Isobel Marshall: Sometimes You Need to Stop and Value Rest as Much as Productivity


POPSUGAR Australia is dedicating the month of September to featuring the next generation of inspired thinkers and courageous individuals who are building and manifesting a brighter future — because the next gen is unstoppable. We will deliver personal essays from young Australians who are making a name for themselves, as well as inspiring thought pieces and interviews with rising talent across different industries throughout the month. Find all of our pieces here, and if there’s someone you think is missing, email our editor so we can share their story — [email protected].

When my high school bestie Eloise Hall and I were 17 and 18 years old, we learnt that for millions of smart, driven, capable young women around the world, their first period would mark the last day of their schooling. Armed with a business idea to challenge this reality and advocate for menstrual equality and wellbeing, we launched TABOO; a social enterprise that sells organic cotton period products, with all net-profits dedicated to ending period poverty.

Sitting in a cafe five years later, armed with my oat latte and laptop, I’ve been tasked with the job of writing an article about what being unstoppable means to me. I’m reflecting on this season of my life, almost overwhelmed by how much has happened (and a little bit sad that my coffee came in a takeaway cup when I only chose this cafe because of how cute the mugs are!).

When I plunge into the depths of our TABOO Instagram feed for inspiration, I can’t help but feel mildly exhausted by the sheer quantity of speaking events, school presentations, market stalls, strategy sessions, crowdfunding, promotional campaigns and resource development projects that we have poured our time, energy and emotion into over the years — and mostly for free!

Despite how much I love, cherish and believe in TABOO and our mission, I can’t say for certain that I would have the energy to do it all again, knowing now what the journey would entail. That’s why I am so grateful that we started TABOO when we did. The 17 and 18-year-old faces smiling back at me from the tiles of our 2017 Instagram feed make me realise that our youth and naivety were some of our greatest strengths.

Yes, we were hard-working and driven, but it was our child-like understanding that life was unstoppable that really kept us going. We said yes to all the opportunities presented to us, even though we were certainly not the most qualified or experienced.

But what compelled us to say yes, even when it was nerve-wracking, or scary? Well around this time, we were discovering a few key things that quickly helped to shape our values and priorities. Based on these discoveries, we decided to launch TABOO and commit to a lifestyle that every day reflected those values and priorities.

With our passion for the cause and our team of two being a source of encouragement and accountability, the unstoppability of life spurred us on to fill each day with meaning and purpose.

One thing that this journey has taught me (and that I am still trying to learn!), is that productivity as a value in itself can quickly become unhealthy. I have a tendency to get down on myself when I don’t wake up early enough to go for a run, or when I don’t get through my to-do list because something else has come up.

But I’m slowly learning that to be truly unstoppable, you sometimes need to stop, and form value around yourself and your wellbeing as well. Being unstoppable doesn’t mean you never stop, it means valuing rest as an intentional investment into your future and your quality of life.

The fact that life doesn’t stop for you can certainly be a kick up the arse to say yes to the scary things, or take up the seemingly crazy opportunities. But it is also a reminder that one day your time on this earth will come to an end. What’s the point in placing your entire self worth or value on your work or productivity if it compromises the quality time you spend with loved ones or your appreciation of the beautiful things this Earth has to offer?

The fabric of life is made up of the way you spend each day, and each day reflects the values and priorities that you have consciously or subconsciously committed yourself to. I am grateful that from quite a young age, I had a strong sense of the values I wanted to reflect in my day-to-day, and I was privileged that I had the resources, support structures and ability to make that a reality.

But I am also learning that the unstoppability of life reminds me of the importance of taking hold of the moment and being present. It reminds me that even if the sun is out today, it may not be tomorrow and that I need to stop and appreciate it while it lasts.

Isobel Marshall is the co-founder and director of health at TABOO and the Young Australian of the Year for 2021. You can follow Isobel on Instagram here.

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