A while back, when we went through those “Things I’m Afraid To Tell You” posts, I promised I’d start sharing a bit more of my personal life on the blog… and since then (of course)  I really haven’t much, save for a few bits here and there. It can be such a challenge to get out of the routine of writing design posts, and really taking time to WRITE. But, every once in a while, certain topics of conversation seem to become a reoccurring theme in my life, and when that happens, I feel a stronger push to talk about it. I’ve decided to call these posts gut checks – those times when you have to pause and put things out there, to talk about where you’ve been and where you’re going. And this time… I think I’ll stick to my promise of writing them much more often.

Priority number one for years now has not been me. It’s been my work. It surrounds me every second of every day. But, if you’ve been following my life at all lately, you know that I’ve been making some changes around here to take time for myself. Time for weekends with no laptop, and evenings out for dinner, without feeling guilty about it for one teensy bit of a second. This is major progress.

And yet. My work is still very very much me. To the point where at dinner parties if someone asks me about non-work related things, I seem to have forgotten how to have that conversation. Or at least separate the two within conversation.

It’s understandable, in some ways. My job includes travel, photo shoots, shopping, dinner parties, and design. The things that many people do in their spare time are what I do for work. It’s no wonder that when people ask about my life, I talk about my job!

But, what I’ve realized is that I really miss other parts of the conversation going on at the table. I don’t talk about books I’ve read because it’s probably been a year since I’ve actually finished one. I barely catch the news and can’t decipher politics these days for the life of me (I can only blame politics itself for so much of that).  I miss intelligent conversation, and yet I’ve forgotten how to have it. Or rather, I’m smart enough to know that I’m lacking the information I need to participate in those conversations on an intelligent level.

I’m missing balance in a way I hadn’t thought about it before. Balance of information.

My ten year college reunion is coming up in October (this can’t be possible) and that too has made me realize how much I’ve been missing – and craving – new knowledge. I used to be able to discuss philosophy and economics … or at least try. Now, I can’t remember a damn thing I learned in those classes so long ago. My brain has gone weak.

And on top of all that (because these things always seem to come full circle), I feel like there are issues I should be educating myself on as a blogger  and business owner that I haven’t made time for. I should be keeping up with social media strategy, reading books on business, taking classes on video editing, understanding the ins and outs of online advertising, and devouring copies of every fashion and interiors magazine I can get my hands on. Instead I’m probably spending too many hours on pinterest looking at pretty pictures.

All of these feelings come from so many places in my life right now that the overwhelming call to action is loud and clear: make more time. For reading. For watching the news (the real kind). For growing my knowledge. For difficult conversations (for those are the ones we learn the most from). For history. For travel. For art. For science. (Ok, maybe science is stretching it…)

I say all this for several reasons.

1. I want to better myself – always. The best way I can possibly think of doing that is with continuous education.

2. In this world today, what you don’t know CAN hurt you. Ignorance and lack of productive conversation seem to be prevalent in today’s society. We stick within our social boundaries to avoid conflict, and when it manages to find us, we forget how to talk about it logically, openly, as students of the world. Instead, we shake our heads and close our ears, and think that somehow we must know what’s best. It’s probably the saddest sight we see on a daily basis. Well… that and reality TV.

3. I don’t want to be entirely defined by my work. Even if it’s super fun awesome work. When someone asks what my hobbies are I want to have at least three things I can rattle off that have nothing to do with this blog. And when I’m sitting at dinner with strangers, I want to able to interact with them like a person who doesn’t just read design blogs.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s important to be somewhat immersed in your field of interest or expertise. If I wasn’t passionate about what I do, I wouldn’t do it. And, I find my own knowledge extremely helpful to others – something that is not to be underrated. We need professionals to lend advice. But we also need – in certain instances in life – to be able to form our own, educated opinion on things or chime in with life knowledge that can’t be gained with our noses buried in our own business all day. Every day. All the time.

Last week on my flight home, I downloaded two books. One – recommended to me as a business read – is entitled “The 4-Hour Work Week” . The other, “A Moveable Feast”  because I felt like something classic, and Hemmingway seemed like a good place to start.

