Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

Deciding Who To Be Today

There was a night a few weeks ago where I got home late after another 11 hours at the office. I felt like a wrung wet rag hung off an oven handle. I'd been run ragged for weeks on end during a bumpy data migration, and I didn't feel like doing anything but pouring a short strong one and clocking out of life until sunrise.

Still, because I'm a glutton for guilt, out of sheer force of habit I pulled up my @home task list. I scanned it, trying to measure how I felt against the things on the list. Maybe i could respond to this e-mail. Maybe I could review that software documentation. But damn, after the amount of time I'd spent working today, did I really have the energy to finish laying out my book? Sure, it's creeping up on the end of the year already, but can't I just pull up a movie and zone out tonight? I'm so tired.

I sat there, spinning my bourbon on the table, when a question came into focus in my mind--"is this who you want to be today?"

I groaned like you might at the angel showing up on your shoulder.

"Hey. You call yourself a poet. You call yourself an activist. You call yourself a constant learner. Are you one of those today? Or today are you the guy who turns on the TV and tunes out of the things you say you care about?"

Life is composed of experience and memory. Aristotle had it: you are what you do. It doesn't matter who you say you are, which values you claim to hold--what matters is how you spend your time. We build our lives, brick by brick, by answering one question every day: who do you want to be today?

We all deserve self care. We all deserve time to rebuild ourselves and reflect. Sometimes the answer to "who do i want too be today" is "someone who knows their own limits." But the balance between self care and lost momentum can be tough to navigate. The best way I've found to keep my laziness balanced against my busyness is to reflect on that question as often as I can. Is this who I want to be today? Better still, if this is who I choose to be today, will I be happy about it tomorrow?

So that goddamn hard, goddamn useful question landed on me that exhausted evening. I blinked at the computer and considered whether it was more important to me to be a Guy Who Spends His Life at the Office, or a guy who's got a poetry book out. I took a sip of Buffalo Trace, blinked hard, and got to work on the book.