It’s Okay to Be Tired, It’s Not Okay to Give Up

I started writing this post more than a month ago as a pep talk to myself. Then I got tired, and for a while, I did give up. The blog is a thing I would get back to later, I thought. After all those other things that I would also get to later that were more pressing than the blog. After I got some sleep, and let my brain rest, and, and, and.

For me, procrastination is both easy and hard. Easy because even if I didn’t wholly grow up in the world of the immediate gratification of the internet, I certainly live in it now, and there are an endless number of endless rabbit holes to stray down even if I’m in one of those antsy moods where I can’t quite focus on things that I actually like to do. But hard because the looming specter of things to do causes me anxiety that distracts from the distraction, whether it’s a rabbit hole or a video game or some other consumptive experience. I can’t full enjoy it, therefore the procrastination becomes much less fun, because the thing that I am procrastinating on looms threateningly in my future.

I’m not sure if this is the reason, but my best guess is that the looming future thing occurs to me and not other procrastinators is because I always have this keen sense of the finiteness of the future. Not as much in a big existential way, like I’m mortal and will die some day and no one knows when that will be (though that’s true, too) but more in a I’m going to have to go to work, go to sleep, do this thing or that thing later no matter what, and if the thing I want to do isn’t done by then then I won’t be able to get to it, I’ll be late, it’ll suck, etc, etc, etc.

I think it’s a fair and real thing to just be too goddamn tired to deal with something in the immediate moment. To need sleep, or to be burnt out, or to just not have the brain space for it for whatever reason. The thing I’ve been catching myself on, though, is being too broad with that “whatever.” Do I really need to stay in bed and get another hour of sleep (sometimes yes) or do I need to get my ass up (also sometimes yes)? Do I need to wind down after work (often yes) right up until I go to bed thus spending my whole evening as a vegetable (no)? But brains are funny, especially our own, and I’m still working on the not-really-logical struggle of gauging my own need for rest vs kicking my ass to do the things I want and promise to do.

If I figure out the secret, to shifting from consumption to creation, to knowing when it’s fair to push myself and when I need to acknowledge my human limitations before I crash and burn, I’ll be sure to let you know. For now it’s pretty up in the air.

Giving Up on Goals

Giving Up on Goals

CW: Some brief weight loss talk.

I know friends, the title is alarming. Giving up on goals? But Jordan, you just posted your 2017 action plan! It’s not even the end of January! Are you giving up on goals you set so soon?

It’s okay, chill. I’m still forging ahead with my plans, if on an unexciting slow and steady pace. But while most of us are still basking in the glow of January and new beginnings and a world of potential, I want to put it out there now: giving up on goals is okay.

The cycle is pretty familiar to most of us now, either personally or through the 10 million think pieces that come out around this time of year on how to set good goals and stick to them. Those are great, and if you are one of the many who has problems making and pursuing reasonable, actionable goals, I encourage you to read some of them! I’m personally making my way through this video course on How to Stop Procrastinating, which will probably help a lot of you with the “why” behind why you give up.

Now with all that out of the way, this isn’t a “yeah it’s cool to let go of all your hopes and dreams and never try anything!” feel good article. If that’s one side of the spectrum and “go hard or go home!” is the other, then this is somewhere in the “you’re human, be aware of your limits and weaknesses so you can do better” area.

Giving up on your goals is okay… IF you learn from it, and try again.

For me at least, life gets pretty miserable if I don’t push myself. I don’t have dreams just because that’s the cool new thing to do, I have dreams because they’re things I want that make me happy. Even the pursuit of them sometimes makes me happy, though it’s hard and scary – those things aren’t mutually exclusive. But even knowing all that, I have plenty of days where I just cannot. I’m tired, or it takes too much brainpower, or my lack of inertia keeps me standing still. Or sometimes worse, I do take steps to pursue my goal, but then I fail one step and decide everything is terrible and impossible and why even try.

