Hustle is a word we’ve grown accustomed to using when describing chasing our passions and dreams. It’s a word full of pride and has become an anthem for those of us chasing our dream careers. A reported 44 million Americans claim to have a side-hustle in conjunction with their current full time job, the majority of those 44 million being between the ages of 18 and 25 (source). Which personally, I think is awesome! My (now) full time photography career began as a side hustle as a freshman in college, and over six years, slowly, with lots of sweat (and many tears) morphed into my chosen career path – and for that, I couldn’t be more thankful. But recently, as I was reflecting over the past six years, a surprising question popped in my head:

Was I using hustle as an excuse to avoid my need for rest?

Was I using hustle as an excuse to avoid my need for rest?

I can remember a time in college when I was hustling hard. For longer than I care to admit, I took 18 credits per semester, worked three part time jobs, all the while working on my photography side-hustle. The days were long and the rest was nonexistent. The only friends I had were the people I went to school with, hanging out with my boyfriend and/or family almost always revolved around my ability to get work done while “enjoying quality time” with loved ones (editing photos while having a bonfire, studying while watching a movie, etc.), and all in all, I was miserable and couldn’t figure out why. “But I’m hustling!” I thought to myself. “I’m hustling through and working towards my goals. There’s nothing wrong with that!” But really, while I was hustling hard I was missing out on so many more important things. Friends. Family. Hobbies. Anything fun was immediately thrown out the window in the name of hustle.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m so thankful that I was able to hustle hard to make the dream of owning my own photography business a reality, and I am beyond grateful to be able to get paid to do what I love – but in the last few years, I’ve been learning some hard truths about rest. Two years ago, I was working out before a full day of work, followed by a photography session, when I felt a pop in my back. I’ve had back pain my entire life, but I knew something about this wasn’t right. The pain started in my back and shot down my leg to my foot like a giant tooth ache. Over the next few days, I experienced excruciating pain that forced me to miss days of work and many photography sessions – all I could do was lay in bed. After a few months of physical therapy, the pain slightly decreased but was still debilitating. I finally went to the doctors for an MRI and found out that I had a severely herniated disc, along with a few bulging discs.

During this period of my life, I wondered why I was going through such pain. I constantly fought God, begging him to let me continue doing what I loved to do – but then, after lots of wrestling, I realized that this pain might have a greater purpose. I realized that the pain I was experiencing – no matter how extreme – gave me time with my husband. I wasn’t running a million miles an hour  (I couldn’t even get out of bed many days!), so I was able to spend lots of quality time with my husband – something we had been missing in our first few months of marriage. I was also forced to rely on other people – something I have never been able to do. I had to rely on my husband, my family, and my friends to help me physically and to encourage me spiritually. I had to pause my hustle. And even though it was hard at the time (and still is!), I’m so grateful for those sweet moments where I learned not only to trust the people around me, but the God who has my life in his hands and works all things together for His good.

Today, I’m happy to say that I’m on the road to healing in more ways than one. Physically, I can photograph a wedding without being bed ridden the next few days, and psychologically, I can take at least one day off a week as a Sabbath to spend time with friends and family without completely losing my mind. I’m slowly realizing that I don’t need to work 12 hour days or 60 to 80 hour weeks to feel fulfilled, and that hustle, while wonderful in moderation, doesn’t have to become an enemy of my rest. By choosing to be intentional with my periods of rest and relaxation, I’m better able to do what God has called me to do. I’m a better business owner, a better friend, a better wife, daughter, sister, and Jesus-follower when I choose to rest and deny hustle reign over my life. I still have SO far to go, but I couldn’t be more thankful for the lessons I’ve learned and for the direction I’m headed.

What’s denying you of the rest you need? Where and what might you be saying yes to that’s stealing the rest that your body, mind, and spirit so desperately crave?