‘You are what you think’

When I lose my optimism, I lose myself. And thus, I really feel like there’s nothing left to me these days. And I’m working full-time to turn that around, but I have yet to see it pay off.

Many people are telling me, “You are what you think,” the way our parents and grandparents used to tell us, “You are what you eat,” giving us visions of walking around like Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies and Snoballs with arms and feet, kind of like those M&M guys. If I could come up with a visual for me right now, it would be one of those Koosh balls we had in the late ’80s. Not just with the pre-coffee bedhead, but just the stressball in general that I have become.

But you haven’t seen that. Or maybe you have, if you’ve read closely enough. You certainly haven’t seen it if you’ve seen me in person in the last two months. You’ve witnessed me being giddy and not very worried and just thrilled to be happy for the first time in a long time. And there is some accuracy to those sentiments, don’t get me wrong. I stated in an earlier entry that you either have financial security or happiness, never both. And while I was never financially secure, well, at least I could count on a paycheck twice a month.

I started this blog with the intention of chronicling my journey into self-employment. I wanted to inspire others who were just as lost as I was, to preserve the roadmap that I designed, and to give a big middle finger to my detractors. I wanted people who hate me who visit this site to say, “Damn.” Just damn. In a good way, of course, like “damn, she was the one who got away.” Kind of like how I hope all my exes realize that I was just fabulous and they let me get away and their lives are forever changed because of me but that they will never get me back because I’ve gotten so much smarter and have acquired such better taste since I settled for them. 😉

The problem for me right now is that I started working for myself too soon. I mean, sure, I was kind of catapulted into it. I liken it to my friend’s toddler who had no interest in crawling — she was more interested in standing up and trying to take off. It took a lot of discipline on my friend’s part to ensure that her little girl did, in fact, learn how to crawl, because we had read somewhere that her leg muscles wouldn’t develop correctly if she skipped the crawling stage. And we couldn’t have that happen.

The metaphor applies here. I jumped out of the playpen and tried to run a marathon. And I wasn’t exactly in competitive shape. Hell, I get tired just walking up the stairs to my gym, let alone actually getting on the damn elliptical!

In any event, I awaken several times a night, usually in a panic. I have some potential clients, but well, let’s just say their intentions were/are good. The work is just not going to pan out for a couple of months. What does that mean for me? My meager savings is gone. I’ve actually started applying for *real* (gasp!) jobs to ensure somewhat of a steady income. And I’m hearing weird things like I’m overqualified or I don’t have the right kinds of experience or that they simply don’t want someone who has a side business. (The business is losing money, for cripes’ sake, but I don’t dare tell them that!)

But I don’t talk about this stuff. Nobody wants to hear me whining and bitching. Hell, I hate whining and bitching. (Those of you who have been with this blog for more than a few years will say, “What? She loves to bitch!” And you’d be right.) But my heart is just hurting. I don’t know when the tow truck is going to come take my car away. I don’t know when I’m going to come home and my door will be padlocked. I don’t know why on this earth that people with talent and ambition who happen to march to a different drummer than corporate society expects are truly social rejects. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my 12 years in Corporate America, it’s that youth and innovation are secondary to seniority and status quo. I don’t fault anybody in particular for this — my dreams got punctured ages ago and have been steadily deflating ever since.

Let me give you an example. I went to hear NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty speak at the Metro Center Barnes & Noble last Thursday night. I was in one of my moods and didn’t really feel the need to be sociable with anybody but Chris. But you know me — I’m observing and absorbing every detail I could about my fellow novelists. A small group in front of me were comparing their word counts at the time. One guy mentioned he knew someone who was at 40,000 words (and that was only 10 days into the month!). A girl laughed and said, “Well, it’s not like anybody really works when they’re at work. He’s probably writing his novel on company time.”

