Of Life & Randomness

Life A Year Later (and 10 Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way)

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I meant to write this post a couple of months ago (like around my birthday) but I kept putting it off. It’s so much easier to ramble on about nothing. Occasionally, though, I like to ramble on about something. So here goes something…

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Most of you have not been keeping up with me for the past year, so let me give you a quick recap of where I was around February of 2010:

  • Unemployed
  • Freaking out
  • Feeling like a failure

Once upon a time, I was an editor/blogger for a major blog network. This worked out really well for several years. I made good, sometimes great money. I met lots of cool, important people, which opened the door to further opportunities. I had a neat-sounding job that made other people jealous. “What do you do?” “Oh, I write about TV shows and video games.” “And you get paid for that?” “Yup!”

And then one day my job went POOF. One day I had it, the next day I didn’t.

I got very depressed. Not about losing the job itself (I hadn’t been happy with it for a long time), but because I felt like I’d failed. Hundreds of people were let go. It wasn’t personal; it was business. Still, I felt like a failure.

My inbox filled with emails from people in the blogging business letting me know they’d heard what happened; to let them know if they could help in any way. I said my thanks yous and went back to feeling like a loser.

A few weeks later, I turned 30.

I was so depressed. Here I was: 30, unemployed, with no prospects, no back-up plan. I hadn’t written a word of TBSOL in many months (at this point I honestly thought I never would again). My first book had been published for a couple of years so the sales were dwindling. I went from having several income streams to having barely one.

When you’re down, it’s really easy to want to keep yourself there. I uprooted my every insecurity and waved it around going, “And here’s another reason why you FAIL AT LIFE.” Everyone around me seemed younger and so much more successful. Their lives were so much more together. Where had I gone wrong? Why hadn’t I listened to my parents? I could be a doctor now if I’d applied myself. I could be lots of things. Why hadn’t I listened?

This is not where I’d meant to be at 30. Sure, my love life was great. But why would K even want to stay with me if I was a complete failure?

Trying to Get Over It

I didn’t like this doom and gloom attitude but I couldn’t shake it, either. I didn’t like being jealous of random strangers on Twitter because their professional lives were so much better than mine. There goes another 25 year-old with a 6-figure book deal. FML.

I started reading a lot of blogs about personal development and trying to find the secrets to not sucking. Nothing helped. There were lots of articles. There were 50 ways to do this and 30 ways to feel that. But I felt that all of those articles were meant for other people—people with special skills in x, y and z that could market themselves accordingly. I had zero skills. I’d be lucky to land a job at McDonald’s.

After a few weeks of this I woke up with the desire to do something besides whine to myself (I try not to whine to other people, except K). So, I decided to pick things up where I’d left off. My Grey’s Anatomy blog was no more, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t make another one. The twitter account was still mine and the blog had a very healthy following. So, I bought a domain, designed a new site, got busy writing new content. Then I redirected its 5,000+ twitter followers to the new domain.

I poured hours into that blog every day. It was kind of fun. It was freeing to be my own boss. I set up a plan of action and figured out the best ways to monetize it. If I kept things up, by this time the following year (now), I’d be making an okay living with it. I could supplement my income with other, similar blogs. I made a list of possible TV shows. I’d be back in business in no time.

Here’s the thing, though: I still felt like something was missing. Having something to focus on made me feel like less of a failure, sure, but as much as I love Grey’s Anatomy, writing about it is not my life’s ambition. There are lots of people out there who genuinely obsess about the show and can’t stop writing about it. For me, it was a job and everything about it felt forced.

I wanted more out of life.

I started this journal in April of 2010. Before that, I did most of my personal blogging at LiveJournal, because it felt “safe.” An actual blog seemed scary. I didn’t want to be too out there or too exposed or too vulnerable to the world. But it was still a thing I wanted to do, so one day I decided to do it. I scrapped my entire website, deleted everything on it, and rebuilt it. A little step that led to a lot of changes.

And here we are… a little over a year later

So, where am I in 2011?

  • 31
  • Still (technically) unemployed, but
  • Feeling pretty good about myself, and
  • Happy

So, what changed between then and now? A lot of things, actually. But mostly I changed.

A few things about the transition from Bottomdweller in Losersville, Failvania to Mayor of Awesomeland:

  • It doesn’t happen overnight
  • It’s really all about changing your perspective
  • It really doesn’t happen overnight
  • Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s happening at all
  • You still sometimes drive by Losersville, Failvania and stop for a Cup of Emo

A lot of stuff happened last year. The second half of 2010 was something of a whirlwind of change. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that before, even if I’ve not gone into specifics.

If I had to list the major thing that led to my current state of zen-like peace with the world attitude it’s this: I figured out what I wanted out of life.

I got really distracted for a long time by all the noise out there. I got confused. I assumed that what I wanted was the same thing that everyone else said they wanted. Namely, money. I mean they called it different things: freedom, travel, time.  But really they were all talking about money.

