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Christopher Sikkenga

Positively Pessimistic

5 min read

 

A telemarketing company calls you for the 3rd time this week and you think to yourself, “They’re annoyingly persistent.” That evening you’re staying up past your bed time to finish the laundry. There’s nothing in there that you need tomorrow for work. No, you want to finish the laundry because you set a goal to have it done today and “I’m being stubborn!”

It’s curious, right? Telemarketers are slime and yet we had the courtesy to call them “persistent.” For ourselves, we use a word with a negative undertone, “stubborn.” Why is it so difficult to be kind to one’s self?

Thanks to the province and city I live in, I am able to get help to find some answers. Specifically, I’m learning why it is so hard to be positive. It turns out that I don’t particularly care for me. As such, if you were to call me persistent for seeking help instead of ending my life, I wouldn’t accept the compliment. “It’s nothing. Anyone can do it. It was easy.” On top of not taking credit for persistence, I would further strengthen my self-hate by thinking the fact that I need help is proof that I’m a failure. Every mental illness, every treatment, therapy and medication has a stigma. Why would I see “getting help” as a positive thing?

Stigma of Mental Illness

In the group sessions I attend there are a wide range of mental health issues. Each of them have their own stigmas and they vary by gender. I was discussing the power of The Mask You Live In, a documentary on how men are brought up, with someone at the centre recently. My new friend pointed out that Hollywood has a big influence. For example we may have compassion for women with schizophrenia, but all the men are depicted as violent killers. Pregnant women with addiction issues are blamed or judged in our culture. Since the perceived role of women in society involves bearing & raising children, we charge them with maintaining the moral values of our communities as well. Meanwhile, my depression is viewed as nothing more than a stumbling block. The idea that this is a temporary setback for me is related to the stigma of mental illness.

A 2015 study in Canada reported that 40% of people said they “experienced feelings of anxiety or depression but never sought medical help for it.” Plus, 39% of workers surveyed shared that they would not inform their bosses if they had a mental health issue. Seven years before that study, a whopping “46% of Canadians thought people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour.” Remaining positive as I try to heal is very difficult when the world sees me this way. Remember, how supportive you are to friends that break limbs. We’re even compassionate to people who lose limbs. Yes, their lives will change, but at least they’re still living, right? Many of us have mental health problems, but we’re still here. Support us, don’t shun us.

Sikk Is Sick

In order to help with my depression & anxiety I take medication and I work hard each day to quiet my pessimistic inner self. These are facts. Next year, I won’t be off the meds or working less hard. This is reality. It’s the goal going forward. The idea that I can drop the meds or the hard work is not the aim. People have come forward to my partner sharing stories of friends & family who have gone through similar episodes. Sometimes, they share their own stories of mental health. I appreciate those willing to openly communicate about mental wellness. The support is always helpful, but each case is individual. Be careful not to stigmatize those of us with mental health problems while trying to show support. It’s perfectly fine to be on medication, to go to group sessions and see a therapist.

The groups & therapist have challenged me to journal about my happiness. What are my talents or skills? What positive characteristics do I have? Well, I’m great at beating myself up. Does that count? Sorry, my negative self core is persistent when it comes to his job. Hey, look at that! I wrote “persistent” instead of stubborn. That’s positive right?

Yeah, so I have some work to do. I wanted to sit down and write about how difficult it can be to come up with positives at the moment. Yet, I typed a lecture about the mental health stigma in our society. Perhaps, composing a note on the perplex idea of being kind to myself would have challenged my negative outlook. In the process, I could have stumbled onto something positive. Today's blog seems to be some avoidance.

Alright, here’s something positive. I am not my mental illness. You are not your sexual preference. Your boss is not her political opinions. Your neighbor is not his race. That girl on the bus with the speaker blaring is not her choice in music. Your uncle is not his religion. We are humans. Let’s treat each other with respect and love with that in mind. Go hug someone. If you know my partner, start with her. She’s received lots of well-wishing for me, but she can use support and love as well. I have not always been an attentive spouse and my mental health is not an excuse. She can always use a coffee, a hug or safe space away from my recovery.