But all those states are temporary, and overcome faster or slower depending on what I’m pursuing and why. If I’m trying to finish that goddamn book, it’s easy to not sit down and do the work because my day job, the sheer time and effort it takes to take care of myself as a healthy human, playing with my dog, watching TV, whatever gets in the way. But I want to write the book for the intrinsic value of telling the story (and at this point, being DONE with telling the story), so if I focus on that, on the actual happiness it brings me to write and see it inch closer to completion, it’s a goal I can pursue.

Once upon a time I was also a person with the goal to “lose weight.” Essentially by whatever means necessary, because I was unhappy and I thought being skinnier would make me happy. The pursuit of that goal was miserable, how I treated my body and health in pursuit of that goal was miserable, and my failure was miserable, because I put “happiness” as an end state to only be had when the goal was reached, not something I felt at any point along the way.

If you’re pursuing a goal that feels anything like that, yeah, that’s maybe a goal worth giving up on.

I’m not a perfect goal-setter. I still decide to do stuff with no action plan (I’m looking at you, Japanese driver’s license study guide). But from having bad goals, deciding to stop banging my head against the wall in pursuit of them, and examining why I thought certain things were or weren’t worth pursuing in the first place, I’ve learned a lot about how to achieve actual success and actual happiness. I’ve finished considerably more writing of better quality (though lbr the bar was low) by writing steadily, every day, on a specific project that had a brainstorming and outlining process that worked for me than I did churning out short stories right before the deadline in college. I gave up weight loss as an end goal, worked through some shit and am still working through some shit regarding self-image, and am in a place where I eat healthy and exercise because it genuinely makes me feel good (endorphins man, they’re great).

So if you went a little overboard and have to call it quits, that’s okay. Just ask yourself why, and how you can do better.

And also, don’t wait until next January. Come on, do your future self a favor and if it’s really worthwhile, get started now.

 

2017 Action Plan

2017 Action Plan

Friends, you will recall I don’t like resolutions. It’s not that I’m not about making goals, but that I don’t like setting arbitrary times to start them.

That said, I’ve still got some stuff I’ve been working on and want to keep a priority in 2017:

  1. Finish the goddamn book
  2. Get buff
  3. Remember that complacency is not the same as calm; and the unjust needs to be resisted at all costs
  4. Be thoughtful and organized, because small kindnesses and competencies mean a lot

Do you have any goals in progress, whether or not you want to call them resolutions? What’s in the works? Let me know in the comments, and good luck in 2017.

 

On 2016

on 2016

This was a pretty shit year.  I don’t have any insight or salient thoughts, and I don’t want to enumerate all the ways in which it was shit, both universally and personally. It just was, and if it was shit for you too, then I’m sorry.

I’m not interested in saying “I hope 2016 is over soon.” 2017 promises to be worse. Other than the people who passed away this year, who cannot be any more deceased than they already are, the things that happen and problems that exist promise to get worse before they’re better. The U.S. and U.K., just to name two, are significantly more dangerous for anyone but white, straight, cisgender men, and next year and likely years to come will be an exercise in finding out just how much more dangerous.

But what I also don’t want to do is retreat to a personal bubble, to hunker down until the storm has passed. I don’t want to abandon fighting because it is safer and easier, and easier most of all because I understand how to do it. Fighting is hard because it’s not yet clear how. Because just saying words, whether out loud or on the internet, in TV or books or in conversations with friends and family and strangers, clearly does not matter.

I don’t know what will matter. But I suppose 2017 is my year to find out. If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know. Do me a favor and do the same for me.

U.S. Election Day Feel Good Roundup

Updated 11/11/2016: I guess I’m going to keep this up for four more years.

It’s election day in my native United States, and anyone who has been paying attention for .2 seconds knows it has been sort of nasty and unpleasant to follow. If you can vote and haven’t, please hurry and get on that before the polls close; if you have, good job, I hope you got a sticker!

And now, please enjoy a few select feel good items while we wait for the results to come in.

A Japanese YouTuber visits a rabbit cafe:

The Calm meditation app, with lots of soothing nature noises:
"Calm" Meditation App

Puppy Bowl highlight reel:

Can I Pet Your Dog, the assertively and unapologetically happy podcast about dogs:
Can I Pet Your Dog? Podcast

An absurdly delicious recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookies made with coconut oil.

