December marks the one year anniversary of leaving my seemingly perfect job at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, New York and moving four hours away to live in an old barn with three other people. My main goal was to remain jobless as long as humanly possible. What in God’s green earth was I thinking?! All I knew was that I was unhappy where I was in every aspect of my life. In the darkest moments you begin to hear this faint voice that tells you to take a chance. It wakes up with you Monday through Friday and tauntingly reminds you of how monotonous and meaningless your life is. It’s the voice you stuff back down inside in order to get through another soul-sucking day. It tells you to do something drastic. It tells you the time is now to take back your life at any and all costs. A year ago I figured things couldn’t get any worse so I turned up the volume and the voice became my permanent station. Soon after, an opportunity to live with some friends presented itself and I went with it. Do I have any regrets? My answer is a wishy-washy version of not really. I will elaborate but please forgive the cheesy metaphors.
I truly believe that if you’re unsatisfied with your life, drastic measures are called for. Big changes need to happen. A myriad of little band-aids don’t work when you’re trying to fix something of this magnitude. You have to hurl yourself out of your comfort zone and into the complete unknown. Identify your biggest fear, run towards it, close your eyes and dive in. Don’t walk, don’t hesitate at the last minute, and whatever you do, don’t look back. Just plow ahead like the unstoppable force you are. Moreover, don’t listen to what other people tell you if your gut is saying the exact opposite. You know yourself better than they do. If I had a nickle for every person who told me not to quit my job because of the economy I would be very rich. Luckily I didn’t listen because now I’m making more money than I was when people were projecting their own fears on to me. Jumping is the only way to get unstuck, but it’s the farthest thing from easy. It requires growing a pair. The unknown is a scary bitch that can slap you in the face but it can also generously reward you for your efforts.
This year has been a time of great clarity for me. I’ve definitely learned what I don’t want to do. Some experts will tell you to employ the spaghetti method when it comes to career planning. Just throw everything out into the world and see what sticks, especially if you’re unsure of which skills will resonate with consumers. I like that idea a lot and this year has definitely been dedicated to the spaghetti method. Have you seen the laundry list of services I offer on my http://www.pos-energies.com site? It’s craziness but that’s the spaghetti method at work. This year has helped me narrow down that list to the things that I really want to do. I can tell you that the mediation and conflict resolution services I offer, they don’t really do it for me. That’s probably why I’ve been hesitant to invest money in advertising those services. Do I want to go into businesses and help them improve their conflict resolution skills? Not really. I’ve been there in all that mess. I was a mediator and it was fun but it’s not really my thing. Do I want to teach interested parties the fundamentals of resolving conflicts wherever they are in the world? Yup. So this next year is going to be about offering more teaching opportunities instead of consulting opportunities. There will be online classes and book options happening after the new year. The first book will actually be a journal for reverse engineering life and will feature Cassie’s wonderful artwork–but more on that another time. However, I should say that I will be taking several months off from soaping/crafting to focus on writing so get my products while you can.
That brings me to another thing that I’ve gained from all this: a heightened sense of self-awareness. You never know what you’re made of until you make that jump and you find you’ve landed on a slowly sinking ship (I have no job, I need to pay rent, I have too much debt, I have no marketable skills, I’m overqualified for everything, all the good paying jobs are taken, I’m alone in this, etc…). A lot of panicked fumbling occurs but you can never let it take over and render you useless. You will do stupid things if you panic (ie. take a job that’s worse than the one you left behind). In the end, you have to have faith in yourself and know that you will use all of your innate resources to pull that ship to shore. Then you get to rebuild it the way you always wanted to. When you jump, you hang on to the important stuff and the rest you have to let wash away. I know now what aspects of myself I will always hang on to and the ones that need to sink. For example, I’ve learned that I’m a workaholic, unnecessarily so. I was very much brought up to believe that all of your free time was to be spent working. It’s crazy but true. I was made to feel very guilty if I wasn’t being productive. There was never any relaxing and watching a movie without doing something else at the same time. The main goal of every project was to earn money from it; To find that magical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This is perhaps my biggest career downfall. If you start something creative with the intent of getting rich (or earning any amount of money) from it, you are going to be sorely disappointed. There are no riches to be had from being disingenuous. You really have to do what you love, put your heart into it, and not care about payment.
