I’ve been going through a bit of an adjustment lately. I think that’s the best way to put it.
It’s a few things, actually. I’ve always led a high-intensity life: thriving off of deadlines, challenging myself to fit more things in, trying to be the poster child for “you can do everything!” Then I started burning out. I started to realize I was doing everything but yet feeling like I had little to show for it. I started reading articles about the concept of wearing your “busy schedule” as a badge of honor, and it all sort of coalesced for me in a big ‘for what’?
I’m learning that’s not actually the life I want. So I’ve been trying to take steps to change it.
But it’s really not easy to unlearn a decade of bad habits.
I stumbled upon this quote the other day from Alice in Wonderland, and it really struck me. The quote goes:
“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
That’s the world we live in. I finally saw the spinning exercise wheel for what it is, and I am slowly trying to get off. And to do that, I am trying to figure out where I actually want to run twice as fast, so I can slow down the rest of the time. Stop, even. Rest. Read a book. Watch a tv show for once.
So here are some of my adjustments. It’s a work in progress.
1. Job: I never wanted to be the kind of person to say this, but my job has somehow, without my noticing, become one of the most important things happening in my life. I started at Microsoft as a sort of personal experiment, because I love learning and I wanted to know what the 9-5 life was like. I wanted to experience a desk job. A corporate environment. Work on a large team of people.
A lot of people I know right now are quitting their jobs or stepping back from this lifestyle to pursue personal endeavors, a different path – but I’m the opposite. I’ve never done this before. I’ve embraced it later in life. This is my wild step into the unknown.
And so I spent the first year or so there with one foot in, one foot out.
I enjoyed the job – I did! But I rarely ever needed to stay late, I wasn’t very emotionally invested in my projects, I read books on my lunch break by myself.
Now, that’s changed in a lot of ways. I joined a new team over a year ago that started to feel more like a family, and I had a lot more responsibility given to me. Then I was hired as an actual Microsoft employee rather than a contractor, and was entrusted to help hire the folks that would go on to build a whole Community team for Windows. And then my role expanded to become a much more massive version of what I was previously doing, and guys – I really, really care. I don’t know when it happened, but I do. Work suddenly takes up way more of my creative energy than I ever let it before, but I’m doing such cool things that I realized I’m okay with that.
And while before, I was very adamant about not letting my job keep me from the “creative things I like to do” – now, trying to do both all the time… it’s killing me. There’s too much. And maybe it’s okay if my creative energy gets sucked up by the legitimately really cool things I do at work.
That realization, for me – was huge. My job is a massive part of my life now. That.. changes things.
2. Focusing: Now obviously I can’t become an office drone without any outside hobbies. I’m a creator. I make things. That’s never going to stop.
But it’s time to focus in on the really important stuff.
When you are kind of writing a book and kind of making videos and kind of doing regular cosplays and kind of running a book club and mostly keeping up with a writing prompt program and maybe writing blog posts and sort of committing to a laundry list of social and digital obligations, are you really doing any of it?
Does it feel powerful? Inspiring? Are you doing your best work? No.
I still don’t have a working solution for this particular problem, but I know the theoretical answer is focusing. If you want to write a book, that means making sacrifices. I used to view those sacrifices as like, dedicating Monday nights to writing and complaining a lot about never having any other time to write – but the sacrifices can’t all be social. They can’t be minor. If you want to do something big and lofty and hard, you have to make real sacrifices. You have to commit. Wanting to write a book might mean sacrificing making regular videos for awhile. Skipping a convention I like cosplaying at. Realizing I will never have an active Facebook fanpage because it’s too much work and I don’t actually really enjoy scheduling regular content for myself.
But the problem is, I’ve convinced myself that I have to do all these things. That somehow my whole identity is wrapped up in making YouTube videos and if I don’t, I’ll somehow cease to be me.
Well… that’s bullshit. Because if I’m not even doing any of it very well, what public image or brand am I really building for myself?
If I had to strip everything away but one, my singular focus would be on writing. The fact that I know that, in my heart and in my mind and in my gut means I owe it to myself to do something about it. So whatever it takes, whatever I need to cut out – I’m going to effing do it.
I am going to admit I haven’t been taking my personal vow to write a dang book as seriously as I should, and it’s going to happen.
And that might mean I won’t be around quite as much. It might mean I won’t make as many videos, or respond to emails in a reasonable time frame.
But I think that’s okay.
3. New life-affirming extra-curriculars: This is a bit of a departure from the rest of this blog post, but it’s another series of big adjustments that I think is notable enough to include. In trying to build better habits for myself around my personal projects, I started to see… other bad habits. And one by one, I’ve been fixing them.
I started going to a gym.
I started seeing a counselor.
Joe and I cook dinner together, like real food.
I stopped scheduling out every minute of every day, and I now only put appointments on my to-do list. Everything else (editing videos, finishing that sponsored post, working on cosplay, anything related to my online presence, catching up on email) I can pick and choose (when I have free time) from a casual, separate list. And if it’s not directly related to writing, I’ve decided that it’s all optional.
These things are making a incredible difference in my life, and even though some of it (gym, regular counseling sessions) actually take up more time.. I’m already finding that the emotional and mental clarity they add to my life more than makes up for that.
So this is why you might not have seen me around as much lately. This is why my Instagram might go a week without a new post. Why my blog posts are sporadic. Why I’ve not been cosplaying as much, or posting as many videos, or even remembering to tweet sometimes.
I’m trying to do better. I’m trying to do better to the projects I really care about, to my relationships and to myself.
So far it’s going okay.