I’ve turned into a ‘feedback giving problem-solver’ to everyone but a friend to no one.

Yes, this has to do with Media Production… in a way. It has to do with work. And my work tends to revolve around media production. And stuff.

Anyway, here’s the deal: I’ve lost my motivation. And drive. I procrastinate through my days. I don’t finish my projects, and I fail the ones I join. I put off changes. And I’m lonely.

It all started very unexpectedly. As I’ve written before, for my Daily Uploads photo project, I go through my archive each month to upload all that’s worth showing. And a few weeks ago, I went through my July archive. July 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010… Usually, I don’t have enough days to upload all the photos I have to show that were made the same month in a previous year. Last month, I even started uploading two photos per day so I have enough days to upload all the photos worth showing. But July… No, no photos there. A dead month. Nothing happened in my life, at least nothing worth documenting. I didn’t go anywhere, at least nowhere worth documenting. I do have a few photos – but they are pretty much the most boring ones in the project so far.

So I started to ask myself: What is it about July? 8 years since I’ve been taking photos, and I can’t even find 15 decent July shots? There has to be a reason for this…

What is July? It’s the month after you finish school / uni. It’s the month before you go to holiday (if you do). It’s two months before you go back to school / uni. It’s the month everyone is preparing to relax, and pretty much no actual work is done.

See, in my life, work has a very big role. I don’t have a life – I have skills. And I apply them. And I improve them. And people ask for help. And I go and help them. And I feel important. I use work to meet people. Most people I know and have some kind of attachment to are people I’ve had a project to work with. Including school and university. I mistakenly take ‘working in a social environment’ for ‘having a social life’. So when there’s work to be done, I’m around people. I’m in a ‘social environment’. But guess what: after the work is done, there’s no more reasons for us to stay in touch. We don’t have any more ‘social functions’ and we don’t need to be in the same context. You don’t need to see old colleagues just because you did a great (or not so great) job with them. For friendships, you need more – you need an actual emotional bond.

Friends, it turns out, are the people you hang out with to do things (or nothing at all) ‘just because’. If there is a purpose, it’s not friendship – it’s a project; it’s work. OK, maybe that’s not exactly accurate. Maybe it’s just the difference between ‘work’ and ‘play’.

For the last few years, when I needed to be with someone (that is, when I was feeling lonely), I would try and come up with a project, or something of interest – a reason for them to be with me. I would literally pitch myself or the event or the place – ensuring the person that there would be a benefit for them to participate… Also, because of the way I was doing this, people started approaching me with projects they need help with only ‘because I have the skills and I can do it well’. Some of them don’t like me that much as a person – they only care about my skills. So I would take on projects I didn’t believe in and didn’t feel motivated enough to do, so I can make the person believe ‘I’m valuable’, it’s ‘worth the time and effort’ to be with me. Low self-esteem? Probably.

Maybe living in a foreign country has made the problem worse. Maybe it’s the fact the job I do has to do with all these issues – I’m an assistant to a personal development mentor. So we deal with these things to develop a programme to help others. And I’m the unofficial guinea pig in this process. I have these problems – and I can talk and write and think about them and we use that in our working process. The irony isn’t lost on me.

But another big factor in this mess is my computer. Or my relationship with it. 99 % of my life happens in front of the computer. All my work is computer-related. All my hobbies, interests and passions. My university degree depends to a big extent on computer skills. My communication happens online (Twitter, Facebook, Skype, email, Flickr, blog). Even my depressive moods have an online presence. But all this is a symptom.

A symptom of an unbalanced life. Most people use social networks to extend their offline lives. I use them instead of an actual life. I did genuinely think (until recently) that having work, a computer, and a boyfriend / husband is enough for you to go through life. I mean, the work I do and the hobbies I have and the interests and all that… they’re incredibly interesting to me. But the thing is, I’m reading endless books and articles and theories, and having all these insights (ok, not that many, but anyway), and what do I do with them? I either keep them to myself or I shove them down people’s throats whether they like it or not. People are afraid to talk to me because I always have an answer or a theory lined up that dismisses pretty much all they believe in. So why bother? They could as well just tell me to **** off – and that’s what they do. Oh, and something else: even the most interesting work in the world is something you are looking forward to get over with. In my life, there’s nothing to look forward to after the task – there’s just more work, or something I’d been putting off for months (and sometimes years). And that’s not particularly motivating – so I procrastinate and I don’t do work and I don’t finish tasks on time and I stress myself out for doing them in the last minute…

