The New Year is upon us. Or it was. This post is a tad late. I had trouble organizing my thoughts and then was distracted by games—bowl games and The Hunger Games trilogy (yes, I am late to that party, too)—and, oh alright, I chickened out a bit when I began going through my notes, realizing how personal this post would be. Was I really ready to share my neuroses with the world? Or, you know, the random people who stumble across my tumblr?
Regardless, we are only a couple weeks into the new year, which isn’t that far along at all, and I am finally mustering the courage to announce the resolution I need to make. I’ve realized for some time now that I am in an unfortunate holding pattern. A rut. And it’s entirely of my own doing—I’ll say that up front. My analytical and judgmental mind is biting me in the butt. I am thirty-one years old, I live alone, I spend way too much time alone, and I hate my job. And I can’t seem to stop focusing on the latter at the expense of the former.
You see, somehow, I’ve fitted my “life plan” into a series of steps. Step One (x) is career satisfaction. Step Two (y) is personal satisfaction. And Step Three (z) is overall happiness. I’ve fixated on that specific sequence—that x should come before y should come before z—though I’m not sure where it comes from or when I officially adopted it. All I know is, I have.
And so, since graduating college, I’ve focused on x.[i] I’ve searched for a job that fulfills me. One that allows comfortable balance: to work passionately on matters that inspire while also permitting time to engage in volunteer work and personal pursuits. One that utilizes sufficient skill and knowledge to make me proud to be exercising the various talents I’ve been fortunate to have been given, rather than embarrassed to be squandering them. Yet almost six years since exiting grad school, I am still searching.[ii]
That I’m stuck on this completely arbitrary sequencing—x before y before z—means I have essentially hidden away from the world for years now, which, as you can imagine, is really not much of a life at all. Even relocating a couple years ago to Minneapolis—an enchanting city in which I knew next to no one[iii]—has not broken me of my hermit habit. You’d think, after moving to a new city (err, Twin Cities), I would have felt compelled to overcome my insecurities and make friends who could pull me out of my misery every once and awhile. But no. Not yet.
Of course, the problem with my approach is, life is not linear. It is not waiting for me to get to x. I know this; I’ve always known this. Life goes on, even if I don’t think I’m ready for it. Moreover, my very reasoning (or lack thereof) is unsound. If my career is in such a shambles, should I not make my personal relationships even more of a priority in an effort to balance out my life? Furthermore, it can’t be denied that meeting new friends and attempting a romantic relationship may actually help me find a new job—perhaps someone I meet will know someone who knows someone who is looking for an engineer-cum-lawyer who loves to write, talk sports, and give so much more than is currently demanded of her. Despite this objective understanding and self-diagnosis, however, I just can’t seem to break the mental habit: I am still focusing on x, to the expense of y and z.
But no longer! (she says definitively, if not completely confidently). In this new year, 2014, I resolve to try and focus more on y and z—even if x remains a work in progress. Here are the action items I pledge to attempt in my pursuit of personal satisfaction and happiness:
- Go out more often. Even if my job sucks, I’m overweight, and I don’t think I look right. Even if I’ve somehow warped my failure to achieve x into some combination of motivation and punishment—withholding my pursuit of y and z as both motivation to complete x and punishment for failing at x.[iv] I need to stop hiding in my apartment with piles of books, job applications, and my Twitter feed.
- Invite friends to join me. Even if I think I’m boring. Even if, when meeting new people, I cringe inwardly, having to swallow my pride when (inevitably) I must explain what it is I do for a living. Even if I suffer from a crisis of confidence, having lost the ability I once had of making friends easily. As Elizabeth Bennet pointed out to Mr. Darcy, who thought himself ill-qualified to recommend himself to strangers, it was his own fault because he would not take the trouble of practicing. I, too, need to practice.
- Join meetup.com or an online dating service? Okay, this one gets a question mark—at least the online dating suggestion. I (perhaps) may have read too many Mary Higgins Clark and Patricia Cornwell books in high school, but I just can’t seem to shake the idea that my attempts at online dating would connect me with a serial killer. I mean, blind dates in general are nerve-wracking enough, but at least a mutual friend sets you up—a friend who (hopefully) you may count on to have vetted the potential date. Meeting up with a complete stranger seems to be asking to end up bound, gagged, and left with only a nail file and pen from your purse—that you surreptitiously squirreled away in your bra when he wasn’t looking—to effect your escape.
Moreover, dating itself seems fraught with nerves and vulnerabilities. Holding oneself out as someone deserving of a date, I just don’t think I have the confidence for that right now. I’d feel as if on an episode of Punk’d—waiting for the inevitable “Ha! You really thought this was real?” moment. Besides, what sort of man would be interested in a girl who is so obviously messed up? But I have a year to change my mindset, so I suppose I’ll keep meeting-up-with-strangers on the list.
So that’s it. Admittedly, this to-do list is rather ridiculous in its simplicity—I’m sure most of you reading this post can hardly fathom the full extent of my loserdom, taking for granted the ease with which you make friends and manage your personal life. To you, I express my admiration and jealousy.
As for me, I hope to have the guts to follow through on the action items I’ve listed. It will require me to venture far outside my current comfort zone, which can only mean that it is the very thing I must do.
Here’s to a life-changing 2014. Cheers.
[i] I truly wish I could be a person who may dislike her job entirely but puts up with it, having enough friends and activities in her life to make up for career shortcomings. Oh how I wish it. But I am not that person. I am a person who needs to like her job. This desperate need consumes so much of my life; I haven’t been able to overlook it.
[ii] The legal profession, unfortunately, continues to flounder, and, as I’ve made a number of career mistakes already, I am not prime job applicant material. I didn’t graduate from a superstar law school, I don’t have enough years of experience, and my engineering degree, rather than inspiring thoughts of “wow, she must be smart and capable,” instead seems to inspire the narrow idea that “she is suited for nothing but drafting patent applications,” an activity I generally find to be dull as dirt.
I know, I know, in this economy I should just be thankful to be employed. But for how long must I be content with such a depressingly minimal level of job satisfaction? At what point may I aspire to have a job that I appreciate for more than the paycheck and health insurance?
[iii] In truth, the dearth of close acquaintances in Minneapolis-St. Paul may have been one reason the region was so attractive to me. If I was to make a complete hash of my life, I’d much rather do so in relative anonymity, wouldn’t you?
[iv] Are you sick of my variables yet?