Thanks for reading. Much love to you.

Christopher Sikkenga

A Direct Result of Our Sexist Societial Norms- The Born Sexy Yesterday Trope

2 min read

The following video from Pop Culture Detective Agency looks at a cliché in films that I never took notice of before. I'm ashamed that I didn't see it. Furthermore, there's some movies that I thoroughly enjoy in the examples. Sure these are fiction stories that typically play up the comedy, but the underlying trope is troubling when we think of how women struggle in our world.  For example, salaries between male and females have a considerable gap. Big Brother, Google, is refusing to collect wage data and turn it over to the department of Labor in the U.S. How attrocious is that? They know how many hours & dollars it would cost to get the information, but they don't know the salary of their 21,000 employees? Hmm. Before I go off on that tangent, I also wanted to mention that this trope discussed in the video is concerning when it comes to male masculinity. The idea that men have to be smarter or more capable than their partners is slowly changing, but not fast enough. Once again, I just want to drop those sex organs as a classification all together. We're humans. Let's just stick with that.

Yes, it's a long video. It's well done though. Search it on your Youtube app on your smart TV or something. Please, give it a go.

 

Christopher Sikkenga

Depressed Me Coping With The Black & White World of Social Networks

6 min read

 

The last couple of months I’ve exiled myself from Twitter and Facebook. I do miss many individuals, but overall I don’t think those sites have been good for me. I felt like shouting my troubles into the void would be wasting time that I could be using to do something about them.

The thing that has turned so many off from social networks is the current state of the world, the bad news. For me, it was the good news that made coping difficult. Two possibilities occur when I read a positive post- I compare myself to those people sharing the good vibes and get depressed. Or, I believe those people are simply selling a vision to their friends & followers that depicts them in a good light. Now, I realize that both of these interpretations are negative. Yet, I can’t help shaking the feeling that social networks have become less helpful.

In the beginning Twitter was full of early adopters, people trying new things and sharing ideas. Someone would post a status looking for a good resource for teaching pattern recognition to a 6 year old and people on Twitter would pass it along until a teacher from miles away would answer. I don’t doubt these interactions still happen thanks to social media. However, the systems of Twitter and Facebook don’t reward helpfulness. These companies are after profit. Your request for math patterns may get 8–10 retweets or likes before you get the answer you need, but what if a celebrity posts a picture of themselves in a costume for an upcoming superhero film? That’s going to get millions of likes and views. That celebrity is featured in the “people you should follow or friend” lists and becomes an influencer on the network itself. Which of the status posts below do you enjoy?

or

There’s a culture of comedy on social media, everyone trying to one-up each other with jokes because they’re entertaining. Furthermore, a status post containing controversy is going to get a lot more traction than me describing my continental breakfast. Eventually, we can find ourselves in a race for likes, instead of sharing openly about ourselves. While I don't use Reddit that much, it is interesting that it is organized in categories, or communities. Thus, groups of people with similar ideas can share together without the cloud of other topics and internet memes. The decentralized Mastodon, is also fascinating because people are forming their own communities. Is there hope for the future?

So far, I've shared a very black and white view of social networks. Obviously, there are those people who are genuinely engaging friends within the service. Though, it is hard not to get caught up in the popularity contest because Google, Facebook and Twitter promote and reward that type of content. It was the same back in the early blog days. People shared a part of themselves online and found it freeing. Then, everybody used this bit of code to put a counter on the blog. "Look at all the visitors!" As the hits increased when something funny was shared, bloggers began to gravitate to those kinds of posts. The blogosphere was full of these who-can-post-that-funny-video-first web sites. The original content began to fade away as people wanted more hits.