Which brings me to the concept of having a break. In my life, a break is something abstract. It’s something that happens to other people – because they’ve finished what they were doing and now they can relax. So I’d think I don’t deserve a break – because I haven’t finished what I was doing. Well, it turns out rest is a natural need, and it actually helps you to focus on the task – but only after you’ve had a break. The need for a break is your body telling you that you’re doing something wrong, or too much – and you need to not be doing anything for a while. And not feel guilty about it. Switch your mind off. Go to a ‘relax’ mode. Have a quality break – then have a quality, productive time to finish a task and have another break. Instead of spending three days distracting yourself and procrastinating on your task and feeling miserable, you can actually take one of the days off, then do productive work in a relaxed and happy state, and you are even left with an extra day! Mind-boggling…

But how do you take a quality break when there’s no one and nothing going on in your life? Who do you call and what do you do? If you’ve spent the last 10 years building your online identity, that usually means you’ve wasted the last 10 years not building an offline life. You don’t understand the world outside the web. Or if you do, it’s the one that revolves around work. When there’s structure. But go beyond that, try to do something without structure, and you don’t know what to do. And when something nice happens to you, or someone is friendly, you try to look for a logical explanation and you can’t – because there isn’t one. Because not everything happens for a reason. Not every action has a ‘purpose’. Some things just are. ‘We’re not human doings – we’re human beings’.

Oh, and something else. Money. Not having a healthy relationship with money can make the problem even worse. It has in my case. Money (or the lack thereof) could be a life-saver. When you’ve lost everything else, you still need to survive – so you’d need to focus on money. Not in my case, where part of the ‘deal’ was that I ‘didn’t have to worry about money’. I don’t even have that to cling on. So I had to lose literally everything – friends, trust, motivation, self-esteem, self-worth, everything – so I can feel a lack, so I feel something needs to change.

But that wouldn’t have happened if I’d stayed by myself. I reached out to people. In desperation, but at least I reached out. Using every possible chance to speak to someone. To read blogs, take part in discussions. To share my insecurities and listen to what other people had to say. This gave me perspective. You can’t solve your own problems yourself – you’d just go in the same circles, the same cyclic thoughts which you already know and which have proven unhealthy. Even if you do have a good idea, you need the outside world to test it.

This week, I’ve talked to more people than I have for the previous two months. Yes, it was on the phone / Skype / email – but at least I’m not simply writing status updates – I’m connecting with people. Something a friend told me: ‘There’s two sides to this process – there’s a sending end and a receiving end. You probably need to stop sending (pushing out) and start receiving.’ It did make me stop and think. What do I gain when pushing out so much? Does it make me feel better? Does it help anyone? Also, with all these projects I keep getting involved in – what do they give me? Do they make me feel more confident? Not really.

I’ve started saying ‘no’ this week. I’ve started asking myself ‘Do I believe in this project or I am inclined to join just so I don’t feel lonely?’ I don’t want to be a slave to my computer. I don’t want to be the skilful worker with obsessive perfectionism who would lose her sleep, mind and soul while working on a project. I don’t want to waste my (already depleted) energy batteries. I need to say ‘no’ until I find this one thing I want to say ‘yes’ to, and really go for it. I also need to say ‘no’ to projects I have lined up for myself – so I find this one (or OK, maybe two) things that would matter. A lot of things matter in the world – but the question is: What matters in my life, right now? If it’s not ‘hell yeah’, it has to be ‘no’.

I’ve been ‘simplifying’ my possessions – I literally live in a backpack, only have a few drawers’ worth of stuff and can easily let go of half of them. But that’s just on the surface. I do live in a backpack – but it’s getting bigger and bigger because I carry around all these unfinished tasks that I keep ‘in case I have a few minutes to finish them’. And then I have a few minutes and I don’t do it. And more accumulate. And I carry a heavy backpack.

This post is screaming YOU NEED A BREAK! And I do. I’m going to Bulgaria in less than two weeks. I’ll be making more steps there – meeting people, going to concerts – and not planning everything. I don’t have a ticket for the festival yet. I will only make sure I go there at the right time and right place. No maps, no timetables, no complicated plans, an almost empty handbag. I don’t want to limit the experience to what I can plan. What’s the worst thing that could happen? It’s not really that bad. And it doesn’t have to be that good either – if it’s picture perfect, what’s the idea of experiencing it?

I think the biggest trick would be to also do this here, in the UK. Where I’m a ‘stranger’, a ‘foreigner’, where ‘I don’t know anyone’. Where I don’t have friends – and I need to make some. Is there a ‘friendship for dummies’ book?

Actually, never mind. I’m tired of reading. I need to start living.

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9 thoughts on “I’ve turned into a ‘feedback giving problem-solver’ to everyone but a friend to no one.

  1. Oh, honey…
    I am so sorry to read this post (at least some parts of it).
    One of the things I most admire about your character is BECAUSE you don’t enjoy stupid small talks and useless communication for the sake of stupid small talks and useless communication.
    That doesn’t mean you are not fun or that you are an unpleasant person to be around. On the contrary. You are one of the most amasing people I know.

