4. Being kind to yourself

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” 

I was 22 when I first felt stuck. I had been in my first career for three years, my first job I had fresh out of college. I was living in my hometown- a very small and forgettable town likely not found a map. It had one stop light. Mostly nothing happened there. One recent notable news story was a man named Bob was shot in the horse barn. Police initially assumed it was a stray bullet (to be fair, I am not from a place with any sort of gun culture so even that was still pretty fucking weird) but it turned out, if this was the game of Clue, if you had said “Bob’s cousin, in the horse barn, with a gun!” You would have been correct according to the town gossip. Turns out Bob’s cousin was obsessed with a local waitress, and Bob had been a little too friendly to her. Bob survived.

Anyhow, on top of my unfulfilling surroundings, I had also just gone through a terribly embarrassing breakup. I felt I need to get the fuck out, but felt I had missed my chance. I felt I was too old to start over. Hilarious now looking back. 22? Too old?! Gtfo. 

A friend of mine who I always admired had packed up his things and moved to Australia, and before he left he gave me Into the Wild. The quote I posted at the beginning of the blog hit me hard. Made me realize I am staying in a situation where I am unhappy for no other reason than avoiding uncertainty. I thought to myself, “Taking away fear, what would I want to be doing right now?” The answer was travel. I wanted to see the world. So I moved back into my parents house for seven months, saved up, and decided I was going to quit my job and travel Europe.

I had a panic attack two weeks before I officially left, so I won’t say these decisions are always freeing and easy. I had never had a panic attack before, I was at work and thought to myself, “Huh. I think I’m having a heart attack.” Word of advice, googling heart attack symptoms as you’re having a panic attack will not help the heart attack feeling go away. I went to the hospital and was given two Ativan. 

I went to Europe for four months on a solo backpacking adventure. Best time of my life, truly. If you’re thinking of doing this, do it. 

 

When I flew back I knew I had to move to the big city in my area, I couldn’t live in my hometown anymore. I haven’t looked back since. Also was not easy. I had no money, a beat up car, and still said fuck it. I stayed at my parents for two weeks until I got a job in the city, then packed everything I had and started the drive. I decided to stay at my brothers for the night, since it was a good halfway spot to the city. I kid you not, that night my car, and everything in it, was stolen. Turns out my car was the 12th one in two months in that area, being stolen for a gang initiation. Jesus fucking Chriiiiiiiiiiiist.

My first and last for rent now went to getting a car. My first and last now went on a credit card. I had to take a room in a basement of a house with three disgusting dudes because the apartment I had gotten wasn’t ready for three months. The night I got there, I turned on the first episode of sex and the city and cried of happiness. I will never forget how happy I was. It wasn’t easy. I was living day by day. But I fucking did it.I don’t think I have ever felt more fulfilled.

I haven’t looked back since. I moved up in my career. Met my partner. Fell in love. Bought a house. I will raise my kids here one day if we decide to pop one out.

But now I’m at a crossroads again, where I’m 28, and unfulfilled. I’m yearning for a purpose. Looking for meaning. I love where I’m living, I don’t love what I’m doing. I quit the job I hated, now what? I’m ready to try new things like before, but there’s an inner struggle I didn’t have to deal with before. I feel a sense of embarrassment now. I feel a sense of rejection before I even try. I picture everyone I have had a beef with ridiculing me, or pushing me down, or trying to sabotage me once I am successful. None of this is real, just my old noggin not being too kind to myself.

I was failing before I was even starting because I am thinking of every embarrassment as a reason to not try. Embarrassment is the worst feeling for me to deal with. Looking into this, it’s because it’s an emotion we can literally relive if we think about an embarrassing moment. This has been happening to me all the time. Turns out, there are a couple of things you can do to make yourself feel better.

  1. Your brain almost always thinks of embarrassing moments when it is doing mundane things. Keeping your brain stimulated (play a podcast, play music, etc.) will help the random jolts of humiliation
  2. When you remember an embarrassing moment, remember all of the aspects of the memory other than the feeling.

That last point has helped me so god damn much lately. Let’s just say when I’m folding laundry, and my brain goes “Hey L! Remember 14 years ago when you were interviewing your for your first job and they asked you to describe yourself in three words, and the only word you said was cool? Good tiiiiimes.” Normally, I would be like THANKS BRAIN HOLY FUCK I REALLY WANTED TO REMEMBER THAT. *Crawls into hole .*

 

But when I think back to the memory and I focus on the brown table, the clock in the back, the blinds on the window, and do not think about the stomach drop, the memory becomes a lot easier to handle and a thought you can just pass along.