Content on social networks is increasingly filled with retweets or shared posts from another source. While there’s nothing wrong with sharing, we seem to be burying ourselves behind these black and white issues, causes and internet memes. “I agree, Trump is bad. I will post this funny joke about him.” The thing that gets me, we live in a grey world, not a black and white one. You may despise the funding of Planned Parenthood, but be against the Keystone XL pipeline. Thanks to Trump, states no longer have to fund Planned Parenthood, but he did pass the pipeline. Do you post the meme supporting him or do you post the one against him? Perhaps, you could simply share your own thoughts?

I once saw a speaker who was discussing Hallmark cards. The company has a card for each and every event. It’s downright magic! Except, those cards aren’t for each and every occasion. The speaker said that they have a rule in their family, no store bought cards. The point is to tell someone how you feel using your own words. He and his family make their own cards for birthdays, anniversaries and all the other holidays.

I guess my point is that I can’t live up to a standard that isn’t real. I can’t choose to be black or white. (Look at my hair, it’s grey.) I wasn’t honest with myself and others and it sent me down a dark path. Now, I’m an open book and I need that from the world around me. I don’t expect Twitter or Facebook to change, but I may have to start anew or cull my followers & friends. Honestly, I’m not sure what to do. All I know is that I have been feeling less anxiety and much more healthy since I took my break from social networks. As I work on my mental health, perhaps I will be able to be happy for those sharing positive posts in the future. Maybe I’ll even share some of my own? Until then, my social networks will remain mostly quiet. Since everything is now based on those “popularity” algorithms, you may actually have to visit my social network pages to see if I’ve been around. If you really need me, I’m sure you can find me. In fact, I’d very much like that. Depression is lonely.

Christopher Sikkenga

A Breakdown, An Emergency Room, Two Clinics, A Therapist & The Struggle of Finding Mental Health Help

10 min read

glitch_sky

It happened last month. I broke.

See, I used to be tortured by thoughts of my mortality. My impending death would keep me up with insomnia for weeks at a time. Occasionally, the topic would get me so worked up that I would physically tremor. Therefore, I did everything I could to ignore the topic. That is, until last month.

I came apart in a grotesque way. I did my best to push everyone away because I wanted to leave this world. When that seemingly dramatic thought entered into my goals and I started looking for ways to make my exit, I knew something was wrong. That unnerving fear of death was completely gone. It was a strange sort of peace. For once, I was living without that anxiety. The downside was that I spent 2 days fixated on ways that I could end my existence. Somewhere buried beneath all my self-hate was that passing thought, something was wrong. “Do I want to die? Yes. That’s not the problem. It’s weird though, a few days ago I wouldn’t think about this at all.” This was my “alarm.” What I’m trying to say is that I went to the emergency room not because I was afraid of harming myself, but because I wasn’t.

In the U.S. May is Mental Health Month, and here in Canada Mental Health Week is the first week of May. I don’t know if I’m really ready to share my story, but I feel compelled to do it now because it is May. Help is out there for those that need it. The first thing we can all do is take the issues of mental health seriously. There’s a stigma around mental health, it’s the second sentence of this post. The idea that I’m “broke,” wrong, damaged, odd, abnormal or disabled by my condition is what we need to correct. Statistics on suicides are frightening. According to the 2 year old documentary The Mask You Live In, from ages 20–24, men are 7 times more likely to commit suicide than women. The numbers appear to rise as we get older. As men, society tells us to “toughen up and be a man.” So the last thing we want to do is admit we’re abnormal or, science forbid, weak.

My Saturday trip to the emergency room was eye opening. Once my number came up, I was taken to a special section of ER for mental health cases. Looking back, that’s sort of shocking isn’t it? So many people are coming in that there’s a different section and I’m not just a curtain away from a guy with a broken nose or something? I was in the ER for a couple hours and discharged. The doctors told me that I didn’t need to be in a psychiatric ward. I felt like I failed again. “I didn’t communicate my feelings well or something? Do they think I’m a faker? A joke?” I was given a suicide hotline number if I needed to talk to someone, and the name of a clinic at the hospital that could help me on a weekday.

