I feel like there is a lot of pressure in the digital world to always be OK, but, obviously, this is not the reality of our lives. You may have noticed (or not) my lack of posting last week. It was a tough one for me. Nothing so terrible, but an accumulation of exhaustion, homesickness, and a feeling of inadequacy combined to make a very un-motivated and cynical me. This feeling of inadequacy happens a lot, stemming from a slow-developing career that has taken many twists and turns since graduation from college. Having known my entire childhood what I thought I wanted to do in life, these pivots, road blocks and changes in perception have left me feeling lost and oftentimes, like I'm not worthy of living my life the way that I want to. I don't think I am the only one with these thoughts, and I do think that it is OK for us to not always be OK. Working through the not being OK is what actually matters, here.
I named this blog Sustaining Life because I have recognized that sustainability is about more than politics and purchases, it is about well-being, too. Sustaining my life means practicing ways of living that I can continue to uphold for an indefinite amount of time. It is obvious to apply this principle to food, fashion and other purchases, but what about applying sustainability to the way that I think, act, and react? Constantly telling myself that I am stupid for saying something awkward at an event, or believing that I have no valuable skills just because I haven't found the right job yet, are not sustainable ways of thinking. This has been the biggest battle in my quest for a sustainable life because the fight is against myself, my emotions and my reactions to both inner and outer circumstances. So how do I work on this?
1. Live Slowly. Enjoy Small Moments.
I am constantly guilty of expecting too much from life. I get excited about new ideas and my mind runs a million miles ahead of reality, expecting immediate success from the smallest of occurrences. This type of forward thinking starts out incredibly motivating, but as things don't pan out quite so quickly (which, despite every internet success story ever, they really don't) these thoughts become self-destructive. "Why aren't I there yet?" and "I'm not good enough to be successful at anything, anymore" are some sample thoughts from these moments.
Ideally, I would be more realistic in my expectations of myself and my career, and I am working on that. In moments of clarity, I try to remember that change occurs incrementally and that success is an accumulation of hard work and the passing of time. When it is hard to remember those bits of practicality, the best way for me to move past my deprecating thoughts is to step away and do something that makes me feel talented and in control - in my case, that would be cooking. Diverting my attention to a creative, instantly gratified task helps me to live in the moment. Even better, sharing the meal I've cooked, with Jeremia or a friend, allows me to appreciate the smaller moments of camaraderie and joy. Getting out of my head this way helps me remember, things are going to be OK.
2. Just. Keep. Swimming.
After a week like last week, where I just have to take a break from the job applications and the content creation, there is a point where I need to take my nose to the grind stone and jump back in. Taking that break is important, though. The feeling bad for myself, when allowed, reminds me that doing nothing does not make me feel better. Setting small expectations for the next few days helps me come out of my wallowing and accomplishing those smaller tasks gets me back up on my feet.
It's similar to living slowly and enjoying small moments, really. Actionable goals getting checked off my to-do list make me feel like I've accomplished something, and I have! Even a baby step moves me forward and gets me ready to take the next one. Change occurs slowly and success happens incrementally. If I can accomplish something small, I am less likely to beat myself up for doing nothing at all. Whatever you do, continue to move forward no matter how slowly, don't get stuck, just keep swimming.
3. Be Open.
I do think it is important to take some time off when I feel overwhelmed. The idea, though, is to remove the unnecessary noise in order to make room for something better. Last week, during my little funk, I went to work at my internship where, rather than withdrawing into myself and just getting by, I allowed the hard work and good company to engage me. Rather than turning down invitations to events and partnerships in the upcoming weeks (which I really was cynical enough to consider doing), I put them down on my calendar. Even though I wasn't in a good enough mood to write any applications, I listed the jobs that I saw and saved them for later.
It's too easy to let a bad week spiral into a bad month and a bad year, but that is so not sustainable in my life. Even when I want to be closed off, I need to remain open to opportunity and build the path on which I plan to take my baby steps. Keeping up the framework allows me to be ready for what's next, even if I'm not ready for it just yet.
These tactics have helped me go from bad weeks to happy, motivated days (such as the one on which I posed for these photos!) but I am sure there will continue to be trials and tribulations in the future. That is what this space is all about, though, learning how and trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, in every aspect. I want to hear how your quest for sustainable living is going, so please, tell me! How do you get out of your funk when you are not feeling OK? What kind of pressure do you feel and what are you doing to deal with it sustainably? How can I help?