I think it will be an interesting experiment to see what the result of this shift will be. As noted in the above quote – no browsing, no milk. I don’t believe we can truly grow – in our craft or in our personal lives – without adding to our education. And I, for one, intend to do much more browsing.

*image via cote de texas



56 responses on “GUT CHECK :: NO BROWSING, NO MILK.

  1. Maryam

    Good for you! I’m going through the same thing as well, at times feeling like I’m drowning in an ever-growing to-do list, but decided work will always be there. A day at the beach, or hour with a good book won’t.

    I need the time away to recharge, and I’m better prepared for my work when I come back to it. Oh, and I just read The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Seriously one of the best books I’ve ever read!

  2. nicole

    you are smart to recognize this! i think there is a tendency in the blog world to “keep it pretty & light” and while that might be great for content, it might not be the best for personal growth. i think it’s so important to keep oneself educated in matters separate from our specialty. thanks for bringing it up, and hopefully inspiring others to do the same!

    1. Natasha

      Interesting… hmmm, sounds like all of us bloggers truly love what we do, but now that we have been doing it for a while, what’s next?? I can totally relate to the fact of needing more knowledge on the world, politics etc. BUT I also feel the need to stop and smell the roses from time to time, and I am actually at a crossroads myself. I have had the opportunity to “take the summer off” and now that I have slowed down quite a lot, the big question is Now What? Should I “go back”, should I start my own business, should I “hang out” a little more….?
      I think that you are doing a wonderful job from what I can see here on the blog and elsewhere, and I commend you for speaking out loud, one of the best blog post were the “Things I am afraid to tell you”, I might actually do one of those, maybe… 🙂

  3. maria

    Great post, it couldn’t be more accurate. It kind of makes sense why my non design friends and family don’t want to hear all about my design related things all the time. Ha!

  4. Vanessa Coppes

    I have been following your blog for over a year and have never loved your insight more than I do today 🙂 I read “Things I am Afraid to tell You” as well. In fact, it’s why I am moved to comment. I love your willingness to touch on the conversations people have been running away from for years in a public spectrum. I too consider myself a student of life. It’s always great to know you are not alone in the concept of navigating (questioning/challenging it) life, while living it. So many people have stopped cultivating their growth (creative, spiritual, education).
    In essence, all this ‘browsing’ is what influences your design perspective and it’s lovely to see where it genuinely comes from.
    I commend you and look forward to your future posts.

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      Thank you so much for such a sweet comment Vanessa! It sounds like we’re kindred spirits in this aspect, and you’re right – it makes it so much nicer (and empowering!) to know that you’re not alone in these thoughts and challenges. I’m looking forward to my future posts too! I feel like I get so much out of them myself!! xo

  5. Alex

    since graduating college last year, I’ve been feeling like all I know is my job + this little fashion/blog world I live in. when I go home to visit my family, I find that all I can talk about is my job or my blog – two things they can’t relate to. I’ve been slowly trying to get back into what’s going on in the rest of the world and reading more often. this post has reminded me to keep at it!

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      it’s so hard when your life makes major shifts like that! i feel that way with my parents too – they’re the ones who always say i’m so out of touch with what’s going on and i’m actually grateful for it. sometimes it takes that little wakeup call! but knowing your job and your blog world isn’t such a bad thing either 😉

  6. Lisa Stevens

    It totally agree with you, your education never ends, even after you’ve left the classroom. All creative fields are built on the work of those who’ve gone before us. In order to make the connections that further any creative medium, artists need to be interested in and exposed to many new places, people and ideas. A Moveable Feast is a great place to start. I reread it about every five years, it’s a quick, easy read that is always enjoyable.

  7. Tara

    I absolutely loved this entry – so heartfelt and truthful. I own and operate a South America travel company with my husband and sometimes feel like I can never escape it. Not only are our successes and failures so poignant and personal, but I can’t come home and say “honey, how was your day?” because I know already (I had that same day!). When we’re out with friends I feel the pressure (real or imagined) of talking about my job like it’s always really interesting and exciting…no one wants to hear “Actually, I’ve been dredging through paperwork for a month!”