And that struck me. Several months ago, I would have scoffed at that — it’s one thing to take a few minutes to fuck off during the workday to kick-start your creativity when you return to your work, but to write a whole novel? Jebus H. On the other hand, I kind of surprised myself by saying, “Good for him.” If that’s the kind of behavior and performance that is incentivized, bravo for realizing it and taking advantage. But that bastard’s probably pulling in a sizable salary while I’m all but begging people to hire me, even if for the tiniest of projects, just so I don’t lose absolutely everything. Bah.

Some days, I catch myself calling myself a talentless hack. Other days, I refer to myself as an erupting volcano who can’t fucking contain a single opinion for more than three minutes. In between, I wonder just what I did to have Karma showing up at my doorstep, waiting for its daily turn at kicking my ass. I wonder where my spirit guides are and why I seem to be steered into a thousand directions instead of into one or two foolproof avenues. I understand I’m still young and have a lot more dues to pay, but come on. Throw a girl a bone, here! I can’t have hopeless day after hopeless day and still be expected to have the strength to face yet another day — one that might be more productive than I’d expected.

But it all comes full circle to “you are what you think.” One of my friends wrote me recently, saying he was worried more for himself than for his financial situation at the moment — as a fellow underemployed person, he was a workaholic who, like me, tied a significant portion of his identity to the work he did. And my feeling is the reverse. Money is the immediate worry. For the time being, I think I am fine and will be fine. Because I know that I am damn good at my writing and that I can whip up a party or a special event like nobody’s business. I know that I absolutely care about every client and friend and even stranger who enters my realm. I have values and ideals that keep fueling my fire. I have contributions to make to the world. I guess I just wish the world could kind of help me out right now so that I can give back to it in the grand ways I am planning.

Not saying that I want handouts. Fuck that crap. I just want my hard work to pay off in the form of money so that I can for one fucking day out of my miserable existence worry about something else. I wasn’t smart enough to save money when I could. I was born poor, I’ve been poor my whole life and damn it, when I finally had money, I wanted to treat myself to the little luxuries I knew I could never have had otherwise. I loved my manicures and my sales at Old Navy. I loved walking out of the mall with more than one bag full of stuff that was for me — all for me, just to enjoy! And days like today, I am looking around, wondering if anything has any value that I could just sell it and catch up on the phone bill (Curse you, AT&T Wireless, for your overage charges!!!)

In case it hasn’t been obvious, I’ve been keeping to myself a lot. I don’t go out with my friends and I have blown off a number of requests for parties and lunches and what not. Because it reminds me of how poor I was growing up — like, oh yeah, let’s invite our poor friend out. Woo hoo. And I like my pride too much for that. I don’t like feeling like there’s something wrong with me when everybody else is doing OK and I am not. And that’s not to say that they ARE doing OK, of course. But it’s a toss-up whether I find inspiration or despair, and I don’t really have the energy to deal with either. Not today, anyway. I’m accustomed to being the strongest one — the one who loves to throw the parties and be the life of them. This is a weird role for me, to just fade into the background. But it’s the only place I feel comfortable right now.

But again, I have to keep reminding myself that I am what I think. If I think I’m not going to make it, then I’m a terrified little girl. If I envision all the bad things that are swirling around in my head, then they’ve got a better chance of coming true. BUT … if I just believe that TODAY IS THE DAY, or this week is THE week, that something absolutely phenomenal is going to happen, then I can’t give up hope that maybe it will.

And because it wouldn’t be a day without me quoting Bon Jovi, “You live for the fight when it’s all that you’ve got.” (“Livin’ on a Prayer,” of course.)

Right now, it IS all I’ve got. And I’ll take it, because it’s something. And I know life isn’t always going to be this, well, disappointing. My well of strength to get to the other side of this is just running dry faster than I had anticipated. It kind of makes sense to me now why people get very much into their religions and pray for god or allah or whomever to provide. It’s probably how they preserve their sanity — to feel like somebody, anybody is listening.

And that is why I blog. 🙂 So, thanks for listening. Isabel says the universe will provide. And it will do so for all of us. I know I’m not the only one going through shit right now — we all are, in some way or another. We’ll get by. It’s the only thing we know how to do.

On iTunes: “American Dreams” theme song, “Generation”

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