    I have seen you out with people you like hanging out and you smile, talk about whatever and enjoy yourself. Do you remember when we were in that pretentious Cafe and the whole ‘flying sun” business? I thought that you are very sunny and easy-going person. I still think that.

    I don’t think the issue is with you but with the fact that you are quite smart and you expect other people around you to be at least as smart. And that is hard. I am not sure if this is the place or this comment, if you don’t like it or feel it too personal, please delete it and my apologies for that.

    The point that you have read and know more and have many skills and options… that’s a good thing. I have constantly ebign told that “expect everyone to be as knowledgeable as me”.
    Being smart and realising what you want are very, very good things.
    It only makes you realise that there is difference between “I am saying I am interested in that stuff” and “I am really interested in that stuff”. And the discrepancy comes when you are surrounded with people from the first type. The issue is not only in UK. Most people do not know what they want or that they have to invest quite a lot of time in order to get it.

    The part about no friends… it’s not easy to be a friend with someone who will NOT lie to your face to make you feel good or because it is easier. But to me, this is what a friend is, someone who will tell you in the face when you ask. Someone with whom ou have what to talk about and someone who has something happening between their ears.

    If you need a break, go and get it. If you think you need more time for yourself and having fun by making a bit more space for enjoying the everyday life… go and don’t wait. But please, please don’t do it on the premises that you feel lonely because you don’t have enough people in your life to whom you can’t be yourself from the fear you will make them feel bad because you are smart and goal orientated or other people who feel intimidated by that.

    So… I know I am missing huge chunks of your post but I really wanted to tell you that.
    I know you know that. I know you realise it, I know you understand it but there is a difference between “I know something” and “I know that and I still feel bad/sad/lonely”.

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    • Thank you, dear, for your comment.

      Re: small talk, I still hate it with a passion – I see it in three options:
      – do something meaningful for a purpose (project, work, everyday tasks, whatever – that’s where I am right now, at least most of the time)
      – be with someone meaningful without a purpose – that’s where I want to be
      – be with someone meaningless without a purpose and only go as far as small talk – that’s what I need to make sure I avoid 🙂

      Re: the ‘flying sun’ business, that was three years ago – I desperately need a new ‘flying sun’ today 🙂 good metaphor, can I use it?

      I’m not talking about the UK or BG or drawing any conclusions – neither do I state I am lonely or left by myself or I have no one around. I have caused these things to me myself. Most of them are in my head. I know there are great people around me – I just need to reach out – and give them the chance to meet me 🙂 As the joke said, when this guy was praying every day to God to help him win the lottery, one day God appeared in front of him furious and said: ‘well go buy a f***ing lottery ticket already, give me a chance to help you!’ 🙂

      The difference you talk about in your last point, I think, needs just a bit more time. I’m less than one week ‘in’ the new me (the new haircut was the outside sign!) – but it takes time. Like I’ve been spending years of building an ‘online identity’, creating my online self – now I need to show up in the ‘offline’ world as well 🙂 I’m just trying to let go of my unhealthy thoughts and expectations so I can enjoy and live life as it is. It’s a process.

      Once again, thank you for your comment and for… simply being you!

      Like

      • I re-read my comment it looks like I am braindead 🙂
        Anyway… the metaphor is yours to use and when you come, well, we will see about it, wouldn’t we?

        In regards to small talk and this entire topic… you know with whom you can speak about, don’t you? I mean… it is almost word for word as what he said the last time we spoke about it. So… I thiink he can help you or you can help each other?

        I see something though. The offline identity… it’s easy. You don’t have to put up with the stupidity with which you have to deal in the offline communications.
        Hell… for the last 10 months I grow increasingly impatient with people, because I feel like they are waisting my time or simply burrying me nder their emotional problems and issues and am retreating in my offline and secure world. Everything has clear purpose there and everything is white, clean, calm and cool. And… it is quite easier than real life, a lot less messy.

        Again… the words fail me, when I read this it looks not just braindead, it looks completely stupid and in the same category as the water being wet. I really can’t explain it.. will you forgive me for this jabbering jumble of a comment?

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  2. I had (and to some extent still have) the problems that you describe – procrastination, depression, feeling lonely, too much thinking and too little action, feeling restless and never taking a break.

    Regarding loneliness… It took me some time to realize that when I’m thinking “I’m lonely” or anything along those lines… it’s a lie, a delusion. The problem was not that “I’m lonely”. I noticed that these feelings often arise when I’m insecure, not confident in myself, when I’m procrastinating and that the feeling of loneliness is just a distraction from the real problem and its real solution.