It’s tough to describe where I was at after that. Simultaneously, I wanted to be alone, buried in a pit where no one could find me and also I was frightened to be by myself, with my thoughts. When the weekday finally arrived and I made my way to the clinic, I spent 15 minutes filling out a questionnaire about my mental health. Writing it down put me in tears again. It was real. The doctor at the clinic looked over my paperwork and saw that I had seen a therapist before. “Go talk to your therapist. Have a nice day.” Okay, it wasn’t that bad. That’s how it felt, though. I had seen a therapist once every 2 months to talk about anxiety. Sometimes I could visit monthly, if it was possible. The clinic was supposed to be a daily program for 14 weeks. That really sounded like what I needed. Of course, the doctor was basically doing triage. There were other potential patients who were a higher priority than me. So, there I was, outside the clinic in absolute shock. There’s no help for me.

I sat there for nearly 2 hours, lost.

“Should I have told the admitting doctor that my therapist was not someone I was seeing through insurance coverage or paying out of pocket for? My therapist is part of my doctor’s network. I can’t see her as much as I like!”

“Do I really have to attempt suicide to get help?”

As the shock wore off, I realized that the clinic had presented me with more options. I could get my doctor to refer me to their program at the clinic or attend a night program that is open to all. I left a message with my doctor who called me within minutes. She put me on the cancellation list for the therapist and encouraged me to talk to the therapist before joining a program. In the meantime, I was given another suicide hotline number (or probably the same one). Is that the way to get help? While that is not the route I went, the answer is yes. Any suicide hotline has people who will listen to you, if that’s all you need. Plus, they have information to get you to the nearest location where you can find help. Don’t discount them as I did, if you or someone you know needs help, call.

Mental health is a growing concern in today’s world. The calculator made memorizing tables and formulas obsolete. People only have to learn the how and why of math now. The internet connected smart phone in our pockets also makes memorization of facts and knowledge less important as well. Therefore, we have all this space free in our brains to fill with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and other issues. Perhaps this is why the mental health field continues to grow. Sometimes, it just seems that it isn’t growing fast enough to meet the need. However, there is help out there. If not in your town, you’ll find it in the next city over, I swear. Search for “walk-in counselling” near you. Even living in Canada, there are people who think that there’s no help because they don’t have insurance. There may be groups started by concerned individuals or professionals. Reach out to a medical clinic for advice on where to go. If you have access to the internet, you can visit this great site from Australia, the Centre for Clinical Intervention which has workbooks that could help you as you navigate the support systems in your area. As I found out, getting help will take some work by you, or those supporting you, but help is out there.

As for me, I was referred to a program by my therapist. With so many people suffering, it took some time before a space opened for me. I only went through the intake program last week. Now, I have to find the courage to get out of bed, leave the home and face a group of people like me. It will be difficult. My self-sabotaging brain doesn’t like the idea that others suffer as I do. That might mean that I’m not abnormal. Being face to face with those struggling with similar issues and trained professionals also makes my problems real and not something I can hide from in isolation.

The mental wellness battle is trying because it really feels like a lose-lose situation. Working through the modules on the Centre for Clinical Intervention site by yourself can be arduous. I’m reading things about myself that are hard truths and that fuels my low self-esteem. Of course if I’m having a good day, I feel as if I don’t need to read it or work on myself. I think this is why it is so important to get help. Even with the assistance of a therapist, I agonized over the homework I was supposed to be doing alone. However, the ability to visit that person a week or two later for a progress update was incredibly beneficial.

Here in town, The walk-in counselling place is trying to fill the gap by offering free help for those that need it. In cases where you need more than a chat or two, they will work with your financial situation. Many municipal areas in the U.S. have organizations that provide similar resources and offer a sliding scale based on your income. Reach out and keep reaching until you find what you need. It was an uphill journey for me, one that sent me further into depression and even shock. Yet, depression, anxiety and many of the other mental issues are based in emotions. Our emotions and feelings change from moment to moment. Hold on in those low times, and take advantage of the moderate and better days to search for assistance. It’s out there.