And in conclusion, the poem “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott.

The stuff of your life is enough.

Time Management Skills for Keeping Afloat

Time Management Skills: We are not robots.

There are enough articles on developing time management skills out there in the world that I think we all kind of know the gist. As someone who’s accidentally found herself in a field that tends to be either BUSY ON FIRE or suspiciously quiet, plus volunteer work, plus evening language classes, plus side gigs and personal pursuits, plus, well, the internet and all its distracting glory still exists, I have read and tried and promptly forgotten or discarded about 99% of them.

It’s not the knowing that’s hard; it’s when you’re drowning, remembering to put those time management skills to use. But emergency situations call for emergency measures: when I’m struggling just to keep afloat, these are the essential, non-negotiable time management skills I deploy.

Say no

Say no to that person who comes over to your desk and is like “Hey can I ask you real quick-”
Say no to a meeting that doesn’t need to happen (at all, right now).
Say no to answering that email that just came in (but I know you already looked – it’s ok, when something could catch on fire AT ANY MOMENT you feel like you have to).
Say no to things that aren’t important, urgent, or both. Some stuff you can’t say no to, but the unimportant, non-urgent things can definitely slide right now.

Ask for help

This can mean delegating. This can mean talking to your coworker to take some of your immediate workload, or something that will start to fall behind if you don’t get on it right now (and you can’t, because you’re doing 10 other things right now). This can mean talking to your boss and saying “I have too much and am worried about X, Y, and Z not being done well as a result, what can we do?”

Sometimes asking for help doesn’t accomplish anything. Sometimes you have shitty coworkers or shitty bosses. Sometimes your amazing coworkers and amazing bosses are just as busy as you are and have no bandwidth to lend. Sometimes the things you need help on aren’t easily given to other people. But just sending out the “help” signal can be valuable for setting expectations and covering your own butt, and the worst case scenario is you’ll be right where you were before you asked for help, so why not.

Decompress, but don’t dick around

We are not robots. Even having all these time management skills in our brains, it’s not like, run program, beep boop, operating at 100% efficiency all day. Take strategic breaks to decompress, but be vigilant about a) what the break is and b) how long it lasts. When I am really trying to power through something but my mental capacity is fading fast, or I find myself less and less able to deploy even the emergency time management skills, I find the following rules most effective for an efficient mental reset:

  • 10-15 minutes max
  • Eat something. Did you have lunch? How about a snack? No crap. Efficient brain food only. (Coffee counts in moderation.)
  • Go outside. Ideally, walk around the block. It’s nice to remember there’s a world outside your office.
  • Leave social media alone. That way lies madness, breaks that go over 15 minutes, and distracting thoughts.
  • But do look at a picture of your dog / pet / someone else’s pet / something else you find cute and relaxing.
  • Go back to your desk on time and refreshed.

Remember it will be fine

It was fine last time. It’ll be fine this time, too. Hell, this time tomorrow you’ll have forgotten all about today’s little emergencies (because tomorrow will have inconsequential emergencies of its own).

 

For time management skills that involve battling your own brain’s procrastination tendencies, have you tried the Pomodoro technique? I also assembled some productivity tips for getting your head in the right space to handle what the day has in store. Or if you’re looking for more writing-specific advice, take a peek at these tips for just getting started.

Daring Greatly: When Books Have Good Advice

When books have good advice they are usually stories.

I am generally not a fan of self-help books, pop psychology books, et al. When books have good advice, to me, they tend to be coming from a place of “let me tell you a personal story” and not “let me be meaningful, SO MEANINGFUL.”

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown didn’t quite get into smoopy “unlock your inner power, the secret to life the universe and everything is in these pages, how did no one find it until now” territory, but the subtitle still sets off my overpromise warning bells: “How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.” Still, I was aware of its very existence because someone with good taste recommended it to me. So I bought it. Then let it sit gathering virtual dust on my e-reader for about a year.