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      oh, so true!! some jobs can look so glamorous from the outside (and of course nobody wants to hear about your overflowing inbox and paperwork!). i’m always in awe of couples who can work together – it’s a skill and not without challenges, i’m sure. maybe if you both make time for one little thing outside of work that’s completely different it will be fun to share with each other at the end of the day! (not that you sound like you need advice!!).

  8. Cyndi Murdoch

    It’s easy to get stuck in our little bubbles. Your blog is one of my first reads of the day, and I’m looking forward to following your new content. Thanks for sharing.

  9. mikky

    Great post, I really liked the “things I’m afraid” post. I always tend to think someone else is more organized and has it all figured out and is just sailing thru life, so this and that post have been great. I read the 4hr work week awhile back, there is so much info crammed in that book, you will be highlighting like crazy. I’d love to be as disciplined as Tim (the author) seems to be. Let me know how you like the book!


  10. Cassie

    I love this! I recently thought about how so many bloggers did the “things I’m afraid to tell you” posts, and it seemed like everyone just went back to their normal routine of writing what they used to write and pretending life was just as lovely and perfect as ever. Thank you for being open and sharing your thoughts on the subject. It’s easy to get caught up in what we do 40+ hours a week and I think most people could use this reminder. You are wonderful.

  11. Celine

    I felt the same way a few months ago after I realized that someone I was getting to know had come to think of me as quite shallow. It hurt but also made me realize that perhaps that was what I was giving off because I was more concerned with putting information out rather than soaking it in. These days, I’ve been reading TIME and The Economist on my daily commute, leaving fiction for when I have more downtime, and it’s helped me catch up rather quickly. Maybe you can try listening to podcasts and such during the daily battle with gnarly Seattle traffic? Good luck! PS: it’s really nice to read about your real life concerns amidst all the pretty pictures 🙂

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      celine, i’ve found myself in the very same situation – meeting new people forces you to wake up a bit doesn’t it!? the things i talk about start to sound so materialistic sometimes! one of my best friends reads the economist all the time and i always poke fun at her for it, but i think i’m going to start stealing them from her instead now!

      1. Celine

        Being around people in a completely different industry is definitely an eye-opener that the world doesn’t revolve around chevron and ikat prints 😉

        $$$ saving tip: If you’re an iPhone/iPad user, The Economist lets you read Editor’s Highlights for free! I try to read an article or two instead of obsessively checking Facebook & Instagram every 5 minutes. It’s a much healthier time killer!

  12. Carrie

    I have to say that listening to NPR as I get ready in the morning and in my car is invaluable. TV news is unbearable and committing to reading a newspaper is really unrealistic for a gal on the go. You will be amazed at how many relevant, fun, quirky, chit-chat interest items NPR covers. It’s the most amazing way to stay current on everything (news, politics, arts, music, science, pop culture). I also agree with the poster above about podcasts, which I am addicted to for long plane rides and when I commute via public transport. My favorites are the New Yorker Comment and Political Scene podcasts (free, weekly, about 10-15 min each), the Slate GabFest (they have this on a variety of topics; I listen to the political one which is very conversational and accessible). And the New York Times has a 2 minute headline podcast.

    Also my friend just told me about the magazine she gets called The Week ( which gives a very concise digest of all the biggest stories of the week. I had already heard of everything in her issue (because I listen to NPR!) but I agreed that the Week provided great, need-to-know coverage.

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      carrie, i totally used to listen to NPR when i had a commute – and i miss it! i don’t know why i don’t turn it on at home. i’m going to start! sometimes the most obvious solutions are right in front of our nose, huh? 😉 thanks! i will check out those podcasts and the week too!

  13. Karla

    That is so true about creative people being interested in all sorts of things. Do you ever listen to podcasts? I became a full time freelancer last year, and now I listen to them constantly. They are perfect for multitasking, and some of them are so well done. Radio Lab is my absolute favorite. Maybe you would like them! Good luck!!

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      you know what? i never have, but i SHOULD! when i’m working i’m usually listening to music, but turning on podcasts or NPR would be much more productive! thanks for the suggestion!

