(source – @medievalreacts)
Judging by everyone’s joy that 2016 is now behind us, I think it’s safe to assume that I wasn’t the only one who had an entirely awful year. Unlike seemingly everyone else, however, I don’t treat the changing of a 6 to a 7 in the year to be some magical new beginning where I’ll resolve to hit the gym, start a diet, drink less coffee, and learn a new language. I’ve always thought New Year’s resolutions are a joke due to how many people give up on them or entirely forget them within weeks, if not days. Instead, I resolve to change and develop as I need to. Learning and growth doesn’t stop the day you graduate from school (or at least you shouldn’t allow it to); you should always strive to grow and evolve as a person throughout your life.
That’s a fact that’s taken me a long time to realize. I still get tripped up, sometimes. Life doesn’t always follow according to your plan or your goals or wishes or hopes or dreams. Life throws you curveballs. Life sometimes seems like it’s trying to crush you. Sometimes you make a decision that turns into a mistake. Or sometimes mistakes happen and set you back, far away from the goal you were so close to attaining. It’s easy to fall into a cycle of despair and depression as a result. I daresay it’s natural to feel down and upset when something like that happens. But I’ve learned that, even if I feel upset and depressed at first, mistakes aren’t wholly a bad thing. I’ve come to accept mistakes – not welcome, really – but accept them. Why? Because they give me the chance to grow and adapt. Failure sucks; I think that’s a universal opinion. Failure doesn’t signify the end, though. In failure there are lessons. When I fail – and I fail a lot – I ask myself why and how I failed. Then I try again, removing whatever obstacles where revealed on my prior attempt. Or I’ll alter my goal to make it more realistic.
As proactive as you strive to be in life, all the best planning and effort can’t make up for failure. It’s how you react to failure that ultimately determines how you get to your goal.
And let me tell you, 2016 was full of failure for me.
I’m going to spare you all (as well as myself) the nitty-gritty details of the catastrophe of 2016 and provide only the sparknotes: I lost my full-time job, started a commission-only job, realized I suck at sales, entered a severe depression, had to move back home, went back to my old retail job as the full-time head bookkeeper, and then finally lost that job because of disagreements with a certain manager.
Needless to say, it was a terrible year.
Moving back home was not, and certainly still isn’t, ideal. It has forced me to realize that sometimes you have to take what life gives you, though. Thankfully I’m fortunate enough to have parents that don’t mind that their first-born son is a failure of epic proportions (they’d disagree that I’m a failure, but I’ve always been hard on myself). I miss the solitude and peace and quiet of my apartment, though the food situation’s been much better than when I lived on my own.
But being 27 and living at home and having just recently lost a job kind of forces an existential crisis upon you where you lie awake in bed four hours after laying down to go to sleep, contemplating your life as the depression very rapidly seeps in. I’ll be honest: there were more than a handful of times where I considered ending it all. Why? I don’t know for sure. All I can say is that it gets tiring when you work so hard to become independent and make something of your life, but every time you take a step forward, life shoves you four steps back. Every decision I ever made leading up to this point has been with the end goal of becoming the person I want to be, independent and stable and free, with a solid career track, a path to starting a family, and establishing a secure-enough foundation for the rest of my life. Why’s it always so hard to accomplish even a third of that relatively simple goal?
Perhaps I’m just a broken person.
Realize that sleeping on a futon when you’re 30 is not the worst thing. You know what’s worse, sleeping in a king bed next to a wife you’re not really in love with but for some reason you married, and you got a couple kids, and you got a job you hate. You’ll be laying there fantasizing about sleeping on a futon. There’s no risk when you go after a dream. There’s a tremendous amount to risk to playing it safe.
And you know what? Bill Burr’s right. I’m five days away from turning 27. I’m still young. How many wealthy or successful people are there in the world who didn’t have things figured out by the same age as me? Reading Bill’s quote forced me to reevaluate my situation. Do I have any major, lasting regrets? No, I don’t. I don’t regret any of the choices I’ve made. I think some of the results disappointed me, but I’ve never regretted an action I’ve taken in pursuit of my goals. Except for one, which is also a revelation I had.
I allowed myself to stop pursuing my passion and my dream. Rather than taking a path of my own choosing, I somehow stumbled onto one already tread, that wasn’t laid out for me specifically but was instead the safest path possible. I was living in something that felt like a cycle, something that I didn’t feel truly happy doing. A means to an end, yes, but not the journey I wanted to take.
I’m turning 27 in five days. I’ve been unemployed for two weeks, trying to figure out what direction to take my life. And you know what? For the time being, living at home and not working at a job I hate isn’t so bad. It’s actually liberating. It gave me the opportunity to see that what was missing from my life was the pursuit of a dream. Not the feeling that I need to be at a certain point like some of my friends and peers. But making progress towards something I’m passionate for, something that brings me happiness and pride and a feeling of genuine success. I don’t want to be having the same kind of negative opinions of myself in 27 more years, when I’m 52, working a job I hate, settled down but saddled with regrets over my past. I don’t want to be laying in bed and wishing I had pursued my dream when I still had the chance.
So I’m going to make the best of my situation. For years I’ve been yearning for enough free time to where I can fill it with writing. I’ve written here and there when I had the time and energy after work, or when depression wasn’t seeping away the rest of my energy. But I’ve never fully devoted myself to my writing. My passion and my dream. Now it’s time to do just that.
Soon I’ll be opening myself up to taking on freelance writing work while also working on my own writing projects. I’ve written 52,000 words of a novel and have probably a dozen short stories in various stages of completion. It’s time to throw all of my effort into my passion and turn it into a career I can be proud of, that will have me smiling when I think back to it in 27 years.
I’d like to think my near-future goals are fairly realistic and simple. I want to achieve financial independence through money earned working for myself, do a little traveling, and stabilize my life to the point where I can consider starting a family. It’s been so long since I’ve had clear, developed goals that it’s invigorating to finally commit myself to my dreams.
The only obstacle in my way is myself. I need to overcome my anxieties and my self-doubt and realize that I do indeed have the talent and ability to pull this off. Whenever I read an article or blog or freelancer’s for hire post, I can’t help but to compare myself to them to see how I stack up, and more often than not, I feel I have a better grasp of writing than a lot of people who are making a successful career of it. I need to find my confidence in my ability and use it to propel me to the level I want to be at.
I know this post has been all over the place, and I’m not really happy with it, but I needed to get some stream-of-consciousness out of my head and onto paper, so-to-speak. Writing posts like this helps me articulate my thoughts, and that was the initial reason for starting this blog.
I plan to begin my freelancing career today. I want to write 1500 words per day, minimum, between personal projects and projects I’m being paid for. I’ve enlisted my brother to hold me accountable to writing at least one article/blog post/essay per day and bidding on at least two suitable freelance jobs, to start. I’m also going to give any readers freedom to hold me accountable, since I seem to do best when I feel like I have someone to be responsible to. Feel free to hound me via comments, email, or Twitter to make sure I’m holding true to my goals and self-expectations.