I’m still very much finding my way through the fog that is my unhealthy self-image, but I believe my next step is setting a realistic recovery goal. When I was asked what I wanted from treatment, I came to a stark realization, there is no miracle cure. My inner voice that is filled with self-loathing will never stop. The doctors and medication will not silence it completely. Instead, it’s up to me in how I react. I will have to learn ways to quiet the voice, test its assumptions and prove it wrong to gain control. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel or magic beans to save me. Realistically, I will have to learn to live with this dark passenger, not ignore or eliminate it. That goal is achievable and practical.

Thanks for taking the time to read my musings on mental health. I’m not going to lie, in my fragile state, I am scared to face this challenge. I just have to take things one day at a time. So be kind to each other out there. Treat people with respect and care because you don’t know what they’re going through. Those of us struggling aren’t broke, sick or abnormal. We’re human. And, one more resource for those in crisis and having trouble finding local resources, try IMALIVE. It’s an online chat for immediate help. Much love to you.

Christopher Sikkenga

Everything's Fine

3 min read

KC Green This is Fine.

Quite possibly the worst thing to tell anyone is “Everything’s fine.” That phrase means absolutely nothing. People utter these words for a variety of reasons, but the definition of “fine” is so fluid that it can mean anything in the known universe.

At age 7 I was told “Everything’s fine” when I was out of my wits with fear of swimming lessons. What about that big presentation you have tomorrow? Your coworker’s advice is “It will be fine.” What did you tell your friend with the terminal cancer? “Everything’s going to be fine.”

How is that Google maps, an application, can direct us from our homes to the latest vape store accurately, but we can’t communicate with each other? Perhaps my mother should have said, “I know the swim instructor scares you, but I promise you that she will not let you drown.” Your coworker would have been better off saying, “If you’re that nervous, let’s see if a meeting room is empty and you can practice in front of me.” That terminal ill friend is far from “fine.” So what can you do in the meantime. Are you scared? Do you not know what to say to this person in crisis? You know what? You can say that. Your honesty is an incredible gift to anyone, at any time. Remember that.

In keeping with the ideas of communication and honesty, everything I just wrote above is my opinion. I am not a psychologist and I did not study sociology. It’s based on my observations and interactions in a world where men aren’t supposed to have emotions. The social world of North America that I live in seems so deeply ingrained with the idea of polite affectation that it feels like we, as humans, rarely communicate. Play your role, tell everyone you’re “fine.” Ask about their work, family and kids and get on to business. Don’t share your pain. Don’t share your struggles. Don’t. Do not share emotions.

What good would come of losing that polite affectation? How could sharing my burden with everyone serve to help us as a community? It comes back to the fact that none of us are “fine.” We are alone with our emotions. Except, each and everyone of us humans has those emotions. Sharing brings us together. Opening up to others means sharing the burden. Together we’re stronger. Even then, we will never meet the definition of fine which is “superior, best quality, excellent or admirable.” However, we can strive towards excellence as a bonded community of humans. Isn’t that the challenge of life? There’s no such thing as perfection, but together we can reach admirable.

 

The image above is a popular meme from the web, but it originated in K.C. Green's web comic Gunshow.

Christopher Sikkenga

What Is Your Super Power?

3 min read

“If you could have one super power, what would you choose?”

Telekinesis, invisibility, flight and super strength have been shown in fiction as valuable powers that could save the world. Those gifts are used to fight evil, but what if you didn’t have to fight at all? The Greeks call him Eros and his Roman name is Cupid. Love is the power I would choose. Instead of hurling cement mixers at villains, I’d shoot arrows like Katniss & Cupid. Forget using my mind powers to crush baddies, I would give them the gift of love.

