Monday, January 19, 2015

Four Hour Poop

Whether it be my mental health or just me not knowing how to deal with things, I've recently been finding myself overwhelmed; sometimes to the point of not being able to function or think clearly. It's understandable, considering all the irons I have in the fire. I've never had so many irons trying to heat up at one time. Most days, those irons keep me motivated and happy because they give me purpose and direction. And for the most part, I like the irons. They're positive things, but they're also big things that demand time and focus, both of which are not my strong suits.

I've talked about these irons in previous posts, but let's review. There's the kuchen business, the YouTube channel, my writing, my music, a part time job at Juice Stop, and intern work for Sower Records. I think that's all of them.

Anyway, I went to work yesterday feeling pretty optimistic and upbeat and that lasted for about two hours until I found myself getting into a mental slump. It's the sort of slump that can turn into a hot stove if things don't cool down quickly. The slump began as I was trying to organize my to-do list for this week. Sometimes when my mind races, it starts thinking about all the tasks at once and that causes it to boil over (Wow, stove reference again). My mind gets hazy, my attention span is shot, and everything becomes a bit of a monotonous blur.

I could feel myself nosediving and at one point the thought crossed my mind that I very well may have a panic attack right at work. Or maybe it'll be a heart attack. You know that feeling? Things come rushing at you like water from a broken levee and suddenly you have to remember to breathe. And when you do breathe, it's a really deep breath that feels like pushing the floodwaters back down into the basement.

Oh, but that doesn't solve anything. The basement is still ruined and will begin to decay and mold and smell bad. And while you're sitting upstairs, your mind is consumed thinking about that mess beneath you and how much time and energy and money it will take to fix it all. That has been my habit for as long as I can remember. Shove it down, tuck it away, out of sight, out of mind. It's all too much to handle.

But yesterday, I decided to try and face that rising water, despite knowing I metaphorically can't swim that well. Nevertheless, I began talking myself down into a calmer state of mind, I said a little prayer, and I also remembered a blog post by Donald Miller. In it, he says that people can usually accomplish only about three big things a year. He and I are similar in many respects. Here's a quote from the blog, which I would recommend you guys read.

"Most people I know who aren’t having much of an impact in the world suffer from one of two problems. Either they don’t know what they want to do or they are trying to do too much. I’ve never really had trouble knowing what I’ve wanted to do, but I’ve had tons of trouble trying to do too much."

Most people I come into contact with fall into the first category: they don't know what they want to do. I've written about that before. The whole "finding your passion" thing. But like I said, I've been consumed trying to do all of those things that I'm passionate about.

So yesterday, as the floodwaters were rising and the stove was warming, I thought of this post. Part of me thought it sounded logical and useful. The other part of me hated the idea of limiting myself to only do three things. So many things excite and intrigue me, so it's hard to focus on just one thing at a time.

I used to be at one end of the spectrum. I had nothing going on. I knew I wanted to write and play music and be successful, but I wasn't taking a lot of steps to attain those goals. That end of the spectrum contains corpses. Whether buried bodies or bodies that are simply breathing but not living, they are corpses. Now I've discovered the other end of the spectrum. You would think the other end of the spectrum would be "living" or "alive" or something, but "alive" falls in the middle of the spectrum I think. This end of the spectrum is like flames. It is unhealthy and ultimately self-defeating. It's like putting jet fuel in a car engine. It'll burn, but my god, that car will be done. The car was not built to harness the power and intensity of jet fuel.

In the same way, measly human bodies don't possess the parts needed to do so many things. They're made to accomplish fantastic, wondrous things, but they also can burn out and die. And I guess I've been scorching my insides. So, I've begun to prioritize and set my three big things apart from the smaller things that might be more like hobbies... for now. Here we go.

#1: Kuchen business. Starting a business is obviously a huge thing, but I've been steadily making progress and am continually motivated by the vision of my future self. Guess what that future self does for a living? Yes, he bakes kuchens, but guess what he doesn't do? He doesn't work for a boss. He has stopped sticking it to The Man and instead has become The Man. His own Man.

