The modern wisdom that gets me through the tough times


Modern Wisdom

Sometimes you encounter a nugget of wisdom that stops you in your tracks.

You might have heard variations of that same message a million times before, but for some reason, in that precise moment, you finally hear it properly for the first time. It sinks into your cells in a way that hasn’t happened before and it helps you make sense of the world — and yourself — in an altered (and awesome) way.

Here are two such pieces of modern wisdom that stopped me in my tracks when I first read them, and that I’ve gone back to time and time again when I’ve found myself sliding into a sinkhole…


‘What is for you will not pass you by.’

– Sarah Wilson

A few months ago, my website got hacked. (Apparently this here little corner of the interwebs is highly attractive to people selling knock-off handbags and replica Rolexes. Ugggh.)

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that I’ve been hacked, so this time I decided to find some big guns to help me out. With a ‘hack repair specialist’ and a security expert on my team, my website quickly got deloused, and some hardcore security measures were put in place. (My site now has more security than Prince William.)

In the process, however, a few different digi-bits and bobs stopped working while we tried to get all the new measures to function and interact properly.

One of the casualities was my email account.

For four days, my professional email account could not send or receive emails… FOUR DAYS.

I fully understand that in the grand scheme of things, this is nothing big. In fact, it’s not even a blip on the radar of Things That Actually Matter.

But in the moment, after a week of techno-nightmares and not having any idea what was going on and HOURS spent trying to sort through the detritus of my blog, this seemed like a Massive Deal.

I was really concerned by the fact that my clients couldn’t get through to me, and me to them. I was intensely worried that they’d think I’d abandoned them or was being a slack-ass.

I was also really concerned that ‘emails with opportunities’ wouldn’t get through to me. You know, things like a potential client with the coolest project in the world. Or that one of my creative idols would suddenly, completely out-of-the-blue reach out to me and I wouldn’t get the email. Or just some other ill-defined Awesome Opportunity that I wouldn’t even realise I’d missed out on.

This may sound completely insane (and it probably is) but it kept plaguing me for those few days – What if I’m missing out on something amazing? Yes, my friends: FOMO was well and truly ruling my roost.

Every single time though, as soon as I was able to catch myself in what I was doing, I repeated one thing to myself, that I read long ago: What is meant for you will not pass you by.

I chanted it to myself like a mantra, a crutch, and it was equal parts reassuring and perspective-giving.

It’s awesome advice:

When you feel the need to read your entire Facebook feed in case there’s the ONE article that will ‘change everything’…

When you feel compelled to finish reading a book even though it’s not turning you on at all, just in case there’s a nugget of gold in there somewhere…

When you say yes to projects/invitations/opportunities that you don’t really want to, just because you’re worried that you’ll miss out on some other, flow-on opportunity if you refuse…

When you’re scared to listen to your body and step back, switch off…

When you’re scared to take some time away from your inbox…

What is meant for you will not pass you by.

What is meant for you will not pass you by

‘Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.’

– Brené Brown

My final year of law school. End of semester one. Exam time.

Like every other student in the world, I’d left my study much later than I’d intended to. (‘This semester is going to be different, I’m going to be organised.’ – ha!)

A week before swat vac started, a family friend asked me to babysit their three children for three days straight while they went away on a business trip.

The kids would be at school each day, they reassured me, so it wouldn’t be too hard or take up too much time. ‘We know it’s short notice, but can you do it?’

Immediately running through my body was a giant shiver of ‘Hell no!’ I had about 13 weeks of Evidence Law to catch up on, not to mention a massive caseload for all my other subjects. I knew I was going to struggle to get everything done in time for my exams even if I worked 24/7 during the time I had available, let alone with three children in tow for three days.

But at the same time, running through my mind, was a fierce flash of fear:

If I don’t say yes, I’ll disappoint them.

If I don’t say yes, I might lose them as a babysitting client.

If I don’t say yes, it’ll be really hard for them to find someone else at such short notice. (Which for some reason, I’d taken on as my own concern.)

If I don’t say yes, they mightn’t like me anymore… (?!)

So I said yes.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. I had two exams during the three days of babysitting. I spent the entire time feeling resentful, indignant at them for asking me, and so angry at myself for agreeing to it. I’d pick up the kids from school at 3pm, go through the motions til they went to bed, then stay up til 2, 3, 4 a.m. studying to get everything done.

By the time it was all over, I was a zombie. An angry, disappointed zombie.

I still managed to do well in my exams (those anger-fuelled 3 a.m. cramming sessions paid off), but the experience was highly unpleasant for everyone involved (including the three kids, who did not deserve a cranky, caffed-up army seargent supervisor).

