Balance: Making Space

You know that moment when you realize you’ve exceeded your limit? When you’ve said “yes” too many times? When the weight of all of your load seems heavier than ever? And then something happens and the mountain of responsibilities comes crashing down on you?

They aren’t nice, those moments.

We’ve all experienced them – myself included.

To keep that feeling from recurring, I’ve asked myself some tough questions: Why does this happen? Does it need to? What have I done to contribute to it? Am I creating a problem where there isn’t one?

The answers to the above are endless and personal and shift from day to day. But the response that remains consistent is BALANCE. And more of it. The subject of many conversations, in law especially but across fields, balance can be an illusory goal, albeit a necessary one.

I’ve noticed that balance is commonly described in hours: finishing work at a certain time, spending so many hours with family, exercising for X hours per week. I, too, have conceptualized it in this way before.  However, my notion of equilibrium has shifted recently.

For me, now, balance is about open spaces. It is about leaving room to enjoy. And for things to go wrong.

That might seem like a rather negative approach to the concept; counterintuitive to the idea of balance itself, which is meant to uplift, not bring down. I don’t mean to be pessimistic. Rather, it’s my attempt to be realistic about how to keep the scales aligned (and spirits high) when, inevitably, life gets tough.

Work gets intense. Period. But we are trained to allow it to, to think that is normal, even to seek it out. The legal profession, in particular, is an extreme one. Lawyers face numerous deadlines, great responsibility with greater consequences, and enormous effort required at all times. It’s pretty hectic. Even if you manage to contain work within certain hours, the sensation of pressure remains when you’re off the clock because you feel like you have to keep going, a break is a failure, a lack of ambition.

I also realize that – like many of my colleagues – I put a lot of pressure on myself. To perform. To perform well. To perform well all the time. I am constantly pushing myself to do more and do it the best I possibly can. This drive isn’t a bad thing, but I admit that, sometimes, I’m a bit out of touch with reality. First, it’s impossible to 1001 things really well all at the same time. But also, even when a project isn’t an instant success doesn’t mean it’s a failure. Such reminders have been good for me. And acknowledging how I contribute to my own stress is important to rectify it.

Our professional lives are always going to occupy a large part of our lives. Understanding why and how is important. The question here, however, is how much space do we give this sector of our lives?  When we become so consumed by work and let it absorb all of our energy and capacity, we don’t leave any room for the rest of our lives. We take on so much that in order just to function and get through it all, there is no choice but to run at our highest capacity all the time. So, as soon as other aspects of life become complicated, breaking point arrives instantaneously because we haven’t left any room.

Those complications could be as simple as a cold: when you get sick, how much does your world turn upside down?  Or it could be a fight with a loved one: how low do you drop when that happens?

But when shit really hits the fan – serious health problems or financial struggles or deep emotional upheaval – then what?

Well, without balance, rock bottom is far closer than it has to be.img_4077

On the flip side, when life is going smoothly and we don’t overburden ourselves with work, we have the scope to really enjoy and savour the good times. We are fully present with our loved ones. We are better parents/partners/daughters/friends. Sleep is deeper and more fulfilling. Food even tastes better because now it isn’t simply fuel but ceremony.

Yet if anxiety seeps into every corner of life, the little pleasures are ruined, too.

So this is a call to leave room. Create space. Feel better.

5 Outfits to be Fierce, Comfortable, and Professional in the Office

Guest Post by Saneliso Moyo*

As a lover of fashion waking up every morning and figuring out what to wear is often the best and worst part of my day. How do I maintain a professional appearance while channelling my inner-Solange Knowles? Are matching sets workplace appropriate? What suit says “please hire me” but won’t make me sweat bullets when it’s 31 degrees outside?

How do I maintain a professional appearance while channelling my inner-Solange Knowles?

Beyond the superficial concerns about sweat and honoring my fashion idols, some very real anxieties about being a young, black woman in a very white and very male profession inform some of my decisions about what to wear each day. I always want to stay true to myself and my personal sense of style. However, I am also painfully aware of how my style choices can impact the way I am perceived by my colleagues, clients and prospective employers. But unpacking all of the ways my gender, race, class (or perceived class) and fashion choices work together to inform other people’s perceptions of me is perhaps a deeper discussion better left for a different day (or post)!

Being a self-proclaimed fashion girl and a new lawyer presents many a fashion related dilemmas. However, I do my best to find balance between being comfortable, fierce and professional whether it’s a day in the office, or a day in court. Check out the outfits below for a run-down of some of my favourite fashion-girl pieces, that can transform into office appropriate piece too!

  1. White Sneakers

Full disclosure, my office is probably among the more casual law offices out there. While jeans aren’t necessarily the norm, I can get away with a nice pair of sneakers paired with some fancy pants and a classic button up.

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How to pair white sneakers for work
  1. The Solange Suit

Suits don’t have to be boring! A bright suit colour may not always be courtroom or client-meeting friendly in all settings. However, it can be the perfect pop of excitement to break up the black, grey and navy suit rut we so often run into.

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Ditch the black and grey suit! Be bold!
  1. Bold Prints

Bold colours and bold prints are my favourite ways to make a statement in an otherwise ordinary piece. Try a conservative silhouette in a bold print paired with a classic shoe to mix things up a bit!

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  1. Jumpsuits

By far, my favourite article of clothing in this world is a jumpsuit/romper. I love them for everyday wear, special occasions AND work! For the summer months, try a  sleeveless jumpsuit with wide legs and some nude pumps or pointed toe flats.

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Jumpsuits for the office
  1. Chambray Button Up 2.0

A chambray top is a great piece for your work or casual wardrobe. A chambray top with beads (or any other unique detail) is even better! Pair it with slacks, or some white jeans (on casual Fridays) and a statement pump (think red or an animal print) for a fresh look.

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Chambray, chambray, chambray!

These are just a few outfits that let me live out my fashion girl dreams while pursuing my lawyer girl goals! I hope they inspire you to channel your inner [insert your fashion icon here] when you wake up for work tomorrow! 

 

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Photo: Martin Ejidra

*Saneliso is a lawyer by day, stylist by night. Known amongst her peers and friends as the most fashionable lawyer in the game, she never fails to impress. Saneliso is launching her own professional fashion blog soon – stay tuned for details! Follow Saneliso and her sartorial feats on Instagram: @saneliso_