A Change [Of Mind] Will Do Me Good

Last night I had myself a good old fashioned crying jag. It felt good; I always feel cleansed after such a release. But this time, it also got me thinking about the specifics of my upset.

There is the ever-present woe about my weight. Yes, I’ve been half-assing Weight Watchers for a good two and a half months now and I’m stuck. Because I’m half-assing it. Just like I half-ass every weight loss effort I start. I want to lose weight not so I can be a size six and look good in a bikini; I probably wouldn’t wear a bikini even if I WOULD look half-decent in one. I want to lose weight because I am overweight and I want to be healthy. I want to feel good about the person I see in the mirror every day. And eventually-in-the-realm-of-soonish, we want to have a baby. Fertility can be challenged by being over or underweight, and so can your health and the health of your baby. I want a healthy baby, of course, so I keep telling myself it’s time to whip myself into shape. Dredge up a little self-discipline and start reaching my goals. And then, when I don’t, I feel twice as crappy and twice as guilty because I am not doing it for myself but even worse is that I’m not doing it for the good of my potential child.

Then there is my job. It is not the worst job I’ve ever had. I by no means hate or dread coming to work. My co-workers are pleasant and some are downright close to being real friends. One boss is easygoing and not a micro-manager at all, the other is busy and a little bit of a perfectionist but we chat and joke and I like her. But (of course there’s a but!) I have this degree that I’m not using and most days I also have this brain I’m not using. My tasks are minimal, most are ongoing and easy, designed to keep the office stocked of all supplies and things running smoothly behind the scenes. Also, since the main component of my position is door and phone coverage, I’m pretty much chained to my desk and I have to “arrange coverage” if I’m going to be away say, to use the bathroom. That’s right: my 25-year-old, degree-holding self has to ask another adult for permission to pee. And if I’m in there too long, I worry that someone’s going to think I’m going number two.

To be fair, I knew that “arranging coverage” was going to be a part of this position when I accepted it. At the time I was so worried about not being able to findajobfindajobfindajob and then this one sort of fell into my lap. It’s got great pay and benefits and it’s within walking distance of our apartment. It meets the criteria I’d set for my next job after coming off the emotionally draining experience of teaching preschool: regular weekday hours, I don’t bring my work home with me, my weekends are free. But still. After more than a year here, even knowing that it’s ultimately nothing more than an income and a placeholder position for me, my patience is wearing thin. My co-workers often tell me, behind their hands, that they don’t know how I can stand it – a trained monkey could do my job! They are genuinely puzzled about why I’ve stayed here so long. And I can’t explain to any of them all the things I say to make myself feel better when I think the exact same things: It’s temporary, we’re leaving this place, I’m better than this, something else – something better – is out there for me.

Zack and I cope with things that make us unhappy in very different ways: he diverts his attention to other things that make him happy, and I wallow and despair and eventually come to terms with the fact that I can either accept that things are the way they are, or change them. When Zack is unhappy with one thing in particular, I usually hear about it and then he moves on to talk about other things. It’s not that he doesn’t deal with the unhappiness, he just chooses not to dwell on it. I, on the other hand, build up to my full-blown crying session for weeks with talking and complaining. I guess I am not really aware of how much or how little build-up there is (maybe I should start paying more attention, you think??) until I’m crying and Zack is telling me that I’ve been complaining a lot lately and why can’t I see the positives about the situation instead of focusing on the negatives? And I curl up and tell myself he just doesn’t understand! I get defensive. I don’t want to hear that I’m too negative, I want to hear that I’m justified in my feelings, the end. Because doing something to change my situation is hard and I’m not really sure what to do, so then I feel shitty AND helpless AND lazy. Zack just wants me to be happy and, despite what you might think while I reading this, I mostly am. I am married to my absolute best friend, I have a lovely home and awesome pets, great friends, a tight-knit family, and the start of a new life just on the horizon. Why can’t I stick out these last few months and not let it get to me?

I don’t know if it’s a sign or an omen or just a message that when the time is right things will improve, but today I stumbled across follow my bliss, a blog written by a woman who is on a journey to quit her office job and make a career out of her passions. It’s thoughtful and honest and well-written, but mostly it is brave. I feel like I could have written this post, but I will paste here the words that resonated deepest with me:

Another place my fear comes from is my recent understanding of how impulsive and ultimately half-invested I can often be. I will dream up a new project, aggressively tackle it for X period of time, and then become bored, lose interest and neglect it. This is a trait I share with my good friend Blue, who often talks and writes about how difficult it can be for her to really commit to a project and see it through to the end without bouncing around to other things first. From the outside, a trait like this might seem like laziness or immaturity but I can tell you from standing inside it that it most certainly has nothing to do with that.