But clearly we’re here because I finally cracked it open. And friends, it’s kind of good.

When Books Have Good Advice: A Pre-emptive Review

I can’t report yet if it stays good because of the tragic passing of my Nook. But the author, Brené Brown, is an actual scientist, who talks about her pretty reasonable conclusions in terms of her actual, large-scale scientific research. So factual basis for measured and not overblown conclusions. We’re off to a promising start.

In particular, I enjoyed this list early in the book, breaking down the core categories what the average fulfilled person cultivates or lets go (Daring Greatly, pg 19):

  1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What Other People Think
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
  6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

Sorting Good Advice from Fluffy Nothing: Danger Words

You can probably guess that I am not super keen on some of the keywords above. In particular “faith” “resilient” “joy” and “laughter, song, and dance” make me raise a skeptical and judgey eyebrow. These are the keywords of fluffy best-sellers whose marketing is way more grand than their actual content. But on closer examination, the core idea behind the buzz-y keywords hits that sweet spot of not-quite epiphany, when you’re being told something you always kind of knew but hadn’t been able to articulate.

In short, when books have good advice, they can also sometimes be wrapped up in the trappings of an overall bad advice genre. Because scientists gotta make money to eat too, I guess.

Is anything missing from the list above? Have you read this book yourself, or have another rare winner to share in the “get your shit together, adult human being” advice book category? Let me know in the comments! For me, I’ll report back on whether the grand promise of basically good advice in Daring Greatly‘s first few chapters holds up.

 

Productivity Tips for Functional Adulthood

A todo list, aka one of those 'duh' productivity tips

I have a love-hate with the plethora of productivity tips floating around the internet. They tend to fall into the realms of “duh,” “that seems a little silly” and “that’s excessive.” Some of them work for me of course, and though I don’t have the patience to start or stamina to keep up something like a bullet journal, I do like a good, categorized to-do list and have been known to bust out a Pomodoro timer when I’m really having trouble buckling down.

Still, most of these tips seem to make the assumption that we are all at some kind of baseline. A baseline that involves “not having a sink full of dirty dishes” or “not being out of food” or “definitely having the energy to do literally anything else after one load of laundry.” I have days that are productive as hell… that literally just involve taking care of my basic life needs. But dammit, I want a cookie for that. And more importantly, I want some of those beloved productivity tips to get me to do that kind of stuff consistently.

I think I sussed out a few, though. For those of you, like me, who are in a decent mental and emotional health space but just struggle sometimes to be assed, allow me to recommend the following productivity tips just for you:

1. Get out of bed on time.

Literally everything else after this will be easier, if you start off right. Not to mention the longer you lie around, the exponentially harder it gets to get up.

2. Just wash one dish. Just one. That’s it. You can do one dish.

Also try to forget that you are doing this to trick yourself into thinking “that wasn’t so bad” then doing one more dish until the sink is empty. And if you don’t trick yourself, and you just wash one dish, congratulations, you have one more clean dish than you had before.

3. Don’t buy things that you think will make doing the things you don’t want to do easier.

That planner won’t help. Or those fancy shelves. Or that special floor cleaner, or whatever else is supposed to make the thing you already aren’t doing with the tools you already have easier. All it will do is create more junk to take care of with the energy you don’t have.

4. Get rid of things you have to do, so you just don’t have to do them anymore.

Sell, donate, or throw away stuff. Boom, fewer things to clean and store and organize. Give up hobbies that you don’t really like or consistently do. Quit commitments that aren’t that necessary, especially ones that are self-imposed because you feel like you should or it’s expected but if you think about it nobody else really cares or is relying on you. Marie Kondo was big recently for a good reason. I find her method really straightforward and applicable to physical, mental, and emotional “things.”

5. Have a routine so that the doing of stuff requires less conscious thought, therefore less energy.

Tuesday after work on the way home is grocery day. Sunday is pack lunch for the week day. 30 minutes before you leave for work is wash the dishes in the sink time. If it’s just a thing that you do without thinking, then you save all sorts of mental energy better used elsewhere.