  14. Cristina | Fuji Files

    I literally wrote a note to myself yesterday – WRITE MORE. It’s so hard to get out of the habit of writing “I love this” or something to that effect in every post. And on the topic of pinterest, what’s scary is when I convince myself that it’s ‘research.’ I’m feeling totally inspired to change all of that after reading this post!

  15. Kyah Hillis

    Oh my goodness! I feel the same way! I especially love #3…it’s a shame we can’t express our political views without feeling like we are treading on dangerous ground. We can learn from each other and we should all be able to have healthy conflict. Unfortunately, because what I do, I certainly don’t read and keep up with politics and current events like I should. So on top of feeling like I can’t talk about politics (due to potential conflicts) I actually CAN’T talk about politics because I’m not current. This needs to change or I am setting a terrible example for my daughter and I hope she makes a difference in this world!

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      kyah, yes!!! whenever i visit my parents they talk to me about politics and push me to pay a bit more attention, and it’s so needed! i hope you can do the same for your sweet daughter too – start ’em young! 😉 xo

  16. mel wilson

    This is one of my favorite posts! I have been so there this year!!! Going from a professor, to an editor should have been more relaxing, but instead it has been a year of working NON-stop. In May, we realized that though our intention had been to teach women about “real beauty + simple living” we had forgotten how to live it out our selves. I spent the summer on sabbatical of sorts, and it is amazing to feel refreshed again!!! I’ve become a huge fan of the NPR app, of reading my novel first thing in the morning before turning on my phone, and of having at least one friend and their family over for dinner one night week. So much more creative, than pinning all day. : )

  17. Maryam in Marrakech

    Honestly, I think that’s right. A little more self-reflection– for all of us — is required. When I compare most people to, say my parents, they are lacking. People able to converse on a wide variety of topics. People who are truly well traveled. People who have a higher calling, in addition to a beautiful house and beautiful clothes. The days are long but the years are short and I think all of us are required to develop — if we can — into truly aware, honed beings. My blog is just one facet of my life — an important facet but not the most important facet. What do we leave behind here at the end of the day. The answer for me is someone who tries to contribute in a wide variety of areas, some serious, and some not so serious.

  18. Hollie Olivia from Glamorous Monk

    Dearest Cassandra! I literally JUST finished reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. It blew my socks off…. Not only for the tight ‘on purpose’ writing, but for his thoughts on putting in a good solid day of work (for him, writing) and then to stop before dinner and walk and eat well and rest (and have ‘saucy’ time, which is a whole other can of worms). He seemed to understand well that tricky thing called ‘boundaries’ – at least, as far as work was concerned.
    I so hear you on getting sucked into Pinterest for hours (and for me, I then wonder why my neck hurts like hell and my eyes are burning).
    So, here’s to us creative ladies creating some balance and boundaries and knowing when to quit after a good day’s work 🙂
    PS I admired and honour your Things I’m Afraid to Tell You post. You inspired and encouraged me. Go girl.
    Hollie Olivia

  19. Natalie ~ Hello Darling

    Congratulations! Opening up about things beyond work, or the reality of all the work we do as business owners is a bit scary, but I feel the same and actually wrote a post about it yesterday as well! I think if we were all more honest/open business owners, we WOULD have something else to talk about and probably a whole new circle of friends 🙂 Way to start the conversation on your site.

  20. Andrea

    The older I get the more I realize that my purpose in life is to LEARN as much as I can about whatever I can. For me it’s about being able to relate to others with similar thoughts and feelings about our world (and learning through opposing viewpoints), and to do that I have to be informed. My passion is for learning new things, constantly. My brain sometimes can’t slow down, even in the middle of the night, with things I wonder about – what I want learn how to do, where I want to travel, cultures I want to explore.

    It makes me very sad when I hear about others who are so closed to learning new things, or closed to at least opening themselves up to the possibilities that there IS more to learn. Always.

    Brava! I can’t wait to hear about what you learn! We are with you!

  21. Megan

    This is so on point with today’s culture and society and I’m so, so happy that 1) you wrote it and 2) there are others out there who feel the same way that I have been feeling. Our lives have gotten too busy, our focuses have shifted and instead of taking time to better ourselves with education or books, we’re told to work harder and do more because that’s our “modern day” definition of success. Maybe we can start a revolution and show the world a better definition of success.

