Every tax season, I go through this weird couple of weeks where I get all depressed and think about my past year. So much happens each year and it’s honestly hard to remember the specifics of the year.
But luckily for us, our companies send us letters that put a dollar amount on the year: how much we earned, how much we were taxed, and for those of us who tend to be more pessimistic: what were we unable to do because we were working.
In a tug of war between remaining grateful and looking for greener pastures is where most of us reside. Our friends’ lives…. and their paychecks sometimes make us wish for something other than what we have. Yet, at the same time, what we have is what we know, and there is a comfort that comes with the familiar.
For one entire year, my job was so stressful that I used to spend hundreds of dollars every weekend doing 1-4 escape rooms and buying packages on Amazon to distract me. I used to work my main job in the afternoons and evenings, and I found a second job to work in the mornings just to have a little bit of extra income. And then, sometimes, when I thought I needed a vacation, I would go and work stints at a third job, where I would go to a different city and work insane hours….but I stayed in a hotel room so it counted as a vacation.
I was barely getting by financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. But something long since ingrained in me, kept repeating in my head. “The diligent shall prosper,” a fantastic Bible quote, when paired with an ideology of works-based-worth is a fantastic way to run straight into a shit ton of problems.
Right in the middle of all of this, my adventurous friend, Crystal invited me to go on a trip to Turkey. It was a great trip, as that blogpost demonstrates, but when I came back, a lot of things started to become clear.
Sometimes, we need a jolt to our system to help us re-prioritize what is important to us. For too long I had buried dreams I considered to be dead. I felt trapped in a job where I was unable to do what was initially promised. I was running myself ragged with 40+ hour weeks, encouraged overtime, and the inability to use my time outside of my main job, for things that I was excited and passionate about.
When I talked with my therapist about my mental health and addictions shortly after that trip, I told her that one surprising fact was that in Turkey, my bad habits disappeared for a few weeks. We were trying to tackle my post-trip depression, and she made a note to re-visit what made Turkey so different than normal life.
The biggest difference we found was that while I was on vacation, my usual stressors, were no longer present. I was sleeping at regular hours for regular amounts of time while also eating three meals a day.
On top of this, because I was so disconnected from anything work related, my mind was free to revert to its normal creative self. I was filming as the trip was happening, writing in the evenings to reflect on what I was seeing, and I was having these super thought provoking conversations on a daily basis.
When we returned, it was like I hit this brick wall.
I tried to transform the positivity of the trip into sustainable energy for my day to day life, but everywhere I looked I faced walls that seeme to trap me.
I tried to start volunteering my time on weekends to get behind the camera more often, but my boss at the time had hired me specifically for Saturday evenings as well and any attempts to negotiate having certain Saturdays off was met with staunch resistance.
I tried to get back into a normal schedule with normal sleeping hours combined with a good diet, but my shifts were just too conducive to sleeping late and waking up late.
I tried to see if I could get more time in the evenings to spend with friends to perhaps emulate those thought provoking conversations, but again, I was met with resistance from the workplace.
There is perhaps no worse torture than being able to taste hope and then watching as your hope dies. It is soul crushing to become like Mr. Incredible who slowly watches as the mundaneness of normalcy overpowers the glory of the good old days.
After a few months of crippling depression, several therapy sessions, and numerous binges of negative coping mechanisms, I made the decision to leave the job that I was at.
It was the only job I was ever given the ability to manage other people and I felt like I owed a huge debt to everyone there. It was so hard to even think about having the conversation of leaving, and years of growing up on the concept of indebtedness and honor made it one of the most difficult decisions I ever made.
One of the greatest lies I believed was that “It can’t get better than it is here. There are problematic people and non-optimal work environments everywhere”
Now I’m not saying that we should all just leave our jobs that we hate while giving the middle finger to everyone who we believe wronged us. I firmly believe that there are lessons to be learned from every position we hold and from every boss we have. Some teach us how to be better people by modeling excellent behavior for us. Some teach us to how to be better people by modeling how not to act.
I grew up thinking that I had to work in a field that I was passionate about to be happy. Since film was what I loved, and it seemed like a hyper competitive field and an unrealistic pipe dream, I resigned myself to never being happy.
Recently and through therapy, I learned that your day job puts the food on the table, but those extra hours in the day are where you get to sandbox your creative dreams and passions. The hours between 17:00-9:00 are for us to really live.
You aspire to be a photographer? Bring your gear to work and shoot after.
You want to start a business? Set time aside to research your market and the need your product will fill.
You want to make movies? Then make some movies.
Andy Mineo told me in an email, that for us creatives, oftentimes we believe that in our social media saturated culture that we must produce perfect content. He encouraged me to make stuff even if it was terrible. Because we don’t magically become better without practice. Make the mistakes, learn from them, and get to a higher level.
Chick-fil-A was a great job, but it came to a point where I could not use my off time to pursue passion projects or broaden the skills I wanted to grow. Staying there and to have stayed there longer would have meant deferring my goals, aspirations, and skill development for an even longer period of time.
This deferment’s cost was directly correlated to my decreasing mental health and my relative unhappiness. We don’t all have the luxury of packing up our stuff and leaving today, but that’s not to say we can’t start charting our course to get the fuck out of wherever we are.
Gratefulness is important, but therapy taught me that knowing myself and what I want can help me prudently decide when it’s time for climate change.
If you have two seconds, if you can maybe fill out this survey regarding the “Lessons from Therapy” series I would greatly appreciate it!
Thanks for reading!