Good luck, fellow adults. Sometimes you do deserve a trophy for getting through the day.

On Time Machines and Internet Safety

Hey friends, long time no see. I didn’t mean to let the fields go fallow here, but life happens, even if it’s nothing exciting. I’ve been thinking about this space and what I want to use it for, so stick with me for a bit.

Today though I want to talk about what some of you have followed along with on Twitter and Instagram, namely me considering my safety and relative anonymity on the internet. It’s not as if my domain, my social handles, or the other methods to find me are really sneakily removed from my real world identity, and that was by design. I don’t want to hide from every person who might know me offline, but I also want to be able to better manage the search results for my full legal name.

Like many of you around the same age, who benefitted from growing up pre-social media and being in nascent adulthood (for me, late college) when Facebook really became a thing, we don’t have our childhood mistakes littering the internet. We might have still done some dumb shit online, or otherwise not guarded our personal identity or information, but that’s firmly in the realm of “well, you’re a grown ass person” mistakes and not “you were a child whose brain is still developing and that probably shouldn’t haunt you forever” mistakes. As such, I’ve been able to carve our the spaces I want to carve for myself online pretty consciously. I’ve been able to build a life for myself offline where I am not afraid or embarrassed by anything that might be dug up that I’ve said online. If an employer ever found my Tweets in support of Black Lives Matter and decided to hold that against me, well, disaster fucking averted for me.

But knowing all that didn’t stop fear from setting in when someone who I’d known offline, who I had repeatedly blocked on multiple social channels, sent me a contact request on a new channel. There’s a lot of shit with this particular person, and the group of people and the gross negative experience surrounding them, that I’m not gonna go into because: I don’t have a time machine, I have done everything to make sure they are held accountable and do not harm others the way they harmed me, and now I have to go on with my life or risk making it all about them, which is so much more than they are worth. The short version is I have made it abundantly clear I do not want any more contact with them, and yet, here we are, the innocent ping of a contact request.

Honestly, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt personally harassed by social media. Multiple times, LinkedIn and Facebook have suggested, hey, don’t you want to add Your Harasser as a contact? I had the luxury of severing myself from the whole social circle we all belonged to, so I didn’t have to go through what I know many other people do, seeing people you thought were friends standing next to Your Harasser, smiling and happy, begging neutrality when silence in the face of harassment is taking the side of the harasser. And what a relief to avoid that stress, not to mention the stress of having harassers who are genuinely persistent, who are out to dox or shame or otherwise actively pursue me in the semi-disguised spaces I occupy online. Like honestly, I don’t think they give a shit about me as long as I am silent. In the spectrum of harassment it’s sad that that’s lucky, but it is.

So after a social lockdown for my own sense of safety, I went through much of the examination you see above. Not doubting my fear, because fear in the face of someone repeatedly ignoring boundaries and pursuing contact that you’ve rejected is pretty damn sensible. But asking if I could get over that fear, because actually they were insignificant and I was safe. Asking what compromises I wanted to make about how I spoke to and connected with other people online, in the many ways I have found amazing and supportive and incredibly expansive, in order to not fear a handful of people who I have receipts on if they really want to push it.

I came to two conclusions.

One: Donate some money to Black Lives Matter. Because in the absence of a time machine to undo harm, doing good in the present while also giving the middle finger to what your harassers believe is pretty satisfying. (If you’re also interested in donating, go to BlackLivesMatter.com and click “Donate” in the upper right.)

Two: Un-lockdown my social.

I am not so tired of blocking that I can’t do it a few more times. And I have seen and know I’ll continue to see the benefit of being able to interact freely with people online, about issues that matter and that we care about, and honestly, about things that are stupid and that don’t matter but that are still fun and make us happy. I know it’s a luxury that I get to feel this way, that the harassment I’ve dealt with is so small and manageable it only requires some personal assessment before returning to my status quo of online behavior. Women, especially minority women, have been driven off the internet and the positive communities they might have interacted with by harassment and spewing vitriol much worse than anything I’ve dealt with. But we’re not all competing in the Harassment Olympics–I’m just saying in the great variance of bullshit that’s out there to deal with, it’s also kind of bullshit I’m grateful mine was so minor. It’s bullshit that harassment is so prevalent that we do have so much variance, and the often immediate response to incidents of harassment is to say “well it’s not as bad as…” rather than “that should never happen.”

