One “positive” thing about job searching, despite the anxiety, depression, loss of identity, and loss of income (this laundry list sounds so sad it makes me giggle) is the opportunity to reconsider how I want to, um, live my life.
It’s easy for me to lose “intentionality” and purpose about how I do day-to-day things when I’m consumed by larger tasks. It’s also easy to lose a “bigger” sense of purpose and forget to think about what the heck I want to do with my life/be as person, more generally (seriously, though).
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much time we actually have in a day and what can happen within all that time/space. That freedom to imagine possibilities is one of the greatest/terrifying things I ever feel, when I do experience it. Yet, more frequently, upon waking, I feel burdened by things that I have to do–I know this is adulthood, and to at least a small extent, it’s inescapable. Minimizing the feeling of that burden is a difficult thing for me to do (advice welcome, sort of).
Yet, when I think about most of the things I really want to do, they aren’t necessarily counterproductive to most of the things I “have” to do (“have” to in the sense that certain undesirable consequences follow from not doing those things). I want to be creative. I want to write. I want to, um, create knowledge, and learn new things and communicate about them in an accessible way. I want to understand things. I want to follow my curiosity. I can put this in more concrete language (i.e., I want to know if x follows from y), but sometimes I think the big language helps too.
But these things that I really want to do, especially the less technical, more ambiguous, “creative” things seem to slip under the radar very easily.
True, there is a part of me that wants to just sit and percolate, let my lumpy thoughts bubble up and take form, but I’ll return to that in another post. Maybe I can call it “meditation,” ha ha ha….ugh.
So then I wonder, why don’t I do the things that I actually enjoy/derive pleasure from a lot of the time?
An article I read from the Harvard Business Review was helpful in beginning to answer this question. The author explains how a “constant itch for digital information” had impeded his ability to really focus on anything. He uses the specific example of reading books, but explains that the itch can easily cut into his ability to focus on projects at work. The author then trains himself to, uh, read, as a solution.
Which makes complete sense to me. I’ve had a broken brain feeling for a few years now. I’m, like, pretty sure I’m good at doing about ten things at once, so I tend to do that. I write an e-mail and read an article. I tweet a thing and buy a pair of pants. I get in bed and I check the news. I consume information like a/n [insert simile]. But my ability to do just one thing has definitely suffered.
As a child, total immersion in reading and writing was my primary strategy as an introvert. I use cooking like this frequently now–I can’t do many other things while I chop carrots with a very sharp knife–but it’s not quite the same. Reading, at least, tends to invert my ego in a beautifully powerful way, while writing taps into a part of me that demands expression but rarely gets it. I need both, and it hurts my brain/body/all over to go without, but in a numbing way that’s hard to notice after a long time.
Uh, so, I should read books, prolly. And write stuff. And just do other good things for my brain. I feel a pull from both my creative and social science-y identities, but maybe I can glue them together somewhat, too. This needs more exploration, certainly…
I know another problem is the feeling that I don’t deserve to do the things I want to do. As self-scathing as it sounds, I don’t really think I’m alone in this. I think it’s probably another pernicious, yet implicit, consequence of modernity, probably already well-covered in the emerging “busy trap” literature. I totally buy into this argument, too, And it’s a trickier one to shake off. Those Puritanical ideals of suffering are deeply ingrained.
I don’t like palliative solutions to complex life-type problems. But at the same time, maybe it’s not that hard. It’s just a matter of teaching my broken brain to produce dopamine differently, right? And asking crystal clear questions, like: what do I want? (And then reframing it pragmatically with: what do I need?”)
On that note, give me things to write about. What kind of market is there out there for my, er, beautiful words?