Sure Cupid is often seen as mischievous, but every superhero with powers has to learn responsibility. An invisible boy in a girl’s locker room is a boring trope, at this point. Speaking of well known imagery, Tennyson wrote, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Those of us who have felt the power of love know this is true. Love encompasses a number of emotions and feelings which can be difficult. Yet, in romance or friendship we have compassion and respect for those that we love. We make an effort to understand our loved ones and if we cannot, we choose to forgive.

Cupid’s power wouldn’t result in the big budget, CG destruction of New York like in The Avengers film. Love would bring opposing sides together to talk, not fight. Of course, we don’t live in the movies or comics. The hypothetical question of what super power to choose is a bullshit conversation starter. However, love is a super power. It’s inside each of us. Just as Superman has to choose if he’s going to walk, ride or use his power of flight, you can decide if you’re going to love someone. Will you respect your boss and be compassionate to her when she dumps a big assignment on you? Ultimately, what she does is out of your control. Your power is in how you react to her, and those around you. For example, you might be having a bad day and you think everything I just wrote is a pile of horse shit. I could defend my thoughts or have the compassion to listen to your criticism openly. That’s the power of Cupid that I want, the ability to get people to embrace their differences.

In the following Huey Lewis & The News song it is said we can “Change a hawk to a little white dove.” The super power I choose is “Tougher than diamonds and stronger than steel, You won’t feel nothin’ till you feel, You feel the power, just feel the power of love.”

Christopher Sikkenga

Perfection Versus Swishblog

2 min read

If I hadn't worked professionally in commercial video, I probably wouldn't have a single thing in my video portfolio because I'm a perfectionist. I often sit on personal project ideas for months trying to map out every detail and each roadblock. Eventually, the dam breaks and I leap into the project, or another idea without any forethought. The third option is to do absolutely nothing. Sadly, that's been my modus operandi for a few years.

In university I had an interest in animation, but I never truly followed through with it because of this desire for perfection. Instead, I embraced storytelling through editing. The issue with editing is that you need content to work with. Jobs where your sole responsibility is editing are not entirely plentiful. Thus, most of my professional work has included camera work. It's never been a passion and I've never enjoyed it. Yet, I know what I like, and this new digital age of live streaming from mobile phones has been a hard pill for me to swallow.

Therefore, when I saw friend, and fellow GVSU alum, Steve Niebauer post a weekend challenge over at Vimeo I decided to try it. I was killing two birds with one stone. First, I was getting myself back on the creative video horse. (Wow, lots of animal analogies here). Secondly, I wanted to let go of this desire for perfect camera work. Here's what I did.

I used my mobile phone camera with the dreaded auto settings and just went and did my swishblog through the weekend. For music, I played with these pocket operators from Teenage Engineering. Once again, it was an exercise in acceptance for me. Obviously, I'm no Skrillex. And, that's okay. Perfectionism stops me from doing anything rewarding and it is time to change that.

It was good to create something. I hope to do more experiments with animation and music in the future. Only a week before Steve's challenge I decided to start working on a gallery site where I can post my work. That's my next project, a home for these imperfect experiments. Instead of creating work for page hits or likes, I want to start making things for me. Perhaps, it will lead to a new opportunity? If it doesn't, that's fine as well because I will be growing as an artist and an individual.

Christopher Sikkenga

January 2017 Monthly Income Report

4 min read

The accounting goal of many businesses that want to avoid taxes is to not show a profit. Personally, I would very much like to see profit from writing so that I can justify this change in careers. However, this month isn't exactly a winner. What if I pretend that I'm sandbagging? I'll post these low numbers in January so that by May, when I'm raking it in, the difference will be dramatic! Yes. That's what's happening here.

This documentation adventure started, in part, because we're our own worse critics. I'll never tell myself that I'm doing a great job or successful. However, if I look back and see these reports, the numbers won't lie. I might have to admit to myself I did something right. At the moment, this may look like it is backfiring. Well, the other reason I wanted to do this was to keep a realistic record of a writer's life. Finding information when I was thinking of making the switch wasn't easy. Perhaps these reports will help some future writer.

