The Subtle, Inner Dialogue of an Anxious Workaholic
Hello, everyone! First and foremost, I hope everyone had a fun and safe Fourth of July. July just is thee month of summer. Fireworks, cookouts, beach trips. All good vibes. I personally spent my holiday doing what I do every Fourth: watching re-runs of the Twilight Zone. Don’t know exactly when that tradition started, just with whom and where. As a kid, my mother would take me up to Jacksonville to see my Grandma Mary. There, we would all stay up until the wee hours of the morning, falling asleep to the sound of Rod Sterling’s voice and the pops and crackles of the fireworks out on the lake outside. I can still see the glowing green and sometimes yellow and red reflections out on the water’s surface. That memory has now become a tradition, one so deeply rooted that I even passed it onto my dear friend Cami!
As for the main focus of this post, I’d like to forewarn you: this is a little personal for me. I’m opening up to show you my weakness and biggest fear initially. I’m not asking for pity or advance. This is just me thinking out loud and onto the computer screen, writing it all out to try and make sense of my own perceptions of my life.
For those of you who follow me on Instagram (or any other social media platform for that manner), I playfully label myself as a workaholic – not without good reason, I might add. The saying that you are a product of your upbringing totally works in this scenario. My father was a workaholic, my mother is still a workaholic; therefore, I am a workaholic – and I know it because by tomorrow I will be entering my busy season, the season where I go into start survival mode for at least three months. Just thinking about all that the next few months have in store for me makes me want to start stocking up on coffee and investing in a bulk order of “to-do” lists and sticky notes. Seriously speaking though, all that thinking does make me anxious. Even now I feel short of breath as I type, fearing that I may experience some pains in my chest, then need to talk myself down and try not to focus on the pain or the fact that I’m breathless and restlessness to the point that I toss and turn at night because I can’t shut my brain off from thinking about anything and everything that I need to do, what I think I need to do, and so forth. And sometimes, that does lead to me having panic attacks.
Now, again, this isn’t a pity post or cry for advance. One, I have my own ways of coping with my anxiety such as running at my gym, making herbal teas, and drawing; and two, I’m not into the whole “woe is me” when I’m the one who signed myself up for starting my career as an educator, getting certified so I can stay as an educator, coaching late into the evenings and on weekends, possibly starting grad school by this winter, and piling up all the other side projects including this blog. But there are nights when I reach a point of asking myself “how am I going to do this? If I’m freaking out this much, how can I make the cut in becoming a full-time businesswoman and freelancer? Why do I always say yes? If I could just stay focused on one thing, would I be asking myself these questions?” This inner dialogue just leads to nights like the one I had last night where I either have to talk myself down or go through with a panic attack just to get it out of my system.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been struggling with this monologue frequently, watching this all-too-familiar cycle that I tend to put myself through of overbooking to overtly procrastinating to ultimately set myself up for either an emotional burnout, creative burnout, or possibly both.
So, why do I do it? Yeah, you’re probably thinking um… because you’re a workaholic? Isn’t that what this is all about? What you just wrote? Well… yeah. I grew up wanting to be a busy person because of the saying that if you want something done, give it to a busy person. However, that’s not the sole reason why. The source of my anxiety comes from my fear of not doing enough, of not being busy enough, of being idle. This is my biggest fear. Am I doing enough to be the most effective teacher I can be? Am I doing enough drawings a day? Am I taking care of myself? Am I, am I, am I… and it gets to the point that if I take a day to just relax to beige watch a series or a day trip out of town that I feel guilty and begin to cut off communication with friends and loved ones to focus on work, to make-up for that one day.
This fear has been with me for two years. I know this because I have written about it before. About two years ago, around this time, I wrote a post on my previous blog about experiencing the real world as a recent college grad, about being a millennials were raised in the society of instant gratification in the form of real-time videos, instant messaging, and free two day shipping that skewed our understanding of how the world runs because up until this point of #adulting we lived within a pattern of checkpoints known as freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, rinsed and repeated, just to reach this odd place of stillness, a place where you feel like you’re running uphill in sand and that every late night or long week doesn’t seem to take you as far as it used to.
That feeling hasn’t gone away… but at least I’m not the only one.
Another dear friend of mine, Hannah, made that clear to me just this Friday afternoon. While I out and about Friday afternoon in St. Pete, checking out the art district there and the Chihuly Collection, I took a moment to check my notifications from Facebook. Now, just to be clear, I’m hardly ever on Facebook. I would have deleted my profile a long time ago but frankly, I have too many photos posted on there that I wish to keep and it’s the best way to keep in touch with all my teammates from SCAD and see how they are doing – including Hannah who wrote:
Stillness, running through sand, treading water, all words describing the same phenomenon.
Again, this isn’t a pity post and perhaps more than a venting session. It’s more of a reality recap, a reflection on growth and on life. Is this fear of mine what keeps me moving? It’s funny how big of a difference there is between being in college thinking you’re an adult versus actually being one. The next step is formless, so seeing it isn’t always easy. For those like me, who can’t quite see it yet, you start facing situations where you are either forced to grow or risk being left behind. You are forced to start putting your life skills to work more than ever such as time management, resourcefulness, prioritizing, and learning the all-too-important way to say “no” sometimes. And things aren’t mapped out like they once were. It’s not as easy as I need to accomplish A in order to get to B, and then complete B to get to C. Now, there’s the option of you could go to A then B put you could also just go straight to B then go back to A and that you don’t need to do A or B to get to C. Things haven’t really gone still, they’re just more complicated. I’m not treading water or running through sand, the distance and destination are just unknown. In fact, you could just throw out the whole checkpoints analogy because there really aren’t any anymore. It’s more of a roadmap. There are thousands of different routes and passes and thousands of different destinations; and, just like all road trips, there are hundreds of different ways to get to the same place. There are no right answers, just differences in how and when you get there. In addition, any good road trip may require a few detours to make the trip interesting, more exciting, or just to determine where you’re going.
That’s why I’m a workaholic, a dabbler in many things because I don’t want to limit myself to just one road. Sure, I don’t know when I’ll reach the final destination – or if it’s the one I want. All I know is that I’m just wandering endlessly but at least it’s not aimlessly or alone.