What’s Next?

I’m bad at planning. Just read any of my unfinished manuscripts and you can see the lack of planning. Hell, even this post wasn’t well planned. But I’m trying to push through anyway. Because how will I ever improve? Iteration. Don’t stop when things get tough or uncomfortable. In the past, when things got tough in a particular field. I bailed. I thought, ‘This just isn’t what I was meant to do’. When in reality, I should have continued on anyway, trying to improve myself and provide value to others along the way. Volatile emotions have determined how I conducted my life thus far. I am 37 at the time of this post. That is a long time to let emotions determine my actions, my self-worth, my very identity. But my thoughts and emotions are not me. I have to remind myself of that.

I have never been able to maintain a full-time job for very long. Even when I have, I slowly descend into a ball of mess. But I know it’s not entirely my fault. I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, in addition to alcoholism. And these disorders have crippled me at times. Well, I finally stopped drinking on June 8, 2021. I will stay as strong as I can in my resolve. I have seen massive improvements since quitting. It has allowed me to see, more objectively, how often I get anxious, depressed, and manic (or hypomanic). It’s allowed me to reflect on the past. I have spent days with very little sleep either writing, writing music, reading, creating art, or watching films. I have had delusions of grandeur, thinking I was the most talented artist and that I was going to impact the world in a big way- that I would be famous too. I know I know- a lot of people experience this.

Part of this problem extends from the ideals of what I should desire- being a famous writer, rock star, actor, etc. Part of this problem stems from mental illness. But I am not going to dismiss how much I love the process of acting, of writing, of playing guitar, writing and performing music. The process and the presentation are exciting for me. I have yet to find another career that excites me as much as the arts. And yet, I continuously find myself veering toward the mindset that it is impossible to live as an artist. When clearly that is not the case- the issue is that I haven’t been able to accept that it won’t look the way I had envisioned. Especially since I haven’t worked on these things consistently through my adulthood. I bailed when things got too tough. So, can I turn the tide?

I have been seeing physicians, psychiatrists, and therapists for these issues since about 2015. I had missed so many days of work that my doctor even said she would have fired me by now. I got shingles around 2017 and the anxiety got significantly worse the following three years. I experienced panic attacks that I never imagined could happen. I’d disassociate. My legs would go numb. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My stomach problems were more pronounced, causing me to vomit often- though looking back I don’t know how often it was because of the anxiety and how much was because of alcohol.

My brother and plenty of other people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder have been successful in controlling their attitudes, their thinking, their emotions, and learning to enjoy the work they are given. I have not ever liked a career or job no matter how hard I tried to like it. But if I have to work the rest of my life- and if I have to try and make a living at it- then why not do it in the arts where at worse I can tolerate it and at best I can love it. I found a sheet of paper that I had journaled on from 2009. 12 years ago. The year I acted and played music full-time. The year I met my wife. I wondered why I wasn’t happy even though I had what I had been wanting- to work full-time in the arts, to be in shape and healthy, to have a girlfriend. But I was still depressed. It has been eye-opening to read this page after all of these years. It is miraculous that it survived at least 3 moves including one across the country.

I reflected. So, it’s not the job or career that is going to make me happy. If I can learn to love what I do no matter what it is, then that is a symptom of happiness. This is where it gets dicey. I mean, we do spend most of our lives working. So, what will happen if I spend all of that time doing things I don’t enjoy? Does this mean I have to suffer panic attacks while I try to teach at the front of a classroom? Does it mean getting stuck in self-doubt and analysis paralysis, falling into a downward spiral as happened with all of my past jobs? I have this idea that profit is bad. But I know that it can be good. I know how to do so many things, and I even know to a certain extent what it takes to make a full-time career in the arts. But knowing and doing are two separate things. I mean, Jesus… I have all the experience and education to pursue anything I want. But staying consistent. Setting and reaching attainable goals. Follow through. Self-promotion, confidence, and continuing on when things get difficult are all things I must DO.

Yet- I always fall back into a job just for the money. Take it from me, you don’t want to go into teaching public education just for the money. I know- it was a terrible idea to begin with. But I thought becoming a theatre teacher would provide me job stability, a sense of contributing to society, and fulfilling my passion for the arts. It did accomplish the first two. However, the third suffered immensely. I tie my work to my identity. I know that my job is not who I am. But when it makes up so much of your life, it’s hard to imagine how it could not be. Since I stopped drinking, I racked my brain and read through so many reddit and blog posts to gain insight into how other people deal with these issues. There were no clear answers. None.

However, I did find things that will help. Meditation has always been important in my life. So, I have started to practice that along with mindfulness. I have gotten in touch with who I used to be- with the things that sparked my energy and creativity. I don’t want to complain. I know I have it good. Just living in the U.S. already puts me in a very privileged position. I have multiple degrees. I have decent health. I have a loving wife and three beautiful children. Though we struggle sometimes financially, we have food, clothes, and shelter. We have just about everything a family needs. So, why can’t I just be damn happy? Why does my mind race all night despite my practice of meditation and mindfulness? Why don’t I take action? Why don’t I take the steps necessary to achieve my goal considering my circumstances? Why can’t I hold a job or do well at a job for extended periods of time.

Why do I define myself by a career or job? Why can’t I love any job I get? Should I just roll over and let society determine what I should do? Am I allowed to be discontent with a job? Why does no one believe me when I say that I have tried to learn to love jobs by getting really good at them? Did I give up too easily? I put in countless hours becoming a better marketer, a better teacher, but I didn’t enjoy the process or results. There was no purpose or values considered behind these jobs. At least not for me. I am realizing that there are no firm answers here. These are all existential questions that are unanswerable. The only thing I can do is live. Is to move forward. To not give up even when things get tough. Don’t bail. In the past, when things got hard, you turned your back on what you want out of life and what you can give the world. So, don’t do it again. If you have to take a job just for the money- to provide food, shelter, clothing- then don’t lose sight of your goals. Create and stick to a plan with SMART goals. Even though I hate smart goals because of the pressure it puts on you and the expectations you must meet.

And instead of creating art- I have been writing this post. Boy it is a long post. If you are learning how to blog, don’t use this as an example. In a way though if I am giving the world my words, then is it art? Is this blog post art? I don’t know. If it resonated with you at all, then I like to think that it is. Perhaps my delusion continues. Even after hours and hours and hours of research into career choices, finding a sense of purpose, finding happiness, I still feel that a full-time job may be detrimental to my health. But starving and living on the streets would be detrimental to my health too!

Well, if I’m that hung up about it all- then do what you want to do out of a career, do what you think you were meant to do. But actually do it. Take the steps necessary, and when things get difficult, don’t forget that you shouldn’t bail. You just have to do. Do. Don’t just wait to see what happens. Make things happen.

I’m done for now. I’m okay. Everything is alright. Just keep telling yourself. Everything is alright.