#2: YouTube Channel. Yes, Thomas and I are still going strong on our channel, Pumpkin Plays. It's so much fun and crude and raunchy as ever. Our hope is that once we build a fan base, we can start bringing in revenue in order to buy better equipment and put out higher quality material. And who knows? If the channel becomes successful enough, maybe Thomas will be able to flip The Man the bird and become his own Man. Shit, he's already manning up and, dare I say, finding a bit of a passion? He has and continues to put hours into editing footage and enjoys the hell out of it. I'm proud of him.

#3: Writing. If anything should intend on taking writing from me, it should plan to lose some limbs. I've been rediscovering my love for the written word as of late. Blog posts have been a bit more frequent, journaling has been consistent, and story ideas are always buzzing around in my head. But there's more to it. Writing is on my list of big things this year because I'm planning to start submitting stories to magazines and contests like a madman. If accepted, there can be some seriously decent prize money. I don't like to think about the money being my motivation, because I love writing. But I also have to be honest. Anyway, I figure if I can do something I love and also make money from it on the side, that would be awesome. Plus, winning contests are great accomplishments to list when submitting to other publications or maybe to a publishing house if/when I finish writing a book.

So those are my three big things this year. The unfortunate thing is that music is not on that list and it makes me emotional to even think of. In the past few months, my guitar playing and songwriting has decreased significantly and my voice is not in optimum condition. My insides burn (in a positive way) for music and performing and that whole scene. But I've had to be realistic and honest with myself lately and it sucks. Pursuing the music dream might have to wait until 2016.

I still plan to do things for Sower Records as I can, because I want to be a part of the Lincoln music scene, even if it isn't as an artist yet. *hangs head*

Then there's Juice Stop. It's a job. That's all it is. It's not on my top three accomplishments. It's not on my hobby list. It is next to nothing to me and here's why: It is necessary to have a little money to keep myself afloat, but it also takes up my time that I could be spending on the other three big things or even music. As I've mentioned, I am sick of working for The Man and bitching about The Man on blog posts. The Man can suck it.

Therefore, Juice Stop makes none of my lists. It has no list. It is its own stupid entity. I regard it with the lowest regard I can regard anything and so it is basically feces. Yes, feces. I equate the time of my life Juice Stop takes up to the time taken up by relieving myself on the toilet. It's annoying, but necessary. For (usually) about four hours each day during the week, I am tied to a location, caged by customers, and weighted down by duties. Heh heh, I said duties. Which brings me back to poop. I know you guys were wondering how the hell that title was going to be relevant to this post, but there you have it. Juice Stop is a four hour poop.

Well, that's all I have for today. It was a bit longer than I'd anticipated, but give some thought to your year and what you want to do.

Are you trying to do too many things? Prioritize.

Are you doing nothing? Take a breath, slap your face, and come back to life. It's waiting for you.


PS: Random, but I actually thought of the title and the idea behind it before I even began this post.

PSS: I ordered a memory card for my camera today! I don't use exclamation points, really, so you know I'm excited. You guys can expect some short videos and hopefully more pictures in the next couple weeks.

Monday, January 12, 2015

What Say Ye?

Hey guys,

I've been giving some serious thought to the idea of amping up the media on my blog. I know I should be posting more pictures and whatnot, but what do you think about videos?

I figure there are plenty of you that might read this but are more partial to watching a three to five minute video instead. I don't know. Just a thought.

The videos could be me rambling about crap that I normally write about, so I guess they'd be like little vlogs. Or I could make some vids of me playing music, cooking/baking, or other random stuff. I need to get a memory card for my camera, but I think it'd add a different touch to the blog some might appreciate.

Anyway, just a thought.

Let me know what you think in the comments.


The Upswing

Lately, I’ve noticed that my life is going in a positive direction. Things aren’t perfect or ideal, but I was given an insight during a counseling session last week. My therapist said something that seems really obvious, but it struck a chord with me. He was talking about my life and comparing how I seem now compared to when I first saw him over two years ago. Back then, I was depressed every day it seemed. I was failing classes, I had no motivation, no clear direction, I hated my college, hated my job, ended up breaking down and quitting that job as well as others, and things felt very hopeless.

