- There’s somebody out there who is doing worse than you right now.
- If you’re concerned that you’re not as good of a person as you think you are, that puts you ahead of the game (keep exploring that).
- In a whirlpool, if you panic, you die. Relax. Ride it out.
- Give yourself a little bit of mercy now and then. You’re the only one hearing you say ‘uncle.’
- Touch your own heart. Feel it beating. Remember that you’re still here.
Next week, I’m going to be moving my series How to Have a Day Job to Self Dare!
For those of you not aware of H2HaDJ, it began as a mailing list and then a blog series on my writing blog, bohemian.on.rye. I feel that it will be more relevant here, as this blog more heavily focuses on taking care of one’s self, which is the core of the series’ aim: teaching how to maintain your creative spirit while paying the bills. And I’m telling you not from some lofty cloud of complete self-reliance, but from the trenches, in my own day job.
For the first post, I was hoping that you all might have some questions or thoughts regarding your own career history. Is there some particular insight you have been looking for? What do you struggle with? What is the worst job you’ve ever done and how did you survive?
Tell me about it in the comments!
- This crisis you’re facing is only cracker-thin. You’re going to crush it, almost on accident, and then wonder why you were so worried.
- Everything is temporary. Love it because it is so. Let it go because it is so. Say hello and goodbye in the same breath.
- There is a swarm of gnats in your head, and even though they feel like a hundred warring soldiers, it’s just because there is so little space for your thoughts to breath. Let them out.
- Spend as little time as possible thinking about what you should or shouldn’t do and let your hands do the talking.
- Shine the spotlight in your mind at what you love and focus on those things instead of all the things moving around in the surrounding dark.
I bet when you started reading this post, you were thinking, “Ah yes. Here we go. A diatribe about being yourself and not going with the crowd, yadda yadda yadda.” Although those are great things you should already know, this is much more mind-blowing.
Did you know that the popularized “fact” that lemmings will commit mass suicides is a complete farce? Although many will remember seeing the depictions of this “behavior” in Disney’s “White Wilderness” (which won an Academy Award, people) it was a fabrication.
Let that sink in for a second.
And thus, I want you to heed a more true lesson from these cute little fuzzballs: don’t let anyone tell your story for you. Do you think right now those lemmings are losing sleep, pondering over the fact that people believe they are getting ready to fling themselves out into the void? Do you think they are looking into their little lemming mirrors, saying, “Why do people think I’m such a conformist?” No. They are way too busy living life to the fullest. And sure, that life may basically be “eat, sleep, run around, repeat” but it’s not one that’s being wasted concerning one’s self over the misconceptions of others.
Defy expectation. Break every standard and stereotype. You do you. Follow the crowd if you want. Make your mark every day. And question every single documentary. I dare you.
How to Survive an Existential Crisis
It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? An emergency situation. Red, flashing lights. Sirens. Fire. Murder!
When you’re not in the middle of it, it seems like some serious #firstworldproblems. And even when you are experiencing it, there’s this nagging voice in the back of your head going, “You know, somewhere in the world, people are experiencing crises too. For food. In wars. Families trying to make their lives manageable. And you are getting stressed out because you don’t feel…what? Happy? Satisfied? Get over it!” And isn’t it funny how that voice always sounds like the parent trying to get you to eat brussel sprouts? Those starving kids, right?
In the American work culture that walks an uneasy line between “live your dream” and “suck it up, buttercup,” it’s easy to feel conflicted when you are trying to deal with struggles of self. I speak from experience. Here is a simple guide to getting through these really awful feels.
1. Journal about it: write down everything that’s sticking in your head. Don’t think too much about it. Just take a few deep breaths and write it all out. The plus side to this is that you have it down so you can come back to it later. Often times, you will find later that you’re not really sure what the big deal was. Or, on the other side of that, you can assure yourself that you have in fact felt this way before about something and start making decisions on how to change it.
2. Talk to someone: make sure that you let them know which you are looking for – an attentive ear or actual advice. Give them a heads up beforehand that you are going to share things that may seem self-involved, petty, etc. I know you may be thinking “why would I have to do that with a real friend?” but sometimes it actually serves to open them up more to getting your struggles. Because you’re saying that you’re trusting them.
3. Understand that this is happening and give yourself a break: a lot of times existential crises will spiral into shame trips. Don’t let them. You are having this moment, so accept it as it is. Be okay with the fact that you are going through this, even if you’re not okay with the feelings themselves. Think of them like weather or traffic or illness; you don’t have to like it, but it’s here for now, so just relax.
4. Give yourself a solid 60 seconds: freak out. Scream into a pillow. Hyperventilate a little bit. But just for that minute. Then, you need to go do something else.
5. Be present: I say this a lot, but it’s an important aspect of dealing with things like this. A lot of times, even though it’s called “existential,” a lot of the mulling over we do involves the past and the future. Fuggedaboutem. Think about what you’re doing right now. Focus on that thing, even if it’s just sitting at your computer, reading comics. Be 100% in that.
You can handle this. I dare you.
I used to love drama.
Not the awesome spoken word kind, or plays about people kind, or even the crazy Greek ones that had weirder sex than Game of Thrones. No, I used to love hearing all the scoop, all the kerfuffle, all the flibbertigibbet. I was the undercover scandalmonger, who would just happen to be around when the most chaotic people would appear, obviously full of angst about someone else. “You can talk to me about it,” I’d say, “you can get it out.” And I wouldn’t just drink it all up. I would gulp it. I would gorge myself on it.
