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.

Want more? Support me on Patreon, and receive access to my works in progress, including the latest draft of TBSOL.

24 comments… add one
  • Charlotte

    I think that my mayor problem right now (personal crisis) is caused by this… well, not been able to do this.

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

    I really need to learn how to do this, but I think that my real problem is that I’ve been giving, sharing and complimenting, until I felt I wasn’t having anything in return or at least no as much as I’ve been giving or “expecting”.

    Any tips? ;-)

    Thanks for the post!

  • dino

    hey whats up do u reply to the emails u get yiur a really cool girls with alot of good stories i like reading our bloggs i gott some question about your stories would u be able to answer them?

  • Thank you so much! You have helped me more than you know!

    -B

  • Burcu

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.The each matter of that list is valuable.

    Best Wishes
    Your follower

  • alexandra

    muy buen post expresaste con palabras los sentimientos que tengo ahora respecto hacia donde ir y que es lo que de verdad quiero en la vida. Yo tambien uso la frase/excusa de que ire a la escuela de cine cuendo consiga el dinero suficiente, talvez como dices aun no estoy verdaderamente segura de querer hacerlo, por miedo a fracasar en lo unico que pienso que soy buena…..
    cumpliste con tu meta por lo menos a mi me inspiraste con tus palabras…… Gracias

    saludos desde mexico….

  • Kat

    This is by far my favorite post from you…and that’s saying a lot.

    My favorite thing about this is your list. I’ve written #5 on a little scrap of paper and slipped it in my wallet to remind me that it’s ok to screw up, because it means that I haven’t stopped trying.

    Thank you.

  • I quoted you in r/depression on Reddit:
    “It’s okay to fail: if you fail, it means you’re trying; if you’re trying, it means you haven’t given up.”

    It’s a quiet corner of the site but people seemed to really appreciate it. I’m sorry I was a bit daft and forgot to reference you at first. This is a great post.

    • Hi Miriam! Thanks for quoting me/commenting/dropping by. I’m really glad people appreciated the sentiment.

  • Sara

    Impresionante post. Creo que nos has reflejado a muchas personas en él.

    “…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.” —> esto es exactamente lo que yo siento a menudo últimamente. Yo también estoy en la fase de “qué experimento es esto de la vida?”, y me encantaría tener la facilidad de palabra que tú tienes. Gracias por hacer uso de ella, consigues que no nos sintamos tan solos =)

    • Muchas gracias, Sara. Espero que tus experimentos de la vida salgan bien. :)

  • beans

    Gracias por ser tu =)

  • Ale

    Bueno a mi me ha ayudado y por lo visto no te sientes tan perdida como ese entonces, porque ni perdida como me siento ahora en este momento puedo expresar lo que siento con tanta claridad como tu que te sentíste asi hace un año, al menos sabes que tienes buena memoria :-). Siento que no es la primera vez que te dicen esto pero igual te lo digo, no se si sabrás escribir (como le gustan a los críticos literarios, etc) pero a mi por lo menos me llega lo que escribes y aunque no sea suficiente espero que cuando visites loserstreet o lo que sea creo que hay 2 o 3 por ahí que piensan igual que yo. Y para que tener la vida expuesta a los 30 ante ti, seria un poquito aburrido, la realización profesional entre otras cosas creo esta sobrevalorada, el dinero etc. están sobrevalorados, que ayudan? Pues si que ayudan pero puedes no tener estas cosas y sentirte bien y satisfecha contigo misma, en fin que la vida es para aprender cada día algo nuevo sobre ti. :S que largo se hizo esto.

    • “…la vida es para aprender cada día algo nuevo sobre ti.” Asi es. Muchas gracias, Ale. :)

  • Alejandra

    Sin palabras. Simplemente me has dejado sin palabras.
    Lo que sí puedo decir es GRACIAS por poner en en común situaciones que todos hemos pasado en algún momento (yo misma durante todo el mes pasado) y mentiras que nos venimos diciendo por ese afán de autoengañarnos con el mañana (yo misma durante los cuatro años de carrera en los que me decía a diario “Cuando termine esto seré feliz” => lo he terminado y no soy mucho más feliz que en aquel momento).
    Gracias por hacernos sentir que no somos tan raros ni tan malos ni tan desastrosos. Somos humanos que fallan sin más. Y, como bien has dicho, por lo menos fallar significa que lo estás intentando.
    Gracias.

    • Gracias a ti por leerlo y comentar. :) Creo que todos pensamos que la felicidad esta en el futuro y se nos olvida buscarlo en el presente.

  • Waooo me encanta cuando te leo tanto es un dia genial. :)
    A veces me siento como tu, pero acerca de mis estudios si estoy en el camino q deberia seguir.
    Me alegra que ahora seas mas abierta q antes. :)
    Eres una persona genial y eres casi mi modelo a seguir :) No te lo habia dicho pero si =)

  • Oliv

    I felt like I was having a totally rubbish day today bit of a write off, unproductive and just meh. After reading this I feel so much better, hopeful of a sort.. thanks!

    • Happy to know it made you slightly less meh. :)

  • I love you! Believe it or not, your determination and willingness to fight for your dreams has been an inspiration to me. And look, you’re younger than I am and you’re published, which should feel somewhat better! LOL All the while I’m still tied to indentured servitude to debt. :P I believe in you!

    • HEHE *HUG* I miss the old days when our biggest writing challenge was keeping the laptop screen from falling backwards. ;)

  • yovanu

    Wow, tremendo post. Creo que todos en mayor o menor medida hemos pasado (o lo vamos a hacer) por algo asi. Lo más difícil siempre es saber lo que queremos, nos distraemos con mucha facilidad en nuestros trabajos, en darle una estabilidad económica a nuestras vidas, en convertirnos en “adultos” y rara vez nos paramos a pensar que queremos hacer, hacia donde vamos. De hecho, creo que la mayoría de la gente vive por inercia.
    Es bueno que luego de haber estado en lado oscuro(por decirlo de alguna manera) hayas podido darte cuenta que era lo que querías para tu vida y tomar el coraje de ir hacia ello. Luego, podra resultar o no, pero al menos lo vas a intentar y no te vas a quedar pensando que hubiera pasado si …. simplemente con eso, ya sos más valiente que la mayoría de las personas.

    Me encanto tu post :)
    Saludos!

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