Sonya  Gankina

Sonya Gankina, February 24 2020

Living and Working in Ottawa: How Art Keeps Me Grounded

School, work, extracurriculars, social life, meal prepping, being creative, health and wellness, etc. I get it. Everyone is busy. We all have our own things going on. And that's without taking into account any mental health struggles we may be facing or interpersonal issues. Sometimes this can be a heavy weight - to juggle everything, yet still post happy pictures on Instagram and update your LinkedIn with job promotions. Sometimes this can get exhausting. Maybe just for me, or maybe you share this reality. And of course, the way our society is structured currently, it's all about "self-improvement" and "new year, new you" and quick bandaid fixes. How many times have you seen marketing aimed to make you feel better about yourself, while at the same time indirectly putting you down? How many times have you seen "10 tips to be happy" and other blogs and books in that vein? Honestly, I'm tired of it. I'm tired of being told I have negative feelings and I need to fix them. 

Are My Feelings Really Negative?

Here is the truth - we all deal with shit. We have different ways of doing so. Maybe you're into psychology books, or hiking in Gatineau park, or doing drugs, or alcohol. These are all coping mechanisms, albeit some healthier than others. We all have good days and bad days. It's impossible to be happy everyday. If you were, you wouldn't know it. We only know warmth feels good because we go through six months of Ottawa winter. We know being content feels good because we go through pain and suffering. But they are essential. That's how we grow. Same with "negative" feelings. Whatever you feel is valid. Wanna cry when watching a 30 second TikTok about dogs? I feel you. Want to throw your computer at a wall when Microsoft Word fucks up your formatting for adding an extra space? Been there. And if you feel deeply sad, I understand. Our feelings, all of them valid, teach us that there is something going on that doesn't align with our authentic truth. Maybe you need to change your degree or switch careers. Maybe it's the way you've been conditioned to live that isn't serving you anymore and you need to do the hardest work of all - rewire your brain and change your habits and patterns. 

My Personal Experience with Work-Life Balance

But we are here to talk about the work-life balance today because this is a school assignment and not a dissertation. Based on what you read above, you can infer that I am not a very bubbly person who loves rainbows and unicorns. I love dogs and animals and I get sad sometimes, who doesn't. I feel anxious often and procrastinate like it's my day job. I get away with it because I am very high functioning in times of stress and pressure. If I feel the adrenaline from a deadline approaching soon, I will actually get my ass in gear and do the thing. And do it properly because I am also driven by a crippling fear of failure. And while this may be oversharing and getting too personal, I think it's important for transparency and authenticity, so when I tell you about balance, you are actually more likely to believe me and not just think "wtf does she know about this?". 

Tell-Tale Signs of Your Balance Being Thrown Off

I love being busy and being involved, it makes me feel useful and gives me a sense of purpose. However, doing a lot of things all the time can lead to burnout and stress. Over the years, I've developed more of an understanding and awareness of when I need to take a step back. I want to share this with you. If you don't agree or find yourself in these signs, that's fine. If this helps just one person, that's all I care about. Here is when I know I need to take a break:

Return to Your Inner Child

When these things happen, I realize that I am, frankly, too tired. I crawl into bed and write and re-evaluate. Whatever it is that is due, can wait. I prioritize my mental health so I can be more functional later on rather than being only halfway present. As an introvert, I need to take breaks from socializing often and sit in my room with my cat and watch Netflix or read books and just not open my mouth for like an entire weekend. This all connects to finding your balance and getting back to your true self by entertaining your inner child - a concept I learned about thru The Holistic Psychologist. We all have one. Your inner child likes to be creative and here are some things you can do for them:

  • Write in your journal, on paper, with a pen (I know, what a horror). Write about how mad you are or that you have to do laundry or that you ate something bad, doesn't matter. Empty your mind. In Julia Cameron's book, "The Artist's Way", she calls this concept of writing Morning Pages and recommends writing three of them everyday. 
  • Go outside and think: what would a child notice - is it a puppy? A butterfly? A weird tree or a garden gnome? What sounds would they hear? Birds or people talking on the phone or construction?
  • Make food that you'd love as a kid, whether it's just a glass of chocolate milk or homemade hot chocolate or grilled cheese or something from frozen. 
  • Draw, even if you are bad. It honestly doesn't matter. Just try to use a different hemisphere of your brain.

How I Connect to My Inner Child

I realized that I am happiest when I create. I connect with myself by making "thank you" cards from scratch, writing poems and prose, and doing calligraphy and illustrations. I only found that out through trying different things and accepting that I will be bad at first. It took a lot of work; now I am at a place where I am content with the art I create and feel comfortable offering my expertise to others. So, if you are in Ottawa and need thank you cards for an event, or you want a poem about someone special, or a custom calligraphy piece, you can send me a message here.

This blog is intended to share my story and my truth with you and share some guidance on what has been helping me in terms of work-life balance. I start at identifying how I feel and digging deeper for a root of "why" and then do some things that will help me connect with my inner child as described above. 

Written by

Sonya Gankina

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