This isn’t really about Bob Ross.

My last post was about two months ago, so I figure it’s about time that I get back on my game. At least until another two months passes and I remember I should get my money’s worth while I own this domain. Since I’m sure you read and reread my last post just to see if it was a new one, you might recall that I was last dealing with stress.

Like all other breathing creatures, I’m still dealing with stress. But the once incredibly high levels have become my normal. I’m sure there’s something new just around the corner. My job title has changed twice since March, and I’ve spent most of the last six months learning. Though I’d easily be able to give you a list of what I’ve learned, I won’t bore you with the details of explaining how to audit an MVR to see if a driver self-certified correctly or what it’s like to navigate the various state requirements for tax-exempt ownership transfers of vehicles.

This Bob Ross clothespin doll you can buy on Etsy doesn't have anything to do with my work stress, but you click the picture for the link and buy it for me to keep at my desk and make this sort of make sense.

This Bob Ross clothespin doll you can buy on Etsy doesn’t have anything to do with my work stress, but you click the picture and buy it for me to keep at my desk. Then this would sort of make sense.

(I really just needed to create some mystery to keep you reading past that last sentence. It’s called creating tension and it’s a writing technique.)

Anyway, I’ve found that the most stressful part of my day doesn’t happen at work. After 8-12 hours of operating at my highest mental capacity, I come home and have little energy to do anything for myself. Things like working out, journaling, going through old journals for Throwback Thursday Posts, reading a few chapters (or compelling essays about brain disorders) before bed each night, or cooking a meal to share with friends. The few moments before I doze off after reading only 2 paragraphs of a novel are the worst of my day. That’s when I reflect on my day and realize I completely skipped over things that enrich my life. I absolutely love my job, but the sudden realization that my Me-Time has all but evaporated sometimes knocks the wind out of me. Fortunately, consciousness doesn’t last long. My sleep is usually heavy and dreamless.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve made the deliberate choice to not accept vegging out with mindless television as the only way to recoup from the day. A year ago, I used to really look forward to my near-daily runs. I felt enormous pride knowing I could run a few miles after a full day of mentally-taxing work. It was a mental restart button for my day. Whatever I had dealt with earlier would lose its saturation by the time I started cool-down stretches. I read plenty, slept soundly, and awoke renewed. Knowing that better sleep and higher quality of life is just switch of willpower away is such a stupid problem, but my apathy made me powerless.

I’ve probably said it before, but the problems that frustrate me most are the ones over which I feel I have no control. These make me feel as if all my weaknesses and insecurities are a meme I can’t escape. I see my ineffectiveness everywhere. When I was really freaking out about a car, all I could see was evidence of everybody else successfully owning cars. I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow one of my parents’ cars for a few months, but my insecurity about it was terrible. See a gas station? “OH MY GOD. YOU DON’T EVEN OWN A CAR THAT RUNS RIGHT NOW. YOU CAN’T EVEN PUT GAS IN YOUR OWN CAR.” Pull into the parking lot at work? “EVERYONE KNOWS YOU DON’T DRIVE A DURANGO AND THAT YOUR CAR DOESN’T WORK. ALSO YOU CAN’T FIX A CAR.”

I’m not really sure why it took me so long to change my approach with this problem (Foolish optimism? Fear of the salesman? Fear of rejection? All of the above?), but eventually I decided my dad’s time could be better spent on things other than trying to fix a 19 year old car I wanted to set aflame. I started car searching and I found a great car that was made in a year in which I have vivid and fond memories.

Seeing that I could eliminate that stress was satisfying. I was hooked on being in control. To prepare for the added expenses of a car, I created a really awesome budget spreadsheet (I only update TWO TABS with my debits and credits of a 15-tab spreadsheet. It’s uploaded to Google Sheets so I can access it on my phone and know exactly where I stand for the month). I got a Fitbit and started tracking my steps and sleep patterns. I started to meet with a health coach to set goals and hold me accountable each week. I took a Saturday off and spent six hours reading a book. SIX. It was incredible.

I feel like I’ve been complaining about my work/personal/sanity balance for a while now. I swear there’s more to my life than this. I have many more entertaining stories to share. Like the Sadness Parade I took part in with my dad and older brother (taking my old car across town for a mechanic friend’s opinion), what a food scientist packs for an evening picnic date, my realization that sports bars are not my natural habitat (weird, I know), what it was like driving my new car home the first night, or how I wish I would have handled a construction worker sort of sexually harassing me while we were both stopped at a red light. Spoiler alert: it’s not half-smiling and asking myself if that really just happened.

With time, you’ll get those stories. For now, I’m making the deliberate choice to read. I just had to share more complaints with you. Just one last time. Probably.

Pity Party

I was at my gyno’s office the other day, and I had this conversation:

“What do you do?”

“I work two jobs and I’m going to school for English.”

“How long do you have left to go?”

“This is my last semester.”

“That’s exciting. Are you going to teach?”

“No.”

At that point I wish the conversation would have just ended. But of course it didn’t.

“Oh, so what do you want to do?”

“I’d like to get into editing. I’d like to sit around and write stories all day, but I have to pay the bills somehow. I might do some freelance work too.”

That’s my standard response tossed with a little something extra. The freelance business is something I’ve never said before. But apparently that’s what I’m looking into now. It seems like something I should do, right? I like to write. I can bullshit things. I’m quite good at it. In a few months, I’ll have a degree to prove it. Also, cool people have done that. People that contribute regularly to This American Life. They travel all over to hunt down stories. I just wonder how that actually happens. I mean, how do you actually track down freelance jobs? I’m sure these are all things I should have figured out before I tell people that’s what I want to do. Not that an OBGYN nurse is really going to hold me to whatever I said while a doctor is examining my lady parts.

Anyway, this conversation is just one more addition to the pile of anxiety that has become my life. Is this normal? I’m assuming if it’s not normal, it’s at least not unusual. I’m sure anybody about to graduate with a liberal arts degree goes through this to some extent unless they’re headed for grad school or have some fantastic editoral position already secured. I used to think that business majors were sad people who had no passions to pursue. Turns out they’re just the smart ones who have a decent game plan. Their degree is an employable one. What the hell are liberal arts people supposed to do? Write academic papers on the true cult of feminity or Jane Austen novels? Nobody cares about either of those things. In fact, unless you’re in academic circles, you probably don’t care about what anyone with a liberal arts degree has to say. Unless you’re doing research for a freelance job, right?  So maybe all those succsessful academic people can assist me in my newly declared freelance career.

Anyway, I don’t know what I’m freaking out about. A few years ago, I bought a book titled “The Freelance Writer’s Bible”. I never read it, but that should tell me everything I need to know, right?

Ugh. I’m sort of a moron.