Fast forward to a few months back. I started seeing my therapist again after quitting Teavana to work as a baker at Panera. After my third shift, I had a meltdown and plunged into depression and anxiety. Depression about being stuck in terrible jobs the rest of my life and never escaping. Anxiety about showing up to my next shift. I’d compare it to being burned by a hot stove. Once you get scorched, you’re hesitant to touch it again, you know? Even if that stove is the means by which you receive income.
So you wonder, what could have been so bad about being an overnight baker? Yes, it was an overnight job, so that could suck. But I chose it knowing it’d be overnight. I thought it’d be good for me for some reason. I really just wanted a way out of Teavana at the time because I felt the stove warming up there. But at Panera, I didn’t have anyone yelling at me or treating me bad. It wasn’t during the day, so there weren’t customers being dicks to me. So what could have been so bad about it all?
It’s difficult to describe, I guess, because I don’t truly know how to say it all. It was all in my head. The anxiety, the dread, the self-destructing self esteem, the feelings of being so little and insignificant and powerless and caged inside those walls slaving away. And then I’d think about how selfish those feelings were because so many people don’t have jobs and would be grateful to have landed any sort of work. But those thoughts and feelings continued swirling and building and finally came to a head and I couldn’t take it. I had to contain bursts of anger when I’d drop a container of cheese or accidentally make a mess. Before I even left that third shift, I knew I couldn’t come back. I wouldn’t come back. I had to escape the stove. It was like I was talking to myself in my own head. I’d hear, “You can’t come back again. It’s done. We’re done here. It’s time to move on.” And even though I knew it was illogical on paper, the reality was that I needed out.
I broke down in my car and cried for a long time driving down 56th and around Van Dorn plaza, unwilling to go home, lest someone see me. When I was finally home, I slept for a long time. The next day, I stayed in bed as much as possible. I watched episodes of Hell on Wheels to distract me from the anxiety of knowing I wouldn’t be going back to work at Panera.
A little while before my shift was supposed to start, I went outside and it was dark. I started a fire in the fire pit and sat there staring at the flames and feeling the tides of mental turmoil. That burn from the stove was inside me somewhere, still scalding hot and making me squirm. I feared having to admit to my mom that it’d happened again. It was Gallup and Old Chicago all over again. I wasn’t cured and hadn’t really changed the way I thought I had. Something about Teavana had clicked in my mind and I was okay there. But somewhere between ending that job and starting a new one, something in me reverted. More likely, it never left and that was what discouraged me the most.
I ended up texting my bosses and telling them I was going through a mental breakdown and wouldn’t be at my shift that night. They tried calling and texting me the next day, but I never replied. I felt awful about that, but the stove brings out selfishness in people, I guess.
But all of that is past me, at least for now. I’m working part time at Juice Stop just to have a little money to scrape by. The real work and exciting things are happening outside of that place. I’ve been working hard at getting my kuchen business started and I really feel like it’s going to be the next big stepping stone for me. After high school, college was supposed to be a stepping stone, probably. But mostly, it was a muddy puddle. A deep one. In that puddle was college, shitty jobs, unemployment, and crises by the number. But I’m swimming to the surface and dammit, I’ve never been a good swimmer, but I’m tired of holding my breath.
Back to what my therapist was talking about. He’s been pointing out how he hasn’t changed at all since I began having sessions with him two years ago. And yet, I’m able to talk more freely and openly and am able to just be myself. I’m what’s changed, he says. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to that. Life moves in two directions. Upward and downward. Sometimes things can feel stagnant, but from that stagnation, they either begin to go up or down. If things aren’t moving or changing, they’re dead. Change has to be embraced. Sometimes change means running from the stove. Sometimes change means gritting your teeth and determining to build your own stepping stone because life has been an angry bitch.

If life only moves in two directions, I can confidently say mine is on the upswing. There are still pitfalls and small muddy puddles that bog me down, but the difference is that they don’t entirely end me. And they don’t have to end you, either. Fight for the upswing. Nothing else really matters.


PS: If you're interested in listening to the podcast on which I recorded my short story, here's the link. It's the one with the date 12/25/14. It says something about "a skit about hell" which is supposed to describe my story I guess...?