I’ve been thinking about my future the past few days. Thinking in a critical, exploratory way. Mostly void of the panic and despair that has plagued such thoughts in recent months. My sister talked me off the ledge last week (wailing and keening in my car over the impossibility of finding peace or even neautrality in my professional life) and informed me that, in no uncertain terms, was I to freak out until November 30th.
I was to carry on about my life, healing my injured body, resting, participating in my business class and not engaging in any behavior that could be mistaken as freaking out. This includes flinging myself about on the hardwoods like an epileptic howling about certain future homelessness and starvation. This includes consuming vast quantities of frozen dairy products while immersed in the couch. This includes deleting any root level directories of various web projects.
It’s the kind of tactic that would work beautifully on a five-year-old – “Here honey, hold the timer and when it goes off, then you can bother mommy in the tub with her bottle of wine.”
Perhaps my emotional life is temporarily stunted because the certain deadline quieted me immediately. A deadline more efficient than valium. Because after repeating the command three times out loud (she made me say it back to her – again! With feeling! Until she was satisfied I was fully grasping the concept) I fell slack in my bucket seat, breathed a deep breath of release, and drove off into the sunset to buy Swiffers so I could clean my apartment. That night I climbed into bed and slept the slumber of the dead. There’s something to be said for cognitive behavioral therapy.
The real beauty of this release from the great Freak Out 2013 is a return to examining possibilities (previously seen as obligations). I noticed during my business class yesterday that I was listening to my fellow classmates describing their start-up, and immediately dreaming up detailed web sites and social media strategies for each of them, one after the other. I noticed also that I was smiling while I was doing this. Spontaneously.
I returned in my mind to my career path, wondering if perhaps there was room for web development after all. I somehow got it in my head that I should only be writing – that anything else was just a distraction from my true purpose, my true calling.
But can you have a calling and a day job, too? Because web development for me is not emotionally fraught and weighted like writing, which is why I got into it in the first place. Coding has the certainty and calm organization of math. There is peace within its lines. You know if the code is right or wrong because the intended action either happens or it doesn’t.
Honestly, I was happiest when I was immersed in web dev, and writing. Writing at night, when I was feeling dreamy and poetic, flushed with the day’s accomplishments and discoveries. Writing early in the morning before my city was awake, my long-hand pages at the cafe at the same table I’ve enjoyed my morning coffee in for two years. (I’m Mayor of Fremont Coffee Company, bitches.)
I felt challenged and excited but rarely stressed. When I was stressed in a negative way, it was usually because I procrastinated on a project and didn’t leave myself enough time to both sleep and get it done.
And there was the one nightmare client that nearly turned me off of client work forever. But I learned from the experience and just decided that I’d prefer not to partner with insane people when I can avoid it. Simple enough solution.
I was even inspired to pull one of the many new books I purchased in the past year off the shelf and crack the binding. A year away from active web dev and my skills are already stale. So I’ve taken on HTML5 and CSS3 this week to bring myself up to speed. And it was fun! I was enjoying the reading, enjoying thinking about the community that I used to be a part of, geeks like me who get excited talking about web standards and open source programming. Elegant, valid code.
One thing I learned a few years ago through first-hand experience, is that if you buy into the right brain/left brain thing, you can focus on strengthening either side of your brain with specific tasks. And when that side gets stronger, so does the other side. As a creative person, I tend toward the more right brained ways of being. But I do have left-brained tendencies: I’ve been an organizer, labeler, scheduler and planner since the seventh grade when I bought my first Franklin Covey planner with my allowance that I’d saved up for months.
Learning web dev seriously hammered on my left brain. I felt it get stronger each day, and coding got easier. Enjoyable. And I also felt like my creative work got better. It had more energy in it.
And of course the beauty of building websites, if you’re doing front end and back end yourself, is you get to be crazy creative in the design, and structured in the execution.
All in all web development feels like the perfect match for my brain. Toss in creative content development (writing articles, developing content marketing strategies, writing up editorial calendars, blogging) and I’ve got a well-rounded occupation.
I’m not sure how I got on this one-track mind obsession where I had to “honor my passion” by just doing that. I scared the crap out of my passion and it took a powder right when I needed it most. I haven’t been able to write what I want to write for weeks. Ever since deciding it was just the writing I should be doing.
I know a lot of this is a reaction to having too much on my plate. I was holding down a very stressful full-time job, doing freelance web design outside of work, taking classes, and then trying to write on top of all that. And my health was going down the toilet. So I made a lot of assumptions about what I could and couldn’t handle based on an untenable set-up that has since come to pass.
That was what these four months are supposed to be about: figuring out the sustainable path. Not living in reactionary mode and climbing whatever ladder is mounted in front of me. (I made a similar statement to my former boss and based on his confused reaction, that was the beginning of the end in his opinion of me. The idea of conscious living tends to frighten and alienate people who are not living that way.)
Coincidentally, last night I was nominated as IT Officer for the scooter club I’m a part of. I’m getting back into these projects. I know the club can get mired in politics, especially if you’re a girl like me. The crotchety old white men and their vintage Lambrettas lurk around the corners of the club trying to make the rest of us feel inferior. Too bad buddy. I’ve always subscribed to the motto, “Two wheels, one love.” I couldn’t give a fuck what you ride. How do you treat people?
So I’m not freaking out about this, at least not until November 30th, but it’s useful information to add to my arsenal.