Work, Play, and Other Vacation Struggles | Thoughts from My Brief Journey to Minnesota

Something I'm growing in ferocity with is work-life balance. In fact, I'm beginning to think that living in and enforcing it is part of my calling. Freedom has come to me, because I've learned how to put healthy boundaries on my life (and get more work done than ever). However, this past season has been one of growth for my business, where I am sowing seeds and making room for new things to come along. With that has come a bit of an obsession with growth, and it has left me feeling considerably less than balanced. I've been over-worked, restless, and all but running on empty.

This April, my friend Shelley invited me to Minnesota to celebrate her birthday. She turned forty...something. Who's counting?! And I did not hesitate to book my ticket! Even though I was busy at home creating work for myself, spending time with her (and about a week away from the office), was an easy decision to make! Despite wanting to get a little work done while I was there, I made a point to keep laptop time to a minimum, as I was being to feel in my gut that so much work-focus was wearing me down.

We got some cupcakes from the Mall of America to celebrate Shelley's birthday! Mine (the middle one that reads "Yay!") was vanilla filled with chocolate mousse. Heavenly!

We got some cupcakes from the Mall of America to celebrate Shelley's birthday! Mine (the middle one that reads "Yay!") was vanilla filled with chocolate mousse. Heavenly!

Apart from being an inspirational equine photographer and videographer, Shelley recently purchased a farm with her husband Tracy. For the first time ever she gets to live with all of the animals she loves: her two schnauzers Toby and Charley, her three barn cats Casey, Five, and Gale, and her gorgeous horses Maggie Sue and Fritzie. As you can imagine, being there was a very interactive experience: from early-morning animal feedings, to stall-mucking all with countless hours of furry snuggles!

Shelley let me borrow her rain boots to wear in the barn. I made sure to get them nice and muddy for her!

Shelley let me borrow her rain boots to wear in the barn. I made sure to get them nice and muddy for her!

Their lifestyle required rest and healthy rhythms. Chores combined with sunrise chasing and the general sense of busyness that happens when you're visiting friends left me feeling more tired and hungry than normal. Because of that, I felt like I didn't have the usual energy to sit with my laptop. Even though I would naturally worked a lot more, I had to close my laptop and rest because of my lowered energy. It was the ultimate gift.

An inception flatlay styling moment. Don't I made a great hand model?

An inception flatlay styling moment. Don't I made a great hand model?

In between shop-talk, YouTube watching, sight-seeing and photoshoots (from our model Olivia, to Shelley's headshot + animal photos, to practicing flatlay styling, and finally my own moments as Shelley photographed me with Maggie Sue), we managed to snack to our hearts content, delighting in homemade guac, charcuterie boards, Instant Pot meals, fresh berries, and so much La Croix. Even though we played hard; we rested well and fell into natural rhythms of work, play, hunger, and rest.

Ah the joys of snack time and Instant Pot meals!

Ah the joys of snack time and Instant Pot meals!


Something that I noticed in Shelley the whole trip was her ability to stop and enjoy the moment. She adored watching her horses eat peppermints, reaching for them with their curly lips. When it was time to feed her dogs, she would tease them and build up the suspense as they got excited, jumping and dancing for their food. What I would have made into a mindless daily to-do, she made into an opportunity for enjoyment.

Casey, the proud retriever of mice, and one of Shelley's adored cats!

Casey, the proud retriever of mice, and one of Shelley's adored cats!

When I got home, I hit the ground running and got straight to work the next morning. While at first it might have seemed like nothing changed, the most miraculous shift occurred: I wanted to read. Ok, so reading might not sound like a big deal, but as someone who defaults to Netflix to zone out and call it a night, I couldn't believe that I actually had a desire to read a book. My desire to read didn't feel like alternative entertainment either, but it instead felt like an uncanny desire for fruitful rest and mental growth.

Not only did traveling to Minnesota help to recalibrate me to do what gives me life (make room for slow conversations, cook delicious food, have less screen time), but Shelley helped me see the joy that can come from lingering in a moment and being just a little more present in the daily tasks. Even though I still feel a little work-worn and awfully task driven, I'm thankful to have been whisked up north to remember what it looks like to squeeze every drop out of this precious life I've been giving. What Shelley thought was a gift for herself was actually an unexpected gift for me, and for that gift I could not be more grateful!

See my video blog of the trip here:

 
 

Emma Wheatley

TOPEKA, KS, 66606