This is the story of the best parking ticket I ever got. When you live in LA, getting these is pretty common, but this time was special. This parking ticket left me feeling balanced and weirdly in control of my life.
On my journey as an entrepreneur, there came a point where my business and my day job didn’t play nicely together any more. When I first started, I was sneaking my side hustle into my schedule any way I could, but as it grew into a full blown business, it slowly started to outpace my day job. It seemed to happen overnight. I got really burned out, really fast, trying to do everything at once.
On the day of this parking ticket, I woke up before sunrise to exercise, took client calls all morning, manipulated spreadsheets for my day job all afternoon, and then headed over to a friend’s house to babysit that night. At the end of the day I was exhausted. I headed home after babysitting and pulled onto my street just a few minutes after midnight.
“Crap!” I thought.
It was Wednesday night. Or technically, very early Thursday morning. In my neighborhood, Thursday is street sweeping day - the day that trucks come by to clean dead leaves off the street, and parking officers write tickets for anyone parked in the vicinity.
So on Wednesday nights I usually have a few options: park in the next neighborhood over and walk the half mile to my building, park on the street and get up at dawn to move my car, or leave my car on the street and risk a $73 ticket… whether or not the truck actually comes by.
It was past midnight, I was exhausted, and I didn’t have the energy to walk the length to my building. But the thought of risking a ticket instantly prompted some bank account guilt.
I put my car in park, and thought about my life - which is always a great idea after midnight.
Until that moment, I hadn’t realized that while I carefully guarded my bank account, I was terrible at protecting two other precious resources: my time and energy.
As I sat in the driver’s seat, bleary-eyed and waffling on what to do, I realized that there were more currencies in my life than money. There was time, physical energy, mental energy, and emotional energy. These less tangible currencies were actually much tougher to acquire than cash at that moment in my journey.
“What if I just rolled the dice and risked the parking ticket?” I thought to myself.
“Who do you think you are?” my inner critic answered. “Do you think money just grows on trees?”
“Actually, it’s paper, so yeah, but that’s not the point,” I replied. “The point is that money is energy like anything else, and I get to decide which, and how much, energetic currencies I spend at a given time. I am in charge of that choice.”
I pulled the brake handle and headed into my building. Bring it on, Los Angeles Parking Enforcement!
I realized that just because I don’t store time and energy in a bank account, that doesn’t mean they less valuable than dollars. Like most beginner entrepreneurs, I took on too much work in order to earn more money, but I was leaking my time and energy everywhere! When I actively chose to risk spending $73 on a parking ticket, I also chose to save two other currencies: time and energy.
In doing so, I momentarily brought my personal currencies back into balance in a way that felt authentic to me.
The experience wasn’t comfortable, but it left me with two important questions about this tension that I still ask myself today: Which of my personal currencies are in balance right now, and which ones aren’t? What am I willing to do right now to achieve a better equilibrium?
For me, sacrificing a little money to gain a little ease was worth it. I got a ticket, and the world didn’t end. While I didn’t enjoy writing the check, I did enjoy feeling like I made the choice on purpose. It felt weird, but a good weird - like stretching farther than you thought you could in yoga class and finding out you won’t break.
The entire experience left me with a more empowered understanding about my own version of balance. That when it comes to starting and sustaining a world-changing business, time, money, and energy are all are valuable currencies - and I am in charge of how much value I choose to place on each.
Photos by: Eileen Roche