Of course, I'm not done yet. Yes, I got $10 per short article I wrote this month. However, I like who I am working for and I'm learning a lot from him. Furthermore, he's helped me network and meet other potential employers. Therefore, at this point I'm not letting the numbers get to me because I need to build my confidence. I need to be positive and assured as I hustle for more work. January is typically a slow month for many, that post Christmas drought. Thus, I've been spending the time sending writing samples out and introducing myself to editors. It's awkward, but it gets easier every time I do it. The "no thanks" and lack of any response doesn't have to get me down. Those unlucky souls are just missing out one what I can give them. Right? Right!

Monthly Summary

More hours, less money than last month? There's a big assignment I've been working on for a while. I put a lot of pressure on myself to slam dunk it because there's a small chance it could lead to an opportunity. Plus, I mean who doesn't want to do a great job? Anyway, this piece has gotten in my head and I've written multiple drafts trying to please my worst critic, me. I'm still working on it in February, but I think I've shaken the futile pressure.

Every report, I'm finding a new item to track and this month is no different. I really do need to keep track of my hustling for jobs. I started the month on vacation with my spouse, but when I returned I hit up at least 2 sites and a local publication about an unpublished story. There's more emails out there waiting for responses, but as I said, I need to start documenting that better. I've got a small client lined up for the Spring and I've been writing a lot. Whether it is putting ideas together for future articles or simply writing about what interests me, I've been keeping that big muscle in my skull busy.

This past month and much of February has been focused on personal projects. I've seen so many friends have success with "doing their own thing" that I've doubled-down on a small project I started 2 years ago. Someday In February is a holiday that I've put together to help people get things done and enjoy themselves. I've been writing at that site and asked a friend to help out and keep me focused.

The other personal project is the podcast. We're back in production and that means scheduling, researching guests, writing questions, recording and summarizing the shows. It's great to be back and I'm looking to do another show with someone locally. Both the shows I do now are long form and I would like to try something shorter, possibly with more pre-production. In this way, I could add a show that I could record 3-5 episodes of in one sitting. I'd also like to sit down with someone next to me, the current shows are through Skype which can make conversations awkward.

Christopher Sikkenga

December 2016 Monthly Income Report

3 min read

In September I made this grand experiment official, “Let’s see how well I can transition to a job as a writer.” Keeping it real, I recognized that there truly is no such thing as “going viral” or “being discovered.” This goal will take time. I thought I’d give it a year or two. Now, after a few months, my resolve is fading.

December was a month minus my regular client that provided more than 2 years of work. I started editing images for episcura (link not guaranteed to work much longer). Eventually, I was handling the Twitter, Facebook and G+ accounts as well. Two of the three owners had the reigns of the social network accounts as well. They grabbed followers, bought ads and responded to some questions while I posted the day to day content. From there, it spun into me blogging for them.

The company, episcura, has decided to close up shop. While 3D artist do need HDRI and texture images for their work, it is simply too easy to appropriate pictures from a Google image search, rather than pay for quality work. Furthermore, technology advancements continue to make photogrammetry more practical and efficient.

As I mentioned last month, even though I could sense it coming, losing the gig was quite a shock. Thus, I spent much of the month in self-doubt and low confidence. I wanted to double my efforts with my remaining client, but my ego was too bruised to give it my all. December is a holiday month spent with family and friends, but it was feeling shame because I had lost what little income I had. The month is typically a busy month because firms are trying to spend the last of their yearly budget in order to get the same amount renewed for the following year. However with the last week of December a write-off because of Christmas, I felt it would be difficult to find a new client in the 3 weeks left of the year. Perhaps that was the self-doubt talking?

