My friends teasingly call me, “The Energizer Bunny.” I have a day job, run a wellness company, have writing commitments for magazines, juggle speaking engagements, and maintain a busy personal life. I also teach yoga to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault as well as incarcerated men and women. Daily workouts, getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night, spending time with the family, and cooking fresh meals five days a week are non-negotiable since they provide sustenance for my soul.
I am not sharing any of this to brag, because I am not some exception. Many women I know are empowering us with their choices. That includes those from my generation, and the ones before and after mine.
From the time I was a little girl, I have idolized my buas (paternal aunts). They are academics, PhDs, gold medalists, and head of departments, with their head on their shoulders. I am a nerd, so being impressed with their education was a no-brainer. But my buas showed me how I could follow a career, be successful, pursue a passion, and yet have a happy marriage and nourishing relationships. I have always been ambitious but also with a deep-rooted sense of domesticity: I love reorganizing my kitchen and labeling my spice rack just as much as I enjoy giving a talk in front of a thousand people. I saw my buas run departments and make dal-chawal with the same pride. They made me believe that I could make rotis and also kick ass in the boardroom.
Life is about choices, and you need to know what matters most to you.
I am surrounded by women who are go-getters, dreamers, doers, and unapologetically ambitious, yet humble and centered. Women who appreciate a stable personal life (whatever that might mean to them) just as much as they value their financial independence and pursuit of a passion.
I interviewed three women who are successful in their professional careers (day jobs) and equally fiery about their passion/side hustle/business and asked them how they manage to do it all.
Priya Mulji is a marketer by day, a writer for Britain’s Eastern Eye newspaper and a blogger at priyamulji.com. I think of Priya as the desi Carrie Bradshaw of London. Mulji shared that at the moment, it has been easier to manage her day job and writing commitments.
“With the pandemic, I’ve spent more time at home, so I am able to get up earlier to write or spend more time in the evenings writing instead of socializing,” she said. “Before it was harder, so I used to have writing Sundays, where I would try and spend a few hours in a coffee shop and write.”
In the pre-COVID world, Mulji would write in her lunch breaks, which is something I would do, too.
“But I think the pandemic will help me manage my time better in the future. Waking up earlier or having the mental capacity to write later into the night,” she said.
Priya’s top tip for someone contemplating to keep their job while following their passion is, “Just follow that dream and make it happen! Don’t worry about what people will think or whether you’re good at it or not. If you feel passionately about something, then make that passion and dream into a reality. No one will do it for you, so write that book (which I’ve done in lockdown), start that blog or business. Believe in yourself and your talents.”
Kara Freedman, founder and CEO of Baked by Nature, a company launched this March, is inspired by her grandfather Walter. Baked By nature offers delicious, natural, wholesome oat bites full of healthy ingredients, and no added sugar or preservatives.
When I asked Kara how she balances her day job and a business, she said, “I work my primary job 9-5:30 every day, and some days until 6 or 7pm. After that, I dedicate two to four hours a night working on Baked by Nature. I spend a few to 10 hours a weekend working on the business (depending on the weekend). I find the best way to balance the two is to take a night off from my business or just spend 10 minutes on the nights I’m more exhausted. I listen to my body and mind and when I need a break. I take one, so I’m rejuvenated and can dedicate more time on Baked by Nature the next day. I would pass along the advice Barbara Corcoran touts on Shark Tank and on her podcasts – keep your 9-5 as long as you can!”
Naina Lal is the art director for WebMD, a site devoted to publishing health information. She is also the founder-owner of Kulinary Karma (Instagram: www.instagram.com/kulinarykarma/ and Facebook: www.facebook.com/KulinaryKarma/). Lal started Kulinary Karma as a side gig, spurred by her passion for cooking.
“My food is primarily Indian vegetarian food, but I take inspiration from different cuisines of the world,” she said.
Lal enjoys teaching cooking classes/workshops and finds the process of chopping and stirring relaxing.
“Although I love my professional work, it is very deadline driven, and can be stressful most of the time. Cooking, however, is my savior,” she said. She finds delight in cooking for her family, experimenting with recipes, and writing it all down in the hope of one day publishing her own cookbook.
Lal suggests spending at least 30 minutes every day, if not more, on following your passion.
“I actually used to think that I could hold all my thoughts and ideas in my brain, but when I started penciling them down, I realized how much more accountable I became,” she said. “Make a plan but be flexible. By saying ‘be flexible’ I mean don’t be hard on yourself if things don’t go as intended. However, believing in yourself, and keeping the light of ‘I want to get there’ ignited helps. My biggest tip would be to find a support system. Find friends and people who you can trust and tell them that they have full authority to give you a slight push or a nudge. And one such great friend is Sweta Srivastava Vikram [Tongue-in-cheek disclaimer – that’s me], a best-selling author among a million other things. Publishing my own book has been a dream, and thanks to her gentle nudges, I wouldn’t be cooking more, testing more and writing more.”
I have learned that compartmentalizing, setting boundaries, being okay with imperfections (at times), and prioritizing what’s important is the key to thriving. Also, waking up early and being in control of time, versus chasing it, keeps me centered and productive. If you have been waiting to follow your passion but wondering how to go about it while juggling a day job/family/life, here is hoping Priya, Kara, and Naina’s stories inspire you.
“You can do anything as long as you have the passion, the drive, the focus, and the support.” ~ Sabrina Bryan