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Always choose sleep

A woman sleeping. Photo: Mortgages

Covering this month’s Women in Entertainment edition of The Hollywood Reporter, Viola Davis opened up to best-selling author and leadership guru Brene Brown in an exchange about trauma, healing, politics, and how Time’s Up is changing Hollywood.

On admitting she’s taken projects she regrets, the How to Get Away with Murder star said:

“I had the Oscar, I have two Tonys, I have the Emmy, I have a big house, and still — bam — unfulfilling. Then I realized it’s because I’m not living for significance and legacy. And this is a big one, and this sort of hurts a little bit: I’m finally admitting to myself that a lot of the jobs I’ve taken in the past, because I knew that they would further my career, have been things that I have not been proud of. They put more money in the bank, they raised my status, but at night they keep me up.”

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Have you ever felt this way? I have.

Granted, not many of us are trust fund kids who can sail through life choosing only the jobs they like because there is a roof over their heads paid for by Daddy and the bills are paid every month. They may have the luxury of searching for their calling or waiting for the right gig to come along, without dreading the middle of the month when the outgoings far outweigh the incoming salary and you wonder how you’ll make it to the next pay check, or worse still, if you’re a freelancer, the next paying gig.

In fact, most of us of the mediocre lot, with no rich parents or sugar daddies to look after the outgoings, our minds often troubled with how to juggle bills and make ends meet. How can one lose sleep over what their legacy is when they are working round the clock to make a mark, or a living?

I remember my early to mid-20s – in a senseless race against time and imaginary nemeses – I would accept every job that came my way to further my career and build a portfolio.

In fact even before then, while at university, I would commute two hours out of the city almost daily to toil at Cosmopolitan magazine.

Not the height of highbrow literature by any stretch of the imagination, especially for the lofty ideals of an English Language and Literature student, but alas the only women’s magazine to offer summer work.

At a rate of peanuts per word, mind! Back then I would justify each hour breathing exhaust fumes, or crafting a well-written piece for a minute fee as honing my writing.

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As I moved up in the world, I became more discerning with the assignments I accepted. Until I had to start all over again, making the transition from journalism to a career in PR, only replacing discernment with eagerness and it was now clients I was taking on instead of assignments.

The problem with clients is, as opposed to articles, you can’t bury them – unless you want to end up with a life sentence, that is.

Not proud of a piece of writing? Use of pseudonym and you can still get paid for a piece that will not make it within a mile radius of your portfolio.

Not proud of a client you’re representing? Tough luck. Your name will be forever tied to their name unless you’re in the business of anonymous public relations. This goes for any line of work which requires you to put your name under of course.

While many of us also don’t get to luck out aged 40 like Viola Davis and find fame on the back of an excellent career move after years of hard toil, as we settle into middle age, we become more discerning in our choices. If it doesn’t pay well, forget it.

If it’s more stress than it’s worth, drop it. If it doesn’t serve you, don’t take it. Decisions are far more black and white, made with our heads than our hearts.

Then there are jobs that pay well but do not serve you.

Those jobs that put more money in the bank, raise my status, but at night they keep you up? Perhaps it is because the older we get the more value we place on sleep, that’s exactly why we should say no.

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Recently, I took on a job which in my heart of hearts was something I shouldn’t have taken.

It was easy money for what it was worth, potentially a gig that could lead to more, but when I weighed the hassle that would follow, I was tempted to say no. However, easy money is often sweet so I succumbed and agreed to take it on.

Sadly, my cautious side was proven right within weeks when I realised I had begun losing sleep over the whims of the capricious client.

Despite the fact that we were nearing the end of the project and it would have taken me another day to complete the job and get paid with a handsome amount, I pulled the plug.

Yes, it was hard to kiss that pay check goodbye but my sanity, I figured, was worth way more.

Whatever life stage you are in, if you find yourself questioning some of the jobs you’ve taken on, make like Viola and ask yourself: Am I losing sleep over this. If the answer is yes, always choose sleep.

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