Monthly Summary

Those are some very sad numbers, indeed. I didn’t get a lot of assignments from my remaining client because they were busy with an art opening. I’m somewhat mad at myself for not running with the freedom and pouring some content out on their site. For episcura, I ran with the ball and posted one article a day, sometimes more. I think initiative and confidence go hand and hand, and I was lacking the later. I’ve done freelance for years and clients come and go, but I was really invested in episcura, so I took it personally. The bright spot in the month is a piece I did on a new social network.

Other Income

Paul is always there when I need him. My friend and co-host started publishing our past live shows and kept me busy with show notes and writing updates on our Patreon page. We even got together for a short show and talked about smart watches.

January began with a trip away from the gloom of winter. Hopefully the sunshine will inspire a better report next time.

Christopher Sikkenga

November 2016 Monthly Income Report

5 min read

."Better late than never" is not something you want to lead with when it comes to impressing potential employers. Yet, it has taken me the entire month of December to publish my November income report. While I was laid up post surgery and took a week off to visit my family, it was a tough month because I lost my regular client.

At the end of October, I had my gallbladder removed. The procedure took a day and then I was sent home to rest. Writing is something you can do while resting, right? Between the drugs and the trauma of surgery inflicted on my body, I slept a lot. Having your stomach stitched together in 4 places is distracting at best. At worst, it is terrifying (never sneeze when you're being held together with string & good intentions). I managed to do a couple interviews and write a few things despite recovery.income NOV

A little more than 2 weeks after my procedure I went to the States to visit my mother on her birthday. It was only a 5 day trip, but we were able to see friends and family. It has been 4 years since I left my job and my former coworkers invited us out to lunch and even paid. Every trip back they do this. Those are pretty amazing people. Got some marketing or an app/website you need built, check out ddm. As for me, I did some social media posts for a client and published some stories and interviews I wrote prior to leaving.

After returning from our trip, I spent more time trying to sell my story I wrote the previous month as a test for a new client. Since they passed on it, I reached out to a previous podcast guest, Alan Henry, over at Lifehacker. It was a long shot and I probably should have went through proper channels, but it was worth a try. One of the editors gave me the bad news and I remained positive as I reached out to a local publication. I received an initial response requesting samples of my work, but I haven't heard anything else.

More Low Numbers to Come?

From there, things went downhill. My client of the last 2 years has decided to close their doors. I was looking for additional work, in part because I knew things were rocky in New York. Yet, I had hoped my work would lead to opportunities for the small company. As with most internet ventures, they were slowly getting some traction. In the last 3 months, I had multiple people contacting me to have their products and people featured on the blog. It was exciting that the audience was growing so much that we had offers like that. Thus, it came as quite a shock to me.

It has been a difficult December, coming to terms with my job loss. I guess I'll write about that very soon in the next report. If I was a fiction author this would be a character building set back, according to cliche. However, I'm just struggling to find companies or people who pay writers online as so many sites make money off of people who write for free.

Other Income & Monthly Summary

My friend & co-host has been busy editing our podcast. I've thrown up some short posts on our patreon page and completed the notes for each show. Thus, we'll be ready to record new episodes in the new year. We're going to make some changes to the Patreon campaign in order to motivate ourselves & perhaps inspire more listeners to patronize us. We do the show live on Thursday evenings and then my friend edits the show and we put it on the site. We do the podcast because we enjoy it, but we're not always quick to put it on the site for listening. So, we may offer the raw recording of the live show to patrons at any dollar amount.

As for freebies, I did work on something for my friends' business here in town. I wrote it on the plane ride this month. I haven't taken the time to edit it. Though, it would appear that I should probably remove it from "freebies" because they offered to pay me in store credit. That's exciting! I was just happy to add something diverse to my portfolio, which is why I was listing it in this section.

As shared above, the numbers are low because I was out of commission thanks to surgery. Then, I took 6 days to go back to the States and visit my mother, sister and my friends. Finally, I lost a client. So, the last week of the month my normal workload was absent. December is going to be even uglier because it is the holiday season. It's very tough to find work between Christmas and New Years. Hopefully, I can muster the courage to sit down and write that report sooner.