I’m just shy of forty years old and I never thought I’d make it to this age. Since I was in middle school I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety and my goal back then was survival. I didn’t think about the future and so I had to make up things as I went along.
I didn’t know what I was doing as the years went by. I felt such anguish and pain at the inability to know what I was meant to do with my life. I saw so many others around me in relationships and on career paths. I felt lost and impatient at not having direction.
Now my picture is a bit clearer. I know I want to help those with mental health issues such as the ones I’ve experienced. I want to speak to groups and write about what has worked for me. I’m figuring out how to make that happen in a way that is sustainable.
It took me much longer than I would’ve preferred to get to where I am today. But I wanted to share four things I did that helped me get to where I have a better idea of what I want to do with my life.
1. Find work you can tolerate and that provides stability
I’ve worked in libraries for almost fifteen years. It wasn’t my calling; I actually went to library school because I needed to get out of my parents’ house. But after thinking it over I realized that going to grad school was about finding something I could enjoy enough to deal with every day as a job. I wasn’t sure that it was exactly what I wanted to do, but it has provided me with a steady career, a decent paycheck, and health insurance.
2. Try things
While you’re working a job that you can tolerate/enjoy, try to do as many new things as possible. Move to a different city, take a class, travel someplace that makes you uncomfortable, pick up new hobbies. The more things you try, the better you’ll get an idea for what you like and what you don’t like.
3. Read a lot
I picked up a lot of self-help books to educate myself on life. I read books on how to deal with depression and anxiety (Mind Over Mood), and creating the life you’ve always wanted (Four-Hour Work Week). I took many different career tests to figure out what type of work might be good for me. I followed recommendations from friends, family, and people in the self-help field whose work I respected. I picked up a lot of food for thought that pushed me in some new directions.
4. Put yourself out there
It’s scary to try new things. Fear of rejection held me back for so long. My self-esteem was pretty low. But asking for help and advice from people I respected gave me encouragement. And even though I faced some setbacks, I wouldn’t have made progress if I hadn’t tried.
Transition can be a very difficult thing for me. Even when it’s something I put upon myself it can be hard. It’s the uncertainty and the fear of all that might go wrong that gets to me. But change can also be a good thing. Let's look at a few of those positive reasons below.
1. Change can inspire us
Change can be a good catalyst for getting a new perspective not only on the environment in which we find ourselves, but on ourselves. Travel inspires me to get a new vision of my life and serve as a reset. Change in what we’re doing in our lives as far as a big move or career change can do the same. It forces us to question what we want and who we are.
2. Change can show us a side of ourselves we may not otherwise know
In going through a change, especially in a new career, we can learn we are good at certain things we may not have otherwise thought. A few years ago I took a chance and became a tour guide. I had no idea if I’d be good at it but discovered that it was something at which I not only excelled but enjoyed. Who knew that I, an introvert, would enjoy being social? But if I hadn’t taken a chance at that change I would’ve missed out on something that has now become a livelihood.
3. It can expand our minds
If we’re willing to take a chance with change we can learn new things. And learning new things can make us wiser and more open-minded, which can only inspire more empathy and kindness toward others. (Or at least that’s the goal for me.) By taking a chance to move to Seattle back in 2006 I grew so much as an individual in only two years. I learned about what I believed, spiritually and intellectually. I also learned how to adapt to some of the most jarring change possible (new home, new friends, new job) all at once. But it was worth it and I’d do it again.
4. It’s a reminder to take care of ourselves
Moments of change are the most important occasions to do self-care. It should almost be a default setting in our minds: change = taking time to take care of me. That’s something important for me to remember as I start a new job. To stay healthy I need to hit the gym, get enough sleep, and not overtax myself with other responsibilities. All these things (and more) are good things to remember when you and I are going through changes.
This blog is an exploration of the subjects of belonging and loneliness. I also look at mental health issues. I seek to provide content to my readers that is informative and helpful. If you don't want to miss anything, sign up for my email list.