  22. laura

    hi Cassandra,
    posts like this make me love your blog. Reading entries like this one make me want to return to your blog. Thank you for sharing those intimate and intelligent thoughts!

  23. Erin

    I just finished five books on vacation – all of my reading for the year thus far and I can attest you do feel smarter, more cultured and with a more open mind, almost immediately. I’m now committing 30 mins to reading before bed! And PS – i didn’t miss Pinterest at all. You can rid yourself of the addiction 🙂 xoxo

  24. Naomi@Design Manifest

    Yea Girl! I hear you. Good for you for already buying the books. I still need to. I constantly feel like I don’t have enough “other interests,” but at the same time I’m just working on not being too hard on myself. Kinda attitudes towards oneself leads to happiness which hopefully leads to energy to explore other topics and interests. Or so I’d like to believe.
    PS- we managed to squeeze in some non-work talk and I loved it!!


  25. Bethany

    I feel exactly the same way. I just finished 3+ years of grad school for interior design and I’ve pretty much been living, thinking and breathing design over those years. I’m looking forward to having a little more time for balance now. Reading, cooking, intelligent conversation… oh, how I’ve missed these things! You’re off to a good start with A Movable Feast (one of my favorites!). I’d also recommend (at some point after you read it), “The Paris Wife” a novel about Hadley, Hemingway’s first wife, and the one he was with during the period of A Movable Feast. I just finished it, and loved it. Next up for me, “The Art of Fielding”, and “Gone Girl.” (Oh, and if you’re still looking for a vacation read, try “Beautiful Ruins,” it has just the right amount of liveliness for a summer read. 🙂

  26. Ginger

    For suggestions on those books we all “meant to read” I’ve been working my way through A Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.

    In my free time, I’m trying to do a better job of dividing it between things I enjoy and things that enrich me — often I find many surprises that those enriching do both!

  27. pixie

    Ah, this post totally hit home. I feel the need to learn new things but rarely do I make the time to do it. I also feel like most of what I learned in college has left my brain. I’m going to make a fall resolution to read something that will teach me instead of just a chic lit book, to buy the NYTimes on the weekends and read the REAL articles, not just the fashion, design and travel pages. Thanks for this posting!

  28. Angee

    I was just referred your blog post from Apartment #34. This is a fantastic post and I can so identify. I have been working in my own company for the last 10 years and I work virtually out of my home and I have forgotten how to socialize completely. We live in a rural neighborhood that has nothing around it and I find it might be a week before I actually leave the “hood” to venture in to the social world. I hate it! I have got to do something about it but I have to say I have fallen in to a rut and it is hard to get out. We are actually looking to move to more a city atmosphere so hopefully that will be the start.

    Thanks for posting so I know I’m not totally alone in some of what I’m going through.

  29. RhodesianRidgeback

    Yes, you must rest. A Moveable Feast is a great book, but MFK Fisher has a great book also on how she came to love food. I would suggest that you rest and look at mother nature whenever you can. I allow Goro to lead me thru the wonderful parks of Japan. There is no music, or talking, only the wonderful parks of Japan and a very discriminating camera man and his avatar, a Corgi named Goro. It is on youtube channel Sirowan

    Here is todays walk in the park:

  30. Cara

    I pretty much have the same feelings- I have always prided myself to be creating my work on my own, but it really is a lot of WORK, and I don’t have anyone to help me with it. It is just me. I find myself saying often-where is the balance? I started reading books, the 4-hour work week is next on my reading list! I ws recently introduced to a network marketing company that allows me to still work in real estate and freelance write, but also create a financial asset on the side. My goal in a year, is to have enough residual income to be able to “tone down” my extremely fast paced real estate career, and be able to stay home with our new baby (Due December 1). I am full steam ahead and never looking back!


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About Cassandra LaValle

Cassandra LaValle is the founder and editor-in-chief of coco+kelley where she explores trends in fashion, decor and entertaining, highlighting pieces that exude classic design and glamour. As a designer, she consults clients across the globe on styling their homes and private events from her offices in Seattle.