“When I have money then I’ll finally be able to do that thing I’ve always wanted to do.” Reasonable. Logical. Also? Depressing. The thought of having to wait until you’re 60 or 70 to start living life.

Who doesn’t want money? I want money. Money is great. I’d love more money. But I didn’t want to keep using money as an excuse for not doing things.

“When I have money, I’ll go to film school.”  –Me

Let’s be honest. Money was not the reason I didn’t go to film school (it was one of them, but it wasn’t the major reason). The main reason was this: I’m a coward.

I was scared of being bad at it; of trying to do something I wanted to do really badly and failing really hard at it. I was scared of getting there to find that I simply didn’t have the right kind of personality, or creativity, or it-factor to do anything but waste my time. Of then having to turn around and tell everyone that I couldn’t do it.

Thing I Believe Wholeheartedly:

If you want something, you go for it. You go for it like a ninja on steroids. Brick walls should cower at the sight of your determination.

Easier said than done, of course. Still true.

After spending months feeling like a loser for generating very little income, I asked myself what I wanted the money for. eBooks? iPhone apps? I mean, sure, but that wasn’t the point of all this. Digging deeper I realized I didn’t want K feeling like she was supporting her massive failure of a girlfriend. I didn’t want people thinking that K was supporting her massive failure of a girlfriend.

So basically? Pride. After all, the more money you make, the more people look up to you, the better you feel about yourself. Right? Made sense.

So, then how much money is enough money to feel like a whole person? $1000/month? $2000? It occurred to me as I started to jot down some figures that I’d actually been making that amount of money before and I’d never felt like a whole/confident person. Mostly, I’d felt like I was scrambling/stressing and hating life.

I started asking myself more questions:

  • If I started making more money, would I get swept up in just wanting more and more with no end in sight; with no true goal or purpose?
  • If I set an amount as a goal and reached it, then what? Then I could start feeling confident? Then I could start doing the things I wanted to do?
  • Wait, what did I even want to do?
  • And why?
  • What was the point of any of it?

I didn’t have any answers. It all felt complicated and convoluted. Money = happiness. That was much simpler a concept. I just didn’t believe it was true for me. Life has to be about more than the stuff you can’t take with you. It should be, at the very least, about the mark you leave behind.

I realized at some point – I’m not sure when exactly – that if I stripped away all the voices, all the expectations, all the worries about what people might think, what I wanted out of life was pretty clear: I wanted to connect with people. I wanted to say, “Being who you are is okay.” I wanted to say, “You are not alone.”

K and I did a lot of talking. I did a lot of thinking. I did a lot of reading. I did a lot of planning. I did a lot of writing. I did a lot of brainstorming. I did a lot of goal-setting. I experimented. I put myself out there a little more. I said yes when opportunities came—even when they scared me. I blogged. I Facebooked. I Tweeted. I focused on worrying less and laughing more. I switched my “but what-if” concerns to “so what?” I did things I would not have done months earlier: Little things to most people; big things to me.

Here, Now, Today

Did I accomplish my every goal? Hardly. Am I exactly where I want to be? Yes and no. Mostly no, but that’s okay. The point isn’t to reach perfection and retire. The point is to strive continuously. There’s many ways in which I am still nowhere near the person I really want to be or anywhere near as satisfied with the things I’ve done. There’s so much still to do.

That list of failures/insecurities are still all there, lingering in the sidelines. I just don’t use them as reasons to bring myself down. The things I can change, I will strive to change. The things I can’t change, I’ll strive to accept.

The important thing is that I feel I’m on the right path, which I think is probably the hardest part of it. Figuring out what that even is or how to pursue it. To get to a point where you can look in the mirror, see all your flaws, and still be able to smile, go on, and feel good about yourself.

The rest is always a question mark.

10 Lessons/Reminders I’ve Picked Up Along the Way

1. Be grateful for the good things: there’s always good things, even when all you see are the bad things.

2. Bad things sometimes turn into/lead to good things

3. Let go of expectations: give without expectations, share without expectations, compliment without expectations. It feels better.

4. Negativity solves nothing: it’s much easier to succumb to the bad place and much harder to get out of it … but really, negativity only leads to more negativity.

5. It’s okay to fail: if you fail, it means you’re trying; if you’re trying, it means you haven’t given up.

6. When someone says you can’t do something it’s easy to believe them. But it’s more fun to prove them wrong.

7. If you screw up, apologize. If someone else screws up, forgive them. Holding grudges only brings you down.

8. You are not alone: even when it feels like it.

9. Stop caring about what other people think: most people are too busy worrying about what people think of them.

10. If there’s something you don’t like, change it. If you can’t change it, focus on something else until you can.

One Last Thing…

A year ago I wouldn’t have written a post like this. If I did, I would’ve filtered it down to maybe three people. I’m not sure what it means exactly, other than I’m more okay with putting my feelings out there. Before I would’ve stressed out about what people would think, how it would be perceived, whether I’d said too much. Now I think: It might help someone, so it’s worth it and if it helps no one, at least it’s the truth.