There is this Billy Joel song I love called Vienna.
There is a scene in the movie 13 Going on 30 where Jennifer Garner’s character is processing a bit of a personal crisis, and that song is playing in the background. It was my go-to song in first year, when it was 2 am and I was still trying to finish papers or assignments, or studying for midterms, and realized I had left things too late. I had to go to the silent study room and motor.
I’d plug-in my headphones and hear:
Slow down, you crazy child
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you’re so smart, tell me
Why are you still so afraid?
Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?
You’d better cool it off before you burn it out
You’ve got so much to do and
Only so many hours in a day
Slow down, you’re doing fine
You can’t be everything you want to be
Before your time
You’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need
Though you can see when you’re wrong, you know
You can’t always see when you’re right. you’re right
Slow down, you crazy child
And take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It’s all right, you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?
I loved it because I needed the reminder that it was all going to be okay. I was doing fine. In the midst of deadlines it was okay to slow down, give myself a break or not be too hard on myself for not getting things done sooner.
We’re all human and I think it’s a good reminder that you can take a break and give yourself grace and understanding. If we don’t, we will burn out.
Take the Phone Off The Hook
When I think about it now, Vienna sounds kinda like a self-care anthem. It was written 40 years ago before language of self-care was as pervasive in culture as it is today, but I think the message is timeless and rings true.
If you need to take a break and rest – that’s okay.
If you need to spend some time watching Netflix or being with friends and not doing work because you desperately need a break – that’s okay.
I do think there is something to be said for idleness and wasting time – but I want to make the point today that there are different ways to be productive and taking a break can be productive too. “Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while” – go for a walk , take yourself out for a coffee, catch up on your favourite TV show, journal and take time to process your life. It’s okay.
You don’t need to be stressed or afraid that you’re not working hard enough.
The things on our to do lists often feel like they need to get done and they need to get done now. We might not be able to take a break immediately if deadlines are looming – I had to push through many late nights in the study hall prepping for midterms and writing papers. I think I might have even seen a sunrise or two, but the point is that we can’t operate like that forever.
Slow & Steady
There is something so soothing but haunting about Billy Joel’s voice singing the opening lyrics of the song. It feels a little like he’s reading my mind and can tell how stressful life can be.
And it doesn’t end with handing in the last paper and walking across the graduation stage. Sometimes it feels like it’s just getting started and the future ahead of you can be full of so much uncertainty. But as we move forward in life we can take the lessons of self-care and the understanding that it is okay to rest and pace ourselves. I don’t know what things make you feel stressed out and overwhelmed, but I think it’s a universal feeling we all experience.
I was always a fan of the 45 minutes of studying, 15 minute study break thing – it always seemed to really work for me and helped me stay on track because taking time to rest is important. There is a time and a place for resting and self-care and if you’re feeling burnt out, maybe the time and place is right now.
We live in a society that wants us to be constantly outputting work and thoughtful ideas and be ‘productive’, and that can be so stressful. But I want to say today, if you’re putting forward your best effort in life, showing up and trying, then you’re winning.
Vienna (and the rest of your life) waits for you.