If you’re the target of online harassment, take a look at the Crash Override Network,  which offers free and confidential support.

 

How to Make Friends as a Grown Up

A big city.

The loneliest times of my life were 1) elementary school and 2) the first few years after graduating college. Elementary school is classic and often talked about: I was an awkward nerdy kid, children are tiny sociopaths, there were mean girls*, it was awful. Post-college, I was not prepared for. The last year of college was unusually lonely, but post-college, I assumed, I would be in a new place, making new friends, and I could start fresh. How to make friends as a grown up was surely not something I needed to learn – it would just happen!

Making Friends Will Always Be Hard

Dear readers, you probably knew this, making friends is actually really tough.

It is a million times tougher when you are not in the microcosm of school, surrounded most of your day by people your same age with your same interests, with designated socializing time. Work is sometimes but usually not a good place to make friends. I was lucky to even work with people I liked to work with, but more often than not that “like” only extended as far as our cubicle walls and mutually shared interest of “how are we going to do this thing that we are getting paid to do.”

And what the heck do you do all day around people who would otherwise be strangers except for your excuse to go talk to them? Bars I hear, but I don’t drink and let’s be real that is not a friend pickup spot but a special friend pickup spot. Networking? God, networking is exhausting and unfun, also, do I really want to form friendships on the foundation of mutual work interest again? Talking to that girl on the subway who’s reading a book I really liked? No, of course not, she’s just trying to read her book, leave her alone.

Genuinely Actionable Ideas on How to Make Friends as a Grown Up

I have friends now. I do! Grown up friends, friends who live in the same city as I do, who will go to movies or have lunch or talk about shared non-work interests with me. I’m living the dream. But damn was it a long time in the making, and overall a haphazard effort that I cannot neatly present to any of you as a path to follow. But some lessons I did pick up along the way might be actionable, so if you are struggling, consider giving these a try:

  1. Meetups. These might be through meetup.com, organized on one of your favorite blogs or through a podcast or interest-based Facebook group. These have the potential to work because they are based on a thing that you and the other attendees like and can talk about together, and because everyone who goes is actively interested in talking to strangers about that shared thing.
  2. Mutual friends. Do you just know one person who you kind of like hanging out with? Steal their friend group. Well, not “steal,” but find occasions in which you can invite this one person to lunch or an event and welcome them to invite other people. If you get along with this person, you run a higher chance** of liking someone that they also like.
  3. Internships and volunteering. Similar to meetups but with a more regular commitment, find an activity, cause, part-time job doing a thing you love, etc in your area and get to know the people you work with. This has more potential for success than work-work, because people are attracted to working for free for different and therefore possibly shared reasons than working for money.
  4. The internet. I know these aren’t “real” friends, aka friends in the same physical location as you, but I would say I communicate with my geographically distant internet friends more regularly and more deeply than I do the majority of my same city friends. Where on the vast internet you find these people may vary, but again, find the internet space for your interest: video games, comics, movies, whatever, the specific thing you like has a space somewhere where other people who also like that thing talk about it. The possibilities are endless.

Good luck, fellow grown ups. If we pay our utilities, feed ourselves, and sometimes even clean and do our laundry, I have faith that we can do this, too.

* My mom ran into one of the mean girls a few years ago, working over summer break at a sandwich shop. When Mom reported the encounter to me, my overall response was “fuck that girl.” Mom was not pleased me, because it’s been over a decade, forgive and forget, blah blah, but I still say fuck that girl. I’ve apologized to people I was horrible to way back in ye olden days, so sandwich shop girl can find me if she wants. Until then she will remain the tiny sociopath of 4th-6th grade.

** Science!