Making changes isn’t easy. Be kind to yourself. Be your own best friend. You can end up being your biggest support and motivator, or your own biggest obstacle.

Have you found your passion? Is there anything holding you back?

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3. Making Lists to Make Changes

Here’s a glimpse of how my mind works. When you were younger, and you had a crush on someone, would you daydream of your life together? Well, I would too. Except I would go through every single living aspect, eventually mentally exhausting myself of said daydreamed relationship and be over it. We would have started dating, went through a whole relationship, and broken up all in the course of one daydream. I was ten.

If I have a craving for pasta, I don’t just want to microwave a can of Chef Boyardee (although that shit hits the spot on many occasions.) I want to get handmade raviolis from the Italian bakery down the street and make homemade pasta with fresh parmesan. I am both an over-thinker and an over-doer. It’s like both the gas and the brakes are being floored in my brain at the same time, which ultimately has lead to being overwhelmed, and under achieved.

I have seen myself in action at work where I just need to get shit done, and those are some moments in my life I have genuinely been proud of myself. Eliminating the needless overthinking and worrying, because there was literally no other choice led to amazing results. A forced focus that created a completed project. Now how to replicate this in my personal life:

  1. I make lists
  2. I parent myself to finish said list

For some people, this might be their version of overwhelming. Totally normal. To see 20 tasks where none of them have been started would be. For myself, if I think of something I need to do, my mind will go “Don’t forget you also need to do this project, and start the laundry, and respond to that email!’So now my one thing to do has overloaded my brain. Writing shit down allows my brain to focus on the task at hand, without worrying I might forget the other items. The overthinking brake pedal slowly releases.

I was watching a Mel Robbins youtube video, and she gave this amazing advice that stuck with me. She mentioned how you’re never going to want to do what you want to do. You’re always going to be tired, you’re always going to want to watch the movie. But like your parents when you were young telling you to make your bed or brush your teeth, you need to parent yourself. There is so much easy shit I don’t want to do on a daily basis, like when the remote is on the table when you just sat on the couch. Fuuuuuuuuck. I dont’ want to get up. You just gotta get up, or you’re never going to be able to rebinge Season 6 of Game of Thrones. Pick up the remote and you will be rewarded.

My 6 month list of to-do’s to getting happy (my goal):

  1. Be Consistent
  2. Self-Care
  3. Daily Meditation
  4. Get Healthy
  5. Therapy
  6. Solo Travel
  7. Read a book a week
  8. Yoga/Pilates 1x daily
  9. Join an Improv class
  10. Learn to code
  11. Learn tarot reading
  12. Start Blogging
  13. Take a theatre acting class
  14. Make an art piece a month
  15. Start my own business

I’ve already gotten a pretty good start. Everything is either something I have already done in the past, loved, and for some reason stopped doing. Or it is something that terrifies me (re: theatre class, starting a business) but secretly would fucking love. (I’ve always wanted to be an extra in a movie that has a three word line. More coffee hun? THAT’S ME! I’M WAITRESS #2!!) Or it is me learning something cool again, which I haven’t done in a couple of years. This list could look overwhelming…but I am done overthinking.

Is there anything you stopped doing you loved? Is there anything that you would love to do but are afraid?

2. Should you quit your job?

I had been googling this for months. If you’re starting to google “should I quit my job?” that is a certainty that something needs to change. Google really is an adult Magic 8 ball. The last year in my job had been complete hell. I was working in the beauty industry in a start up that had been acquired by a corporation a couple of years prior. The pressure was mounting from this corporation to make intense changes. Firing people. Making the brand generic. We came into work on a Monday to find out the Founder & CEO had sent in an email saying they quit effective immediately. OH SHIIIIIIT.

The Corporation decided to take the opportunity to fire entire teams and move the departments to their country. Unsurprisingly, this in turn caused a massive shitstorm and turnaround. By the end of 2018, I had the highest seniority. 23 of 25 people I had worked with had resigned or been let go. Including my boss. Like any bad relationship, you always hope it’s going to change. It will be get better. What else am I going to do? My CD’s are in their car! The lack of job security was looming, and with so many people resigning, the workload for me was quantifying. They made me take on some of my bosses work for eight months (the role of my boss remained vacant to this day) I was working 70 hours weeks with no additional pay and no hope for my career. All of the fun and joy was sucked out of 70 hours of my week.

