Do you know the one? Where you notice you’ve been thinking about something, or approaching something, in completely the wrong way? And then suddenly you realise in one brief moment of clarity that thinking about it a different way potentially changes everything.
In many respects, this has been a big part of treatment for my depression and anxiety, but this particular moment… I don’t know. It relates to everything I’ve thought and believed about working, dreaming, ambitions and careers, for at least 10 years.
There were a bunch of points I wanted to make about this, but I’ve forgotten them, so this post may seem a little disjointed and rambling at times.
Let me start by saying I’ve endured a bout of depression and anxiety for a little over a decade. It’s played a huge part in grinding me down for a long time. This past year has seen a big change in that, thanks to the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I’ve begun thinking about things in different ways, focusing on ‘being present’ and ‘being mindful’, and it’s helped immensely.
When I was younger, I wanted to be so many things; an astronaut, a lawyer, an assassin, a dinosaur trainer (still kinda want to do that, if I’m honest), and then, I fixated on becoming a writer. For a while, I could only think of being a ‘published writer’, but now I realise that writing is what I want to do, it’s what I am best at (despite quite imperfect work), and it’s the one thing I most enjoy doing. I put so much pressure on myself to get published, to write a marketable story that I lost sight of the ‘right motivations’ for writing. I had to want to tell a story. I found that again, this year, and that has helped me rediscover this desire to be a writer. Not a published author, but a storyteller. I’m not a great storyteller, but I’m learning every day.
This is the main point I wanted to address; for the longest time, I’ve had this crippling fear of ending up in a so-called ‘dead-end job’, one without prospects or desirable career paths. I’ve always been haunted by the idea that I had to be successful, earning a respectable wage, in order to be happy. In order to stop being the toilet paper the world uses to wipe its arse. I always thought my life would be a failure if I didn’t end up in one well-paying position or another.
The only thing I need, in order to consider my life a success, is to be able to do the thing I want to do. And that’s write. It doesn’t matter if I’m earning six figures in a high-powered position, or earning living wage on the checkout in a supermarket. That’s my realisation. That one, single thought, has cut my anxieties in half. I still have social anxieties to contend with, but that’s another fight for another day. Right now, I’m no longer stressed about being forced into a small job, for a small wage. Because the world needs small people, too.
I’m not saying I don’t have ambitions, because I do. I’m not saying ‘don’t dream big’, ‘don’t strive for more’, or ‘limit yourself to second best’, I’m saying find a way to do what you want to do. It’s not an earth-shattering thought, and it’s not ripe with profundity. I’m sure to a great many people, it’s common sense. But that’s the thing about depression, it clouds judgement. For me, what might be a singular, small thought to one person, has potentially wide-ranging implications. I’ve come to terms with the idea now, that whatever I end up doing, as long as I have the time to focus on writing without having to worry about stability or security, then I can be happy in the knowledge that I’m doing what I want to be doing.
Having gotten to the end of that thought process, I find myself thinking ‘well, that was an underwhelming illumination, wasn’t it?’. I don’t know how much this post will mean to people, or if people even read this far. Maybe it’ll mean something to somebody, though. Maybe it’ll help someone see through the fog of futility.