Two True Facts

1. I am sitting here crying because I read this Dear Sugar column, which is so unlike my situation (affair, kids) but so like it at the same time (moments of despair, the tangle of becoming someone else).

2. I am learning to program.

These two facts have nothing to do with each other on the surface. But in my head they are inextricably linked. This is because right now I am trying to find out who I am. I’ve been the unhappy person in a job they felt was sucking them dry. I’ve been an entrepreneur, master of my company and destiny. And now I’m not sure what I am. And here in my confusion I’ve gone back to the thing I’m most comfortable as.

A student. I am most comfortable when I’m learning. It’s why I can’t stand being alone for too long. And why I’ve fled jobs at full tilt. And why I’ve loved starting a company. In the end I’m just not happy unless I’m learning something.

And that gives rise to my dilemma. How do I stay true to that core of me? Learning to program is a lifeline right now, but I need something more. I need my day-in and day-out to have challenge. But I don’t know where I’ll get that and I don’t know who I’ll be once I have it. Or who I’ll be if I don’t.

Looking back it seems like all of my episodes of serious depression involved this issue. I hope, and believe, that having that common thread will help unravel this tangle. Because I’m sick of all this becoming. I want to move on to the being.

Email: just say no!

I’m beginning to really dislike my email.

One month ago I would have looked at that line and been appalled. Hate my email! Someone bring me my fainting couch! Because I loved my email. Loved it. I felt so productive when I checked my email. Things would come in. I would handle them and then they would go out again. It was progress, and every new email seemed to be a sign that I was accomplishing things, that my company was getting attention, that I was being in charge and doing right.

No. I’ve finally realized that’s completely wrong. It took a while, and I fought it, but now I get that email is a hollow sort of progress. Yes, I sometimes get things done that are important. And it’s good that everyone knows I’m accessible. But there was a dark side to that. Most of the emails were not important. In fact, most of my emails were things that would be best handled in bulk, later on. And each email became a totally legitimate, completely justifiable reason to put down the truly important things I was doing. It was ‘Oops, didn’t really pay attention to that meeting, but at least my email is clear’. Or ‘I’ll come right back to this marketing copy, I just have to answer this email’. It became another tool of procrastination, and I’m so prone to putting things off already; I didn’t need another way to do it.

Then the next thing kicked in. I would leave my email open, and constantly check it. I feel like I should be saying this in a camp-fire horror-story voice: It became a procrastination tool even when there was nothing there! And then I would get unhappy. Why wasn’t anyone sending me email? Why didn’t other people answer as fast as I did? And then, because my brain is a jerk, I would be less productive because I had nothing in my inbox. And that lack of productivity made me feel bad and I would avoid work. So I’m less productive. So I feel bad. I’m sure you can see the horrible spiral this was turning into.

So I stopped. Cut it off entirely. I check my email in the morning, and then when I finish a project and at the end of the day. I don’t go to it in the middle of things. I don’t worry about keeping it clear. That was painful. I felt so good about myself when I got rid of everything in my inbox! But only for a while, then I was back again, with the weeping and gnashing of teeth at the lack of communication from the outside world.  So that’s maybe a tiny exaggeration. But now I’m better, and I’m freer, more able to get my work done. It’s a good feeling, and more lasting than the shots of happy I’d get from hitting my email.

Now I just have to keep an eye out for the next thing that’ll keep me from being productive.