Reminder: Adults don’t have their shit together either.
I’m (very) late to the party but I finally got around to watch Freaks and Geeks and it’s just as amazing as everybody said it was. Isn’t it great when things actually live up to the hype? Unlike so many shows about high school, the characters are three-dimensional, fully realized humans. It’s deeply heartfelt and funny. It also reminds you how terrible, confusing and occasionally wonderful high school was. This is not a review of Freaks and Geeks. For that, you can read the always on-point critiques of the AV Club.
This post is about the wandering part of Wandering Professional. I’m still trying to figure out my place in the world, just as I was in high school. I’m a little tougher and wiser, but still pretty lost. I’m still attempting to love myself in a world that tells me I should be less sensitive, talk less, weigh less, expect less from my boyfriend, work for less pay than my male colleagues. Sometimes it feels that I’m already too much before I’ve really shown myself to anyone.
As an adult, one of the many things we’re negotiating is what to change about ourselves and what we should accept. I know I’d like to change: be a better writer, friend, and girlfriend. Eat slower and healthier. The hard part is the self-acceptance.
Before I love myself, I need to learn to be at peace with myself first. So many of us want to get to loving ourselves without taking the first step of self-acceptance, which is like building a house without building a foundation.
Often, people will say things like “humans are a work-in-progress,” but I don’t fully buy that. Eventually, work is finished. As humans, we grow until we die. The sad truth is that most of us don’t get around to the enlightenment and self-actualization that seems to be the ideal of so much of the self-help and religious movements. We die beautiful, but unfinished works of art.
People should be encouraged to disclose mental illnesses to their boss as easily as they would disclose physical ones. #endthestigma
Most of us work (or have worked) in artificial environments where small talk substitutes real human connection and people use verbal abominations like “synergy” and “tiger team.” Authenticity might be the new social media buzzword, but it’s hard to come by in Corporate America. Of course, I’ve never felt a sense of belonging in Corporate America and I don’t want to. I like being a weirdo with a dry sense of humor who wants to skip the water cooler talk and wants to learn what drives someone or what brand of fucked up they were raised with.
Look, I’m not a (completely) out-of-touch idealist. I know that coworkers depend on you doing your job well and sometimes you have to suck up your feelings to get the job done. This blog is semi-anonymous because companies, like people, simply don’t know how to deal with mental illness and I wanted to create a safe space. Nobody wants a depressed neurotic who questions the corporate status quo. More importantly, if you talked about your depression or anxiety as openly as you would tell your coworkers you’re coming down with a cold, you’d be met with blank stares or be labeled “crazy.”
We need to stop acting like plastic professionals who don’t have struggles, flaws, demons that drain us and strengthen us. I work hard, I play hard. When I believe in what I’m doing, I’m an unstoppable force of nature. I think quickly because I think all the time, I’m always on. It’s my blessing and my curse. My brain has no off switch, so it tells me things like “you will die never having achieved anything real” or “you will have a seizure driving this car.” Some days I live with anxiety and depression, some days I suffer from it. People with anxiety and depression aren’t any less capable of doing their jobs than those without. We just work differently. Consider this:
Depression has become the world’s second leading cause of disability.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t feel the need to lie to our employers. We could call in depressed or anxious as easily as we would call in sick without fear of stigmatization or being fired. But we don’t live in an ideal world, we live in this one.
Depression isn’t about big victories. It’s about small ones. It’s every day you can write instead of procrastinate, exercise instead of binge-watching Netflix. It’s when you can cook yourself a healthy meal instead of ordering sodium-laced takeout for the third day in a row. It’s reaching out to loved ones instead of withdrawing from them. It’s about slowly replacing negative self-talk with positive (even if you can only muster up one complement about yourself or one thing you are grateful for.
Man, I’m not very good at sticking to self-imposed deadlines. I promised myself I would post another documentary review yesterday, but Frontline docs are a difficult watch and too important to not give my full attention and care as a writer. So today’s post will be kinda all over the place, because I want to write something, even if I don’t have a neatly presented topic.
It’s been a little over a month since I’ve been unemployed. The truth is that I wrote those posts about how to beat the unemployment blues just as much for me as I did for the blogosphere.
April was a hard month for me. I leaned on bad habits more than I practiced good ones. I tried to handle too much on my own and didn’t ask for help when I needed it. I got depressed and didn’t leave my apartment for days. Sometimes I drank too much, some times I ate shitty salty take out that made me feel fat and gave my body image issues the voice to tell me that I’m fat, unsexy, a loser who will never get a job and who will die an unemployed and useless mess.
And you know what? That’s OK. I accept that I’m going to have good days and bad days and that won’t change once I get a job. I just have more time to hang out with the depression and anxiety that’s always been there. Once I finish applying for jobs, I’m alone with my thoughts for the rest of the day. I’m slowly learning how to not view that as a punishment.
Then there are days like today. Days where I get up and do yoga and talk to my Dad for three hours and celebrate my cat’s birthday, who has outlived his shortened (due to feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus) life span by three years. My cat, who is the closest thing I will ever have (or want) to a child, makes me laugh by stealing things from my purse and putting them in his bed. He gives me hugs when I’ve had a bad day and reminds me how beautiful unconditional love really is. I have family and friends who love me, even if they are thousands of miles away and we don’t get to talk as often as we’d like or say everything we want to say. I have a cute apartment in a safe neighborhood. A park within walking distance where I can appreciate nature anytime I want. I have a relationship that while sometimes frustrating, is filled with love and common ground, even when it seems like the whole world is against us. I get to sit down and write this post, be real, share authentically, and participate in creative expression, which is one of the most important things in the world. Today is not about positive thoughts or affirmation or even happiness. Today is about simple gratitude, even when life is not perfect.