So I wrote this dramatic blogpost about feeling dissatisfied with my career and frustrated (this is not a surprise, frustrated is my middle name, but I’m trying to change that….). And it’s been a couple of days. And I’m still thinking about it.
Truthfully, I feel safer being employed for any number of reasons. (cough… Brexit… cough…. but not only that).
1. When I finally became employed a year ago, a huge mountain of financial stress just… fell off me. I’m in no hurry to pick it up again. My mental health likes a steady paycheck.
2. While I may complain about not being able to do stand-up and socialise as much as I’d like, early morning and regular hours are a huge boost to, you guessed it, my mental health.
3. I regularly experience a “grass is greener” moment, like: oh look, here are all these amazing things I used to do that I can’t do anymore, like… songwriting! and…. stand-up comedy! and open mics! And…. yes. I’m not doing those things, or have to really fight to do them on monthly, rather than weekly basis. And yes, the frustration and feeling unable to commit to my career are also a drain on my mental health, since I keep mentioning it.
HOWEVER. Having all my time free and unencumbered would NOT mean that I’d be doing all the things. And there are other things that I am able to do now that I was never able to achieve, such as: regular exercise! (great for, uh, mental health? and physical health, wherein I’m having some problems!); regular writing! (I do occasionally skip a week, but I AM WRITING MY PLAY – it may take me ages at my current pace, but still doing it!); regular sleep! (I’ve never been insomniac, but it does help to have habits). So:
4. I have a tendency to blame my job for being too emotionally and physically draining. But there is nothing to blame. I like my job, and I chose it from the ones I felt available to me. The things that recommend it (gratifying, all-encompassing, engrossing) are also the things that detract from my ability to do artistic things. Take it or leave it, but it is a choice.
5. It’s not a question of whether I should leave my job, as much as it is a question of: can I sustain myself financially and emotionally if I do that?
Therein lies the problem.
PROCRASTINATION AND OTHER FUN WORDS
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I achieve and don’t achieve things. The nemesis of my life has been, simply put, my inability to follow through with plans I make. And while a lot of the time, the plans I’d create were unrealistic and perfectionist, i.e. accounting for every minute and not scheduling any breaks, sometimes even when the plan is good, my day can go completely off the rails.
A lot of it is to do with how I feel.
I respond well to an immediate, external deadline. No deadline = hard.
Accountability is helpful and so are other people. Doing things by myself = hard. Even if I need to spend meaningful time with myself to recharge. I don’t always know how.
I often tell myself I “should” do thing A, while I secretely need thing B. Example: this morning I should have cleaned. I needed to watch some videos for a bunch of time and cry. Now I need to write, but I’m writing a blogpost, because I need to think, not my play (that will come later). And I’m late to a picnic. So.
I often don’t know how to rest or don’t recognise that I’m out of energy. And sometimes I will consciously push myself past it (especially on a deadline) and pay for it later (and be frustrated with my perceived inability to do things).
I have a lot of projects. I mean, A LOT OF PROJECTS. I have wide interests, I’m unwilling to drop any of them and specialise, but on the flip-side I get very, VERY overwhelmed.
There are things that I need to do that cause me discomfort and fear. A lot of the time I don’t do these things until I absolutely have to. I postpone certain job applications, I’m terrified of making certain decisions, I can’t touch certain topics with a footlong pole. I used to wind up reading fanfic, and nowadays I just watch a looooot of YouTube videos and eat sweets. (if you know me or have been reading this blog for a bit, you’ll know that I’ve gone off sugar at times, or off internet for that matter. These things are not necessarily feasible in the long-term for me, i.e. staying offline all the time won’t work for any number of ways. So for now I recognise that internet + sweets are my imperfect coping mechanisms for when I’m Not Dealing With Stuff).
The things I fear and procrastinate about don’t all come with deadlines. For example, I’m getting much better at managing my finances and doing tax return. But there are things to do with managing my career that intimidate the holy hell out of me, such as, oh: participating in comedy heats! Designing a website! Starting and promoting a functioning Patreon! These things don’t have deadlines, but not doing them is cheating me out of progress.
I really struggle to bring myself out of certain moods. I rarely go really low anymore, but if and when I do, I very much struggle with asking for help.
THOUGHTS ON POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS
So this is hard. And pretty long-term, far as both problems and potential solutions go. Much as I’d love to just quit my job and run off into an artistic sunset, I’ve done that twice before and these were two hard landings – I’ve not been able to sustain the confidence and high energy and commitment to my plans for long enough to launch a career and more importantly, keep it going – and I’m saying that as a person who has had successes in her chosen fields and regularly does paid artistic work.
I’m not going to quit my job or having a job until I 1. have savings that are explicitly for the first 3 6 months of freelance life 2. I can commit to plans and fullfil them in a way that doesn’t self-sabotage my future self. 3. I am generally in a place where I can trust my mental health to sustain itself in the hardships that freelance life (or any life) is sure to bring. These are some lofty goals, but they are goals.
So. Here is what I’m going to do.
Step 1: ongoing – Pursuing mental health help. I am, and have been, looking into getting some help in a low-cost way. It’s not easy – NHS is underfunded, queues are long etc. – but I will keep trying and hopefully can get some support.
Step 2: ongoing – I will continue to refine and test methods of planning, organisation and self-motivation. I just started a bullet journal, I have my token system – and am officially designing my August, so it will great to see 1. if it works and 2. if I can stick to my own plans this month!
Step 3: NEW! I will work on designing a supportive community. I have some fantastic friends and family whom I can ring up and I couldn’t be more grateful. However, I live in London, my friends are busy and so am I and my family is in another country. I’ve been pondering ways to get support on a more regular basis – I really feel a need to get a creative team. More on that later, when I get things going.
Step 4: ongoing + new – Health and exercise! I finally went to see a GP again and am working on being more regular about it. Exercise-wise, I’m still swimming, but some other things I’ve been doing, I had to temporarily drop. This August I will make the time to visit a bunch of classes, to decide whether I want to do anything local (pilates, yoga, DANCE) or stick with the things my workplace provides. I am VERY excited about this (DANCE) because I love dance and I haven’t done it in ages and DANCE.
Step 5: ongoing – Keep on creating new routines that will hopefully contribute to better mental health and artistic activity. I recently discovered Yoga with Adriene, which I enjoy; I’d like to go back to songwriting if I can; I write poetry whenever Rhymes With Orange have something on… plus I blog here whenever I manage. That’s in addition to batch cooking with Oddbox vegetables and trying to keep to cleaning routines I set up with my flatmate and, and, and…. you get the gist.
Step 6: NEW! I will work on getting past my fears. I’m currently writing down a list of things that I’m scared to do, so I can plan in more detail how to get past them. This will have a separate blogpost(s?).
Wow, that was a long blogpost, which I meant to only write as a draft to get my thoughts together. I definitely earned some tokens for that! It cheers me up to see that a lot of solutions I’ve come up with are ongoing, which means that I’m already in the process of changing things up, even if the results are not always readily apparent. Onwards and upwards. Let’s go!