A former travel magazine editor, 29-year-old Midwest native Jess Hoffert is taking a 6-month break from the cubicle life to become immersed in the colorful culture of Southern California.

The importance of treating yourself

The importance of treating yourself

“You’re a different Jess,” a friend told me this weekend while visiting the area. I asked him to clarify what he meant by that. He said, “You don’t take yourself as seriously. You seem relaxed and well-rested.”

That’s good to hear from someone who knows the pre-California Jess, although he assured me that most of me is the same—including the occasional snark and sass, thank you very much. I guess I hadn’t realized how much more relaxed I felt until he said something. But it makes sense. Despite my journey to California being focused on helping others, I’ve found it just as important to help myself in the process.

Some of that comes naturally when you’re doing volunteer work. It just makes you feel good. Other times, you have to be more intentional about it. I take morning runs 4-5 times each week. They’re only a couple miles, but I feel better after I take them. It means I’ve accomplished at least one productive thing before breakfast.

My wellbeing here can also be attributed to my weekly schedule, or lack thereof. Initially, having no regular 9-5, Monday-Friday work schedule was stressful for me (I like having a routine). However, I’ve learned to embrace this flexibility as a blessing that I may not be able to fully enjoy again for a while.

For the most part, I create my own schedule every week, meeting with Pastor Richard to make sure I’m focusing on projects he wants me to focus on. In total, I do roughly 10-15 hours of work for the church each week, plus 10-15 hours of freelance work for my previous employer in Iowa. Do the math, and you’ll see that I have an abundance of #treatyoself time. And I can’t think of #treatyoself without replaying this Parks and Recreation clip in my head:

For the record, I don’t have the financial resources to match Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle’s #treatyoself level of indulgence. But I do have nearby beaches at my disposal. The beach has become a place of true relaxation for me, especially with a good book in hand and a view of the waves. Lying there and listening to the bustle around me—instead of being part of the bustle—is rejuvenating.

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I’m also a bit of a movie buff, so I go to one of the dozens of area theaters once or twice a week. And thanks to MoviePass, I can see as many films as I want for one low price each month. (I know, that totally sounded like a commercial, but I’m just really pumped about my MoviePass. And if they want to end up sponsoring this blog post, even better.)  Sometimes, I get to combine my volunteer work with my movie outings, taking some of the church kids to the movies with me. I have two such outings planned for this week, since it’s the kids’ spring break.

Some of the children have never been to a movie theater before, and it’s a blast to introduce them to the experience. When I took Yasmine for the first time, she wanted to sit in the very front row … and then quickly reconsidered. (Please note that the photo below is misleading. I did not take Yasmine to Sherlock Gnomes. Rather, I took her to a screening of the Oscar-nominated animated short films, because I still have standards when taking children to the cinema.)

Other free-time activities I’ve enjoyed include trips to Los Angeles to visit my friend and former coworker Stephanie, exploring museums, and of course, trying out some of the countless Orange County culinary options, especially ice cream cafés, bakeries and coffee shops. I love my sweets.

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All of these things are completely unnecessary from a survival perspective, but I've learned the hard way that if I don't take time for myself, I'm not someone you necessarily want to have around. I can get easily overwhelmed and tuckered out by large group situations (a.k.a. church functions). I can get flustered and frustrated, and yes, very snarky. While I'm here, I don't want that to happen. I only have six months with these dear families, and they only deserve the best version of me. So to have that extra recharging time between church events and outings has been a true blessing. And it's allowed me to experience a version of myself that's less serious and more in-the-moment.

I’ve also found joy in writing these blogs, and I hope you’ve found them worthwhile. If you’re reading this, thanks for indulging me while I treat myself. But now it’s your turn. How are you going to #treatyoself today?

The halfway point

The halfway point

Busting fears and busting a move

Busting fears and busting a move