The inability to commit, or perhaps, conversely, the ability to dip your toes into several different streams, and to maybe even swim a few strokes down those streams before realizing that this might not be the ideal stream, has so much more to do with craving something that’s a great fit for your personality than it does with being lazy. It has more to do with the desire to find something that’s truly exciting to you, to spend your time in a way that’s truly fulfilling to you, and not to let yourself off the hook about seeking out the lifestyle you dream of having. So I suppose I can choose to view my bouncing around as a positive trait, one that will aid me and has aided me on this journey. I definitely want to impart to other people that there’s nothing wrong with trying dozens of lifestyles on for size until you find one that fits. How are you supposed to know what’s right for you without trying it on first? And anyone who judges you for changing your mind can go climb a tree.

Yes. Oh my God, YES. I do that! And I’ve always had this lingering frustration with myself, just beneath the surface, for never seeing through the projects that start out being so exciting. I obsess and throw myself into a new thing, feeling confident that I’ve found My Purpose, My Thing, whatever you want to call it, and then the interest just sort of…dies down. And I move on to something else, even though I am still interested in That Thing I’ve Just Discarded, but not as enthusiastic about it as I was. Oh, I’m not explaining it right, but I hope you understand what I mean. I am looking for my passion. And I think part of the reason I’m so frustrated by my job is that it is lacking passion entirely, but also because it’s preventing me from searching. There is only so much you can read about before you have to DO IT, even with the entire internet at your fingertips and gobs of free time to use it.

So. What am I going to do? Well first, I am recommitting to Weight Watchers, as well as committing to a regular exercise routine. I’m thinking three days a week, to start, and then I’ll work my way up. Everything I’ve read about starting an exercise regimen is to go slow, ease in, and then build up from there so you don’t burn yourself out before you really start. I will track everything I eat, to the best of my ability (sometimes you just can’t track down that recipe and sometimes a dumb restaurant doesn’t have nutrition facts available). For accountability purposes I may talk about my weight loss journey more frequently here.

In terms of the job situation, I am not really in a position to make a change right now. And I feel sort of icky and lame saying that, because I know that I have to take charge over my own life and to make my happiness a priority if it’s going to be one. But we are in the final countdown (cue the song) (is it stuck in your head now, too? You’re welcome.) of our stay in Chicago and I am our family’s primary breadwinner while Zack’s in school. When he graduates and we move I will not have to rush to find another job; I will be able to take my time and find something I’m really interested in, regardless of the pay. So in the meantime, I might need to vent now and then and maybe even cry sometimes. But I will try to stay positive and focus on the things that ARE happy in my life, and maybe even try to add to that list.

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3 thoughts on “A Change [Of Mind] Will Do Me Good

  1. Jen Curran says:

    Hi Austin, Thanks for linking to me and for the kind words about my blog. 🙂 I’m glad that post resonated with you.

    I just wanted to comment to say that I hear where you’re coming from. I struggled with a weight problem in my early twenties and have definitely battled unhappy feelings in my life. It sounds like you’re on the right track, though. Weight Watchers is a great program. Also, you KNOW the job you have now isn’t for you. And you know you won’t work there forever. That’s step one, that knowledge alone.

    If you can’t escape from your job soon, that’s okay. You know that someday you will. Start making little plans now, reconnect to things you’re interested in, delve back into old hobbies or find new ones. And yes, I firmly believe it’s perfectly okay to be passionate about dozens of things, and that it’s also okay to pick up one and drop another – even if you were sure yesterday that it was “Your Thing.” Some people are just built that way and it’s totally normal. Keeps it interesting! 😉 And anyone who judges you is probably unhappy in their own life. Perhaps that’s a harsh statement, but I find it to be true.

    Anyway, my point is, start to prepare yourself for a life that doesn’t involve this job, even if that’s far off in the distance. Our bodies will follow where our eyes look. And when you’re finally able to move onto something else, you’ll be ready to make it something amazing.

    Good luck. And keep your chin up. You’re absolutely right that focusing on what’s good about your life can help a lot. Even if you have to fake it sometimes.

    • Austin says:

      Hi Jen,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment and thanks even more for sharing your story with us.

      I’m trying to come up with some “little plans” that could maybe evolve into “big plans” later, so hopefully something will point me in the right direction when the time comes to make my move. I am beyond excited for the future and I just need to remember to focus my energy on that excitement rather than the boredom and dissatisfaction I experience at work. The day for change is coming.

      Enjoy your last few days at the desk! I’ll be following your journey. Good luck!

  2. […] I wrote here and here about how easy it’s been to focus only on the things that don’t make me happy […]

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