So my inability to relax and have fun is a habit I’m trying to break but this year I’ve done the worst possible job of it ever. I work with Alzheimer’s patients about 20 to 30 hours/week; I run the soap and crafting business which entails making products, graphic design (which I’m awful at), packaging, labeling, ordering materials, packing & shipping, marketing, blogging, webdesign, filling stores and participating in shows; I usually have several special order sewing projects that I’m months behind on; I teach classes at Jo-Ann Fabrics and elsewhere; I sometimes pick up shifts at stores if they need help; and I try to write what little I can for the positive energies blog. In total it adds up to about 60 hours/week. I have no life, I’m tired and it certainly isn’t something that I was wishing for a year ago. For the sake of my sanity, some of these things have to be cut and I’m okay with it. Like I’ve said, I’m clearer with what I want to do so I can happily make some cuts.
For the past few years I’ve purposefully taken a break from dating. It’s fair to say that relationships are not my strong suit. Instead of scoring super steamy dates, I’ve decided to focus what little free time I have on friendships. However, the irony is that most of my friends are getting married, having kids, or finding new love. Thus, friends like me are now only an occasional treat. It’s definitely led to feelings of loneliness and isolation (I’m fully acknowledging that most of this isolation is self-imposed.). Apparently I’m one of the few subscribers to the “it takes a village concept.” I don’t believe that any one person can be your everything and I don’t think it’s fair to put that burden on someone else. However, many people conduct relationships in this manner. Once you find that special someone, everyone else becomes marginalized. With all of that being said, I’m actually really happy for all of my friends who are on their way to domestic bliss. I know that time is the limiting factor in our relationship, not a lack of caring. I’m thankful to have them in any capacity possible. I don’t take any of this personally. I’ve been there. More than anything I wish them happiness which in turn makes me feel good.
I’ve had some major disappointments in the past year as far as friendships go. Ironically, I was half-way through designing my online conflict resolution class and I couldn’t help thinking that there were a few more lessons I needed to learn before I put it out into the world. And lessons I learned! Like I said in previous paragraphs, once you take that blind jump from the sinking ship that is your life, you get the chance to rebuild. You’ve now identified your necessities and the rest you’ve let wash away. The first thing to wash away is your baggage. Now is the perfect time to ditch it once and for all. You realize that all the crap you were holding on to about other people, past relationships, and yourself is pulling you under. This year I finally let my baggage sink for good. It was a quaint little burial at sea. A good example of this is my relationship with one of the people who I moved to be closer to. For a variety of reasons that I won’t get into here, our friendship started going south. I was really angry with her for a little while and then I acknowledged how much I hate carrying that burden. I took a few minutes to objectively ponder all of the potential reasons for her actions. I considered her values, her upbringing, her current life situation, her personality and the anger turned to understanding. I don’t believe that it’s morally right to try to change someone to suit your own needs. All you can do is meet people where they’re at. I saw where she was at in her life and I readjusted my demeanor to meet her there. I keep her at arms length instead of close but that’s okay. Our exchanges are funny and light and that seems to work. Best of all, I hold no anger towards her. I began taking a similar approach to all of my baggage and over time it all just fell away. Forgiveness if overrated and in most cases unattainable but understanding can be achieved with relative ease. Sure, I still have a great time gossiping about others and talking smack but in reality I hold no ill will towards anyone anymore.
So as you can see, there is a reason for that wishy-washy answer to the question of if I have any regrets. I think I’ve laid a solid foundation for the next few years but it wasn’t easy. Just remember that nothing worth doing is. I also want to quickly get back to the idea of self-awareness. There are some things I need to come clean about and like it or not, here they are:
* I hoard 70’s style jumpsuits, old lady costume jewelry, and neckerchiefs, ascots & cravats.
* I’m strangely attracted to tight fitting gloves. Maybe it’s an OJ thing.
* I think overalls are acceptable attire for any occasion.
* I truly am disappointed that I can’t grow facial hair. If you can, I don’t understand why you aren’t sculpting something awesome on your face.
* I think Hannibal is one of the most romantic movies I’ve ever seen. When Anthony Hopkins chops off his own hand rather than Julianne Moore’s, I swoon.
* My idea of heaven is a judgement-free shoe store where the employees encourage me to lick any and every pair.
* I firmly believe you should never turn the radio when the Ramones, the Police or the Cars are on. Even if it’s a crappy song, you will not find a better one when you turn the channel so just leave the dial alone, give in and enjoy.
* As much as I still want to hold on to my rock-and-roll/heavy metal roots, I find myself enjoying 80’s music more and more as time goes by. I’ve fought this for so long but now I think it’s time to end the charade.
* If you’re ever wondering what I’m thinking, I’m more than likely thinking one or all of the following things. They are on a non-stop, continuous loop in my head. “It is what it is, darlin.” (Thanks to Dave Bagley for that one.) “Accept and move on.” (Thank you Sarah for burning that one into my mind.) and “Fuck em and feed em fish.” (That’s a Grillo-ism).