Autobiography · Personal Development


"Broken Gauges" © Dave Wilson, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Broken Gauges” © Dave Wilson, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Before I really know what’s happening I find myself on craigslist. Job hunting. Not for any reason in particular. It’s not a necessity. I just want something to do besides writing. Because writing is hard and working for someone else would be easy.

I fantasize about having a boss, about making coffee again, about learning to redesign an old website. I daydream about working in retail, about employee discounts, about clocking in. I catch myself wishing someone would come into my room and tell me how to spend my time. A paycheck to show I’m contributing something. A good answer to the, “So what do you do?” question.

It’s the same struggle I’ve faced for years. The same valley I’ve found myself in again and again when my writing gets scary and uncomfortable. I see it stretching out in front of me, all introspection and vulnerability. And instead of trudging forward into it, I want to turn tail and run.

So many pieces of partially finished projects scattered on the floor that I feel like I never get anything done. It doesn’t build into anything. It’s just a thin coating. I have created no mountains, no mole hills. I haven’t stayed committed, haven’t buckled down hard enough to build. I have done the easy thing instead.

And I’m tired of that. Tired of taking the easy way out. The easy way in. Tired of not living up to the potential my mom keeps telling me I have. Tired of making excuses for why I haven’t done this or that or stayed interested long enough for things to really pan out. I’m tired of committing half-heartedly and then pretending I don’t care when nothing happens.

I want to make big goals. I want to accomplish big things. I want to stop worrying so much about what I think other people expect of me. I want to do the deep digging and find out what it is I’m really after. Because I have my suspicions that it does not involve a nine-to-five job in an office.

I know it doesn’t.

The things I build my dreams out of are written words published in places other than this blog. They’re longer form stories that I spend weeks revising. They’re rejection letters and late nights. They’re all sweat and sobbing. Tired eyes and worn down keyboards. I build my dreams on long runs and heavy lifts. On failed pull up attempts. On early mornings and long phone calls with friends. And it’s time I start being okay with it.

Because I’m never going to make anyone else happy without making myself happy first. I’m never going to live up to someone else’s expectations if I just made them up in my head. I’m never going to be fulfilled by doing what I think other people want me to. That’s the recipe for a life of resentment and exhaustion. That’s exactly the thing I don’t want to do.

So let’s do something new.

Autobiography · Mental Health


"Gravel 2" © Stig Morten Waage, 2008. CC BY-NC 2.0.
Gravel 2” © Stig Morten Waage, 2008. CC BY-NC 2.0.

I track my footsteps, my water, my food. I have running plans and diet rules and a sleep schedule. Medications to take every morning and night. A handful of vitamins for after breakfast. My whole life is a self-imposed tightrope walk.

Often I try to tell myself that I don’t have a choice in any of this. That I simply have to do everything I do for my health, my mental wellbeing, my sanity. But lately I’ve been reminding myself that every day is a decision. There are rocks beneath me, yes. But laying down on gravel is never beyond the scope of possibility. Deciding to be resilient, deciding to fight back was not the only option I had. That’s the thing I have to remember.

But it’s hard to continue. When every day involves just a little more fight. Just a little bit more commitment. When I want nothing more than to turn off the alarm and stay in bed. It just comes down to a matter of grit. Of deciding to rally the energy and get going, even when I don’t think I can do it. Because there are going to be days when I can’t.

There are going to be days when the depression closes in too tight. When I will have no choice but to cancel the plans and draw the blinds. There will be days I will have to dissolve into the bed sheets. So I must seize any day that is not one of those days. I must close down tight around it and do everything I possibly can. I must continue to remind myself that I am not so fortunate as to have all my days be capable ones.

Even now, when the medication seems to be working and the days are dark, but not desperate, I have to remember that it’s not always going to be like this. Not dwell with the weight of the hopeless days standing over my shoulder, but remember how easy it is to slip back down that hole. Yes, it often comes without warning, but sometimes there are things I can do to avoid it.

Sometimes I can fight it off just a little longer. Sometimes I can say, “No,” and get up and put my running shoes on. Sometimes I can climb into my raincoat and take a walk. Sometimes I can go hug someone I love or take a nap. Sometimes I can fight just a little harder.

And sometimes I can’t. Sometimes there is nothing I can do. Relapses can happen for no reason in particular. Suddenly I just can’t seem to keep my feet under me anymore. And that’s something I have to learn to be okay with, too. I have to remember what I learned last time. Go back and read old journal entries. Think about how much better acquainted I became with myself through that darkness. When there was nothing in the world but me and my own brain sparing.

When I felt completely disconnected from everything outside my own head, what did I learn?

Autobiography · Relationships


Inside the clock” © “Rachel Pasch, 2009. CC BY-NC 2.0.

“Keep the rubber side down,” he said. Bicyclist slang for, “Be safe.” I had to look it up.

Felt more like a demand than a request. A way to assert dominance. My molars clamped down on each other and I pressed my tongue hard against the roof of my mouth, eyes narrowing.

“No,” I whispered, “he didn’t mean it like that. Of course he didn’t.” I shook my head and tried to stop the line of thinking I was about to follow.

But my neurons were already firing off in the same way they had been for years. I caught myself wanting to say, “You’d like that? Wouldn’t you?” All spit and vinegar. All angry teenage girl seething, “I do what I want to do.”

I wanted to lash out at every person who has ever assumed I took their opinions or desires into consideration when making my decisions. Who thought their preferences were floating around in my head while I debated what to do, what to wear, how to cut my hair, what scent to put on in the morning.

“No, actually. You never crossed my mind at all.”

When I dropped out of Berkeley my ex reached out to me and said he understood. That Cal wasn’t what he thought it would be, either. Followed with, “But why don’t you just admit you’re not cut out for it? That you only went there to spite me.”

To this day, my skin crawls when I think about it. How he could think–months after our break up–that my choices were bound to him.

Nobody spends that much time thinking about you, kid.

Thinking about me.

That’s the only consolation we get, isn’t it? The realization that no one spends their days wondering if what they’re doing is okay with us. That most hurts, joys, disappointments, heartbreaks, and wonderful surprises are all decided by chance.

Very few things in life are done to lift you up or to hurt you. You just happen to be there at the time.

It’s empowering and soul-crushing. We are small and insignificant. We can do anything without making much of a difference. May as well do what we want. Love fiercely and risk everything. Work hard and learn all we can. No one is watching.

This one’s for me.