This in turn caused exhaustion. Exhaustion meant I didn’t have the time or energy to do my hobbies or things I enjoyed. To be honest, I had kind of forgotten I enjoyed anything. I had been out to dinner with a buddy, who was talking about when we did Improv together. In my mind, this was something we did last summer, then they told me it was two years ago I had a jaw drop moment. Holy fuck. Where has the time gone?!

The nail in the coffin happened when I was in a meeting and they mentioned about 80% of my role was moving out of country. They promised me they wanted me to stay, so they were going to make a new role for me, but would not tell me what it was. Hmmmmmmm.

I knew I had to resign. I have always had this self imposed problem of defining myself from my career. If I was successful and stable in my career, I was happy and felt good about myself. If I didn’t I would self characterize as a loser. The thought of being unemployed made me feel like a loser. This is what happens when you care what other people think. You daydream about other people snickering at your choices. Jennifer from 8th grade is giggling at your downfall. None of that is real. No one really cares. It is your own mind doing all of the judging.

I spoke to a lot of people for reassurance. (re: last paragraph and still caring about what other people think)and I was told “Don’t leave until you find something else!” and “Be sure to give your two weeks notice.” Which is seriously great advice. Seriously. You want to leave things on a high note. You want to ensure stability in your life, and not have to explain your gap in employment to future employers.

I didn’t take the advice.

I resigned. Effective immediately. Took my things, said bye to my coworkers, and peaced the fuck out. I have zero regrets. It is normal to worry- you need to find a job, how are you going to get paid, will I lose a reference, what will people think. At the end of the day, I was miserable which was effecting how I felt as a person. When I am 80 years old, am I going to look back and say “Man, I should have stayed working as a manager at that place for another couple of months”. I don’t think I am, and things have a way of working out. I’m excited.

Have you ever quit a job? Are you thinking of doing so?

1. What the fuck am I doing with my life?

137,065,000 people were born the same year as me. According to one statistic, 91% of us are still alive, and 9% are dead. Yeeeesh. I don’t know how everyone is dealing with turning 28, but I am doing about a solid three on the scale. This feeling, the ‘is this it?’ feeling has been creeping up on me for months. Odd timing, as my partner and I had just boughten a house in an expensive city in North America. I had been promoted three times at work over the course of a couple of years. I had been able to travel a few times a year. My family and friends were healthy and happy. And yet, on the inside, I was becoming a grumpy asshole.

I could feel the small internal fire belly of rage over things that do not matter. Dealing with customer service people, driving, the co-worker that always seem to be named Linda or Karen that you wanted to open hand punch. Every day this little internal fire belly of rage was slowly nurtured by grumpiness and it felt as though soon this would just be who I was. I was venting constantly, I was not laughing as much anymore. Being this kind of person fucking sucks- especially when you’re aware of it. As I am morbid and theatric, I would daydream of my funeral at times where the eulogy went something like, “L was kind of an asshole. It’s too bad she died an asshole.”

I know I have to change- but what do you when you’re so down that everything is kind of meh? Am I depressed? Or have I just slowly sucked everything I found fulfilling out of my life, and I need to re-establish what sparks my mother fucking joy? I’ll figure this out over the coming months.

To be clear, I am still in the fuckin thiiiiiick of this. This is not an Eat Pray Love situation where this is a beginning, middle, and happy ending on discovering who I am and how others can to.

This is more like in movie metaphors, when Annie (played by Kristen Wiig) is sitting on her mom’s couch watching Castaway and crying over Wilson dying after everything else in her life is falling apart. Then the movie goes to commercial break and you don’t know what happens next.

That’s where I am right now. I hope for a Wilson Phillips ending- but I know I need to figure this shit out for myself. To get my goal of happiness, I have tried to rack my brain and figure out what at the root is making me unhappy. I know it’s not the escalating number of things I was now finding annoying. It has really come down to these three items:

  1. My Job
  2. My Self-Confidence
  3. Lack of Passion

Now that I know the three main pain points, I created three lists:

  1. Things I want to change physically
  2. Things I want to do or learn personally
  3. Things I want to do professionally or financially

Over the course of the next six months, I have decided I want to try and complete these lists and see if it makes a difference. Some of the items on my list might be dumb, some might work. In order to complete these lists, I have to quit my job. I will never be happy if I stay there. Queue all the anxiety and panic in the world.

Is there anything making you unhappy? Is there anything in your control to change it?