Not my proudest moment.

All because I was too scared to assert my own boundaries out of fear of disappointing someone else.

These days, stuck on a pink Post-it note above my desk, there to help me write awkward emails, stand my ground and speak my truth, is this:

‘Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.’

Word, Brené. Word.


Got a nugget of modern-day wisdom pinned somewhere that helps you get through the tough times?

I’d love to hear it. Let ‘er rip in the comments below.

Also, did you enjoy this post?

You might also like this one on how we’re losing our spaces and my introvert’s guide to saying no.

12 Responses to “The modern wisdom that gets me through the tough times”

  1. Amie

    great post jess, i’m finally learning how to set boundaries, it’s taken me a few years :-/ but i’m slowly getting there!

    the post-it above my desk is a danielle laporte truth bomb ‘be open to it being way better than you imagined’ it helps to keep me bouyed about the possibilities instead of sinking into self doubt and fear of the unknown!

    • Jess

      What a gorgeous quote: ‘Be open to it being way better than you imagined’… I love that so much! Thank you!
      (P.S. My boundary-setting is progressing in baby steps too! 😉
      xx

  2. Katie

    Yessssssss! Love this post.

    Like Amie, I also have some Danielle LaPorte wisdom on a post-it – stuck to my iMac, front and centre.

    I don’t know if it’s a direct quote (it’s been up there for a while), but it says “Facts and Feelings”. It’s there to remind me of the two most important parts of any piece of writing, in the simplest of terms.

    Sometimes it gives me inspiration and other times it calms my overwhelmed copywriter brain!

    • Jess

      Thanks Katie! Ms LaPorte is so great. I feel like she’s said approximately a bajillion quotes that are Post-It worthy! That one is lovely, and a great reminder for writing/creative purposes. xx
      (Oh, and soooo hearing you on the ‘overwhelmed copywriter’s brain’ front — ha!)

  3. Meredith

    Thanks so much for this post, it really struck a chord with me. These are such great quotes!

    I also have a few Post-It Notes of Wisdom around my desk. One of my favorites is: “A bird sitting in a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not in the branch but in her own wings.”

    • Jess

      I haven’t heard that one before, Meredith — it’s beautiful. And very Post-It worthy! 😉 Thank you for sharing. xx

  4. Kylie

    I completely resonated with the second message (and your story!). I’ve had so many similar incidents in the past, and one of my ongoing goals is to get good (really good) at boundary setting. It’s definitely a work in progress! Thanks for sharing! xx

  5. Sarah - Signed By Sez

    Totes agree with this, sometimes I feel like my brain is one walking inspirational quote (yeah thanks for that Instagram!) although I don’t have mine pinned up somewhere my go to for this year has been “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. And after moving to Mongolia at the beginning of the year there has been more than a a fair share of fear but it’s my compass to breathe and keep going! Love your post xx

    • Jess

      I remember reading the book ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ when I was a teenager (I think I might have stolen it off my mum’s bedside table?!) and I’ve loved that quote ever since… I think it’s way too easy to think that if you DO feel fear then you’re a failure, when that’s not the case at all. (Incidentally, I LOVE what Elizabeth Gilbert says about fear in her book ‘Big Magic’ — it’s well worth checking out if you haven’t read it!)… And also, WOW — I can imagine that moving to Mongolia must have been a massive exercise in feeling the fear and diving in anyway… I hope it’s AMAZING! xx

  6. Greta

    Love this post Jess. I love the fomo antidote – a divine reminder that we don’t have to read everything/go to everything when space is what we need.
    Also, massive Brene Brown fan and boundaries are definitely a slow learning curve form me, but the more I learn the better my life becomes as far as boundaries go.
    The latest quote I scrawled onto a sketch pad for my kitchen wall was also from Brene, ‘ you can either own your story, or stand outside your store and hustle for approval’ . The concept of owning one’s story is a powerful for me to ‘ stand in my sacred ground’ , (another Brene concept) – awesome reminder about the sacredness of each of our stories, with all their strange, wonderful and wacky facets.

    Thanks for an awesome post on the wonderful art of writing, reading and remembering & sharing wisdom-filled gems.

    • Jess

      Thanks Greta! I’m so glad you liked it. I’m currently listening to the audio version of Brene’s ‘Rising Strong’, and hearing her share all these incredible nuggets of wisdom in her no-B.S. Texan drawl has me convinced we would totally be besties if we could just meet ‘in real life’… 😉
      I love that quote of hers that you’ve mentioned, and the ‘sacred ground’ stuff too — such powerful ideas. xx