NUMBERS NUMBERS NUMBERS!
I want those page hits. I want those views. I want those likes. I want those app/plugin/music/podcast downloads.
Statistics may be useful, but they don't determine your personal value. #mentalhealth
4 min read
To consider the question, put yourself in the following scenario:
You’re going to spend a month in Mexico. Thus, you decide to take a class in Spanish to make your time there easier, and learn a new language. At the end of the first class the teacher gives you homework.
How do you feel about homework? Did your mind internally groan. Perhaps, old ghosts from your past rose from the dark recesses of your memory to haunt you each day before the next class. Finally an hour before class, you sat down to do the homework. Or, you wrote the homework assignment off in frustration or shame.
Homework is a dirty word to many of us. It’s more than anxiety, it is a cultural perception carried over from grade school. Kids don’t want homework. Even some teachers don’t want to assign homework because that means “homework” for them in the form of grading.
This stigma has resulted in patterns of behavior like the one described above. In the hypothetical situation you decided to take Spanish for your personal benefit. This was not forced on you. Thus, homework is only going to improve your experience. Yet, this old phantom of the dread associated with homework clouds your mind from the truth. In this case, homework is good and our minds refuse to believe it because of years of learned behavior.
Thankfully, I haven’t gotten a lot of people telling me to “just be happy.” There’s definitely still a stigma around depression and mental illness, but these things are becoming more prominent. Unfortunately, I am often the person telling myself to “just be happy.” I know many of my patterns of behavior. Sadly, I’ve spent years building them just as society has about homework. Therefore, changing them is not so easy.
The Chris Show is brought to you, and me, by Depression Inc. Like with Facebook and Twitter, I signed up without reading the Terms of Service. I wake up with the knowledge that I am programmed to despise myself. During breakfast, the loathing begins.
I have strategies to help. I can fill my schedule with tasks, meditate, exercise, and eat healthy. Even if I achieve success with these tools my pattern emerges. Good job. Of course, the reason you did all this today is because you’re broken. Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend Eeyore wouldn’t hesitate to block depression from his social networks. Knowing of my mental distortions help, but that information is held within the very hard drive I’m trying to repair.
People can learn to live with mental illnesses. I have friends, who I hope to feature on an upcoming podcast idea, that are doing just that. I believe the path to a better life lies in creating new patterns. On my reading list is a book focusing on neuroplasticity. It is possible to change our brains, but it requires practice and time. The real tricky part? Time is a construct of the mind. Thus, depression distorts time and therefore my healing.
This is why learning to live with my mental illness, making change is difficult. It’s homework that I don’t want to do because it means graduating into a world far bigger than my school. My mind, in this negative state, is predictable. Expecting sadness, fear, failure, disappointment, and shame is certain. Rolling the dice to possibly get joy, happiness, or success is unpredictable. I just can’t afford another failure, I have to be perfect. That’s the mental illness weighing in. Even the observational thought, “What do I have left to lose if I roll the dice?” has a negative connotation in my mind. It goes back to “The reason you have to try so hard is because you’re broken.”
Changing the mind is like following the instructions to set up your first VCR in the 80s using the video tape instructions it came with. That means there’s hope for me. People figured out their VCRs sooner or later. Or, they asked for help from friends. I just have to hope that my mind isn’t Betamax and eventually I’ll get there.
4 min read
He calls himself Jeena. He’s a software developer. Have you got an idea of what type of person he is? Another fact, Jeena plays in a metal band. Now, how do you see him? Jeena loves photography as well. You’ve probably got a perception of who Jeena is, at this moment. Of course, you’d be wrong. Even as someone who has got to know him a bit more, I would be also be mistaken. That’s the one thing that brings us all together, we’re individual, imperfect humans.
Jeena is a fellow human I met online. He started a podcast and credited Paul and I as inspiration. While that’s one reason I like Jeena, I also enjoy the fact that he’s a world away in Sweden. A Polish man who lives and works in Sweden, dries meat, brews beer, plays in a metal band, and does a podcast. There is some crossover, but so much else that makes he and I different. Jeena’s most recent podcast is about FOSDEM (Free and Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting) and much of the topic might go over my head. Yet, I still listen with absolute joy.
Before you, or he, thinks that I’m going single white female on Jeena, let me say I enjoy his podcast, social feeds and website because it is a chance for me to see the world in a new way. In the first paragraph you may have started to make assumptions based on the tidbits of Jeena that I gave you. Those assumptions are based on your lived experience. My lens is one of North America. Another example, to someone who listens to rap or classical, Jeena’s love of metal may be confusing. Our lenses, our views of the world around us are so very limited.
A shallow perspective can be dangerous. When you learn Jeena lives in Sweden, what do you think about that country? High taxes? A cool temperature? After listening to all of Jeena’s podcasts so far, I start thinking it must be a pretty amazing place because his interviews are in English. Really? Do all Swedish people know 2 languages? That’s amazing! Of course, that’s an assumption that I just made, and it's likely not true. However, that’s why I like widening my world view, to keep teaching myself how little I know. I want to stop making poor assumptions. I want to embrace our differences, not use them to divide myself from others.
Learning more about Jeena and others in the world helps me on the bad days. I am reminded that 6800 km away something else is happening. The world isn’t as dark as I might see it, at that moment. This planet is full of other humans, some struggling and others prospering. On the good days, I can see similarities as Jeena has talked to people about filmmaking, ADHD, and video games. People in Sweden are different, and yet we have similar interests.
The other day someone asked, “What is the one thing that makes us human?” Her answer surprised me, “We’re imperfect.” We use the differences to divide us. By believing that my taste in music is better than Jeena’s joy of heavy metal, I am trying to boost myself. Like politicians trying to sway the votes in their direction, I am trying to make up for my feelings of insecurity. In truth, Jeena can play a musical instrument and I cannot. Thanks to my father, I know my way around a bicycle and could probably build one from the ground up. Perhaps Jeena is not as comfortable with that subject? The point is, we need each other. Perhaps, Jeena doesn’t need me to literally fly to Sweden to fix his bicycle, but we humans need each other. We’re pack animals. We’re social creatures. Those things that make us different are what make us amazing. We need to stop looking through our tiny lenses and have a much bigger world view.
Thanks Jeena. Thanks to Mastodon, Dimitra, Spikey, Pierre, Jacob, Joe, Arturo, Jonathan, Jonas, Quoc, Al, Colette, and all my friends and family for helping to shape my view of the world. Thanks for being imperfect and trying your best. Make generous assumptions about the people around you. We’re all in this together, each and every one of us.
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!
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.