech firm. Later I got my own place in Brooklyn, and when I lost my job and found out I was preggo, instead of being paralyzed by fear and worry, I worked my ass off to find free health care and temp gigs that allowed me to pay my rent and make sure le kid was ok in the process.

When I go through my “OMG! Now what?!” moments these days, I remind myself I’ve always made a way and God has always sustained me, so why should this be different?

If you’re experiencing a similar feeling, here are a few things to help you get by:

You got this: Clearly you’re talented, brave, smart, and a whole host of other positive things that have helped you get to this point. Just because you’re now following your dreams doesn’t mean you still don’t have the same set of skills you possessed before. Remember what got you to this moment. You got it, boo.

Evaluate the situation: Are you just having a normal freak out? Are you worried about money? Time? Security? Get to the root of the issue and try to figure out ways to solve it. If you’re worried that being a freelancer is putting a serious hurting on your income, think about ways to maximize your time and take on more gigs. And if you just can’t swing working for yourself AND making your bills, consider working part-time until you feel financially ready to continue being a full-time freelancer.

Brainstorm solutions: Once you’ve evaluated the situation, you’ll be more able to pinpoint a solution. My “OMG, WTF?” moment was quickly met with, “Ok Brit…how can we make up this money?” Once I began to think about it, I knew exactly how I could kick it up a notch….and I did. If you dream about going back to school or taking a round the world trip, but don’t want to blow up your credit score, think about how you can make this happen in a way that gets you to your goals without taking on a load of debt in the process.

No matter where you are in life, you’ll have a now what moment. They are merely apart of the journey, but it’s how you respond to them that matters.

If you allow the fear of failure push you to inaction it has already won. You won’t accomplish your goals, and you may even end up on a therapist’s couch (or at your local bar) wondering why you’re unhappy. But if you’re able to push past your fears and figure out solutions to them, then you’ll be on the road to success.

Have you experienced an “OMG, Now what?!” moment? How did you handle it?

How Giving Up Helped Me Get Ahead

One of my most favorite places in the world. Bklyn Bridge, NYC

A few weeks ago, I was asked to write an essay for GOOD magazine‘s Hustlin’ series about why I quit my teaching job to follow my dream of being a freelance writer. Although I had written about it before, I was asked to think about my switch within the larger context of our shifting economy.

If you haven’t noticed, the economy sucks. Although the unemployment rate is slowly coming down, there are still millions of people who are out of work. So, why would anyone in their right mind give up the security of a stable gig for the unstable world of freelancing?

The answer is simple: happiness.

After teaching for five years, I came to the realization that I just didn’t want to do it anymore. And if I’m honest, that realization happened after year one.

My first year in the classroom was both an absolute failure and a thrilling success (teachers, y’all know what I mean). Although I had been a student for upwards of 18 years, and had gone through a great teacher program, I was totally unprepared for the rigors of working with kids. Without rehashing the gory details, let’s just say all the educational theory did not prepare me for a classroom full of seventh graders.

Classroom management? Out the window. Lesson planning? I’d have huge holes in my plans. Managing my time? Wishful thinking at best. I was drowning, and I had to save myself or get swallowed up by the sea.

Somehow, I managed to make it through that year, rest up over the summer and try again. But by Christmas break of my second year, the writing was on the wall: I wanted to do something else.

And yet…I waited. Three more years went by before I finally had enough. In between that time was lots of (secret) tears, frustrations, trips to a therapist, sick days, and finally rediscovering my voice.

Once I shook the fear of “what if I fai?” I was able to clearly see what it was I wanted to do and God began rearranging my life. Just like that.

Once I made up my mind to write full time the ideas began pouring in, people began referring me to their editor friends, and I began to make actually dollars from words.

Looking back I wonder what the hell took me so long, but as the old folks say, everything happens for a reason. I now know that I had to go through the fire to come out polished like gold.

And while everything isn’t all good (money is still sometimes funny), for the first time in years I see a path ahead of me that I actually love. After feeling stuck for so long, it feels good to know that I’m in control of my own destiny.

So, what does that have to do with you?

An interesting thing happens every time I share this story: I always get questions. After the GOOD article was published yesterday, I received tweets and emails asking for advice about how to make the switch. This makes me immensely happy because it means that what I’ve shared has helped someone, and as a writer, that’s ultimately my goal.

Yes, I’d like to be “known” (my name…not my face lol), I want to make money (who doesn’t? I got a kid to feed!), but at the end of the day, I’d also like to be helpful.

“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.” – Flora Edwards

Because I know that by helping others reach their goals I will also  also reach my own, please comment, tweet me, Facebook me, or email me if you have any questions. It may take me a few days, but I WILL answer them.

Also, I’ll be putting together a quick video (sort of similar to my vision board vid) with some tips on quitting your job and doing what you love. So if you have specific questions, ask!

Stay tuned.

Are you thinking about switching careers? What’s holding you back?