This only got bigger and stronger with my increasing online presence after college. The Internet is a lot like an adorable card and gift shop. You can walk around forever and ever and keep finding things to pick up and marvel at. Comments sections of news articles about things I already didn’t agree with were the best. Lists of all the things guys find wrong with women? Sign me up. Articles about how awful things I love are? Yes, please!
And I always found these things through my best friends, the people who think like me, the people who go, “This is so messed up” and “Am I crazy to think that this person doing this is not okay?” so that I could join the loud, cheerful choir of “Yes! That is the worst! It’s all awful and we are such better people for not agreeing with that garbage!” Because who doesn’t want to have that with their friends?
At some point, though, I realized that I wasn’t actually enjoying this feeling. I would start getting angrier, and I would seethe and look for any place to release all the fire I thought was building up in my stomach. I got into angry fights with people I had never met, and I would rip them apart. And despite the fact that, sure, most of the causes were pretty justified, I found that a few truths were becoming clear:
- Many of these things were either outside my control or distant to my circle of experience.
- A lot of it was pointless anger and frustration.
- There wasn’t anything I was doing about whatever I was feeling not good about.
- Most importantly, when I came back to the screeds later, I really didn’t like the person I was seeing online.
This step back also brought a lot of other things on the Internet into focus. I saw how often I just complained and griped. I saw how I would rant about these things that seemed like nothing a few days later. Mountains, molehills, anthills. It became very clear to me how negative I was, and I really didn’t like that. I also realized it wasn’t just on the Internet, that this was affecting the Real Life Me. I had started hiding away when I was angry instead of confronting people close to me. I would seethe and snarl in private, backstab, hurt under a cover of darkness. I had been for a while but now I knew that I was not being a good person. That is something that still haunts me.
So the first thing I did was decide that I was going to stop being utterly negative, both online in social media and in life. I started to recognize when I was repeatedly complaining without taking action. On Facebook and Twitter, instead of posting about how bad my day was, I’d share a cute video that made me smile. Instead of talking about how much something sucked, I would bring up something that I really enjoyed. I used the Internet as a force of good – literally, good things, good news, good times. I felt a lot better.
Recently, it’s become much more apparent that there is a part of the web that is what I call a Hateful Shame Machine. A lot of people use it as not a vehicle for their anger but more like a remote-controlled car they can run into people’s lives. They capitalize on the safety of distance and anonymity to respond in a way that doesn’t directly impact them and hurts the subject of their disdain. But, like with a remote-controlled car, they think what they are doing is only annoying at most and couldn’t actually do any lasting damage.
Have you ever imagined what could happen to a single person being struck by a hundred remote-controlled cars? A thousand? A million?
I’m not saying that it isn’t okay to be mad or to react to something unjust. But once you realize that what you’re doing is not only making you feel toxic but is raising a red flag in your subconscious that says, “This really isn’t good, is it?” it’s time to take a step back. Are you making a difference, or are you just adding to the screaming? Are you being the person online that you are in your heart, or are you wearing a mask? Are you treating everyone the way you would to their face, or are you exploiting the fact that you can attack them without attaching yourself to it?
Most importantly, though, you can stop. You can change. Get some distance. Unplug. Go do something by yourself and clear your head. Forgive yourself. Say you’re sorry, if it isn’t too late. Understand that you deserve love and comfort and every human is cracked and flawed. And if you are the victim, these things all apply to you, tenfold.
I dare you to walk away. It’s never too late.
Hi. Hello. Yes, yes, we’re here. We’re alive. We are in THE HOUSE. I’m sorry you all were left under radio silence for a while. Getting the technologies to coexist in the titanium dome that is obviously hiding in the attic has proven difficult.
How are you?
Owning a house – I almost wrote possessing, but that didn’t exactly feel right – is unlike anything I could have thought it to be. The first time something went wrong, I stormed up to my husband and asked, “We should call them back and tell them that we didn’t sign up for this shit!”
“Tell who what?”
“Everyone! Everyone else should fix this! I don’t want to fix this! Do you?”
And that was when my husband walked away. Not really, but he told me that there was no one to fix it. We had to fix it. Or call a plumber, electrician, carpenter, or handyman to fix it while we pay them. And I knew that. I just didn’t want to.
Lesson 1: There’s no one to place blame on, or ask to take up the burden. You only have yourself to rely on.
We were scrambling with the last of the detritus and flim-flam of our old residence. We had just barely gotten everything out the last day, in the last hour. Suddenly, faced with the closed, locked door, I started choking.
“Are you okay?”
“This is it,” I said. “This is it. Like…it’s happening right now.”
He headed down the stairs, and slowly I followed. There was no last big hurrah, no ridiculous Polaroid. Nothing. Except the ting of a key at the bottom of the mailbox and salty, stingy tears from the driver’s seat.
Lesson 2: Make the memories while the thing is happening. They will hold on longer than last hurrahs.
I’m sitting in the eating nook adjacent to the kitchen. It has been cleared of most boxes, and I can look out over the table to the rats that are playing in the cage against the window. I can watch as little birds eat the neighbor’s wild grapes.
In the corner of my eye is a black and white animal. Despite our keeping the gate closed to the back yard, the checkered Maine Coon is utterly undeterred. It pauses momentarily, giving the metal obstruction barely more than a measured look, before squeezing under it. It doesn’t even run. It saunters to the next gate and is gone.
Lesson 3: Life is full of wonder. Just wait. You’ll see.