    Is it that I’m really lonely or that I want to feel validated? And if I need validation so much, isn’t the real problem in my scarred and swollen ego rather than it loneliness itself? My low self-esteem also stemmed from me being a social retard. For example, I have never been good at small talk. It took me a very long time to find out that people don’t have a goal when having a conversation, that they randomly jump from topic to topic, that if I talk more than 15 seconds this is already considered a monologue, that I analyze too much and don’t really listen to what they say, that making jokes is more important than making a point. And that meeting with people is really recharging. But it’s not obligatory in order to feel calm and happy, even if it seems that way.

    I have been relatively successful in dealing with procrastination and depression. Although I’m not religious, the Buddhist approach (don’t grasp anything, don’t reject anything, just shut off your mind for a moment and let everything, no matter what it is, go through you) to be very effective. Meditation, and also the Pomodoro technique (you can google it if you don’t know what it is) are a good way to get concentrated. But the most important part is temporarily killing your ego and your mind, no matter how important they may seem, and just turning into a conduit that reality flows through. You can always turn your self and your mind back on, but when working or interacting with people your self and your mind really need to be muted, silenced, because they shout too much and turn into a malignant tumour, which is consuming and depleting valuable resources from all the other parts that constitute your soul.

    Don’t think you’re “going in circles”. You may be going in a coil, that’s swirling upwards. After decades of suffering I’m convinced that I’m going to get out of this mess and that even if I don’t do that, it doesn’t matter that much, I can still be calm and happy. Sometimes we forget the right path and fall back, but improvement is just a matter of time.

    Like

    • I’m with you on the ‘not feeling validated’ bit – so painful and so true! It’s very unhealthy (and I’ve finally seen that) to go ego-driven with everything, all the time. I love your advice about ‘shutting the ego off’ and I think I’m already starting to do that… But in my case, it did take me a long way – and I first needed to lose (or let go of?) pretty much everything (some toxic, some not that toxic), so I can start ‘anew’. I’m of course keeping the core me – and most of my beliefs. I’m just trying to create a more ‘balanced’ version of me 🙂 This here has been an ‘alpha version’ (in geek speak) for far too long – I need to go to ‘beta’ 😀

      Thank you so much for this comment!

      Like

  3. I’ve been meaning to respond since reading this on my IPhone and trying to teach fractions to people who hate math. Anyway, and I’m sure others have said this, I was wondering if you might be beating yourself up a bit here–needlessly so. You obviously are a cerebral person, which means you over-think everything, which ironically, has brought you to this conclusion that yes, you are human and you need people. But that’s just it: an endless loop. It’s your brain that keeps you going and learning about others and yourself, and it is your brain that keeps you in your thought-laden world. OK, fine. But I’m wondering if now that you have analyzed your situation and come up with a solution, if your brain will keep reminding and torturing you about trying to be different, less thoughtful.
    You are who you are. Little adjustments. You are a thinker, obviously. Celebrate that!! I know you do, so I guess I’m just saying the obvious.

    Be well in Bulgaria!

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    • Thanks so much for that, I really appreciate it and came at the right moment 🙂

      There is, indeed, a big risk to make it another cycle – but I think I can just sometimes let these things be and other times not. Less structure, more unpredictablity – and more living 🙂 I can’t stop thinking (and I don’t want that!) – what I can do is sometimes think less, especially if I don’t really need a very deep think about something – like who needs a ‘well informed’ decision about the dessert today – you just eat something sweet, end of discussion…

      I love the ‘little adjustments’ point – trying to do that now.

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  4. Sending and receiving are big parts of the process. Downtime is somewhat of a neglected idea. Since our brains require sleep to rearrange information, solidify it, what-have-you…it seems as though periods of nothing in particular are probably useful for life as well. So far as socializing, I don’t think there’s a solid one size fits all model. Certainly for people deeply engaged in their work there’s a slight trade off with regard to building many relationships. But I’m not sure that this is an inherently bad trade off if you find your life fulfilling most of the time. And relationships aren’t quite like they seem on paper. They, like life, exist on a time scale that’s updated regularly with new feedback. Friendship isn’t just the word “friend” but the exchanges that take place, the quality of those but not necessarily the frequency. Of course, I’m a bit biased since I’m always neck deep in projects but my small circle of friendships are ones that fulfill me enough that spending time nurturing them is as compelling as any project I work on.

    Hope your downtime increases the quality of both your receiving and sending modes.

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    • Thanks for this, I totally agree downtime is neglected – but very much needed! It’s like everything – there needs to be some kind of balance, so you have up- and downtime, highs and lows, online and offline, work and play, etc. Whichever direction you find yourself going too much into, that’s bad. Even with things like ‘healthy living’ – there should be some kind of exception because we’re just not fit to be perfect and adequate etc. all the time – we’re simply people.

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