Creating Joy in Crisis

At the start of the year I promised myself I would write a blog post every month, and this month I have procrastinated that pretty badly. As I sit down to write this it is 10 p.m. on the last day of March 2020. To be fair, there’s been a lot going on this month that has made it hard to find the focus to sit down and write. If you’re reading this from the far off future, this was the month that COVID-19 finally hit the United States and my day to day life still feels very unreal. The other day I wrote a very long post about how exactly things have progressed and changed for me, but thinking about posting that right now feels wrong because if I’m being honest, on the whole, compared to many others, so far this virus crisis has been little more than an inconvenience to me on a personal level. 

So what if I have to work from home on shitty, frustrating remote work software? At least I’ve still got a job. So what if I’m stuck at home? At least I live with my family and don’t have to worry about getting lonely. So what if the news is increasing the anxiety of me and everyone around me? At least everyone I know personally is still well. I have come to the conclusion that no one wants to hear my mediocre problems when people are literally dying. 

So instead let me tell you a couple of ways that I’m keeping anxiety at bay and distracting myself from thinking too much by creating a little bit of joy in my life. Because, yes, this is a highly serious situation, but I’m scared of becoming overwhelmed by my fears and not being able to continue getting necessary tasks done.

My friend Brenda taught me the concept of “laughing so you don’t cry” and that is a concept I’ve clung to for the past few years, especially now. My current favorite way to have a laugh lately is by watching a British show called Taskmaster. I first found out about this show in the fall by spending too much time in British comedian YouTube and it’s rare for an episode not to make me laugh extremely hard. The concept of the show is that a set of comedians are all given ridiculous challenges to do, usually completing them in creative or unusual ways.

The best part is that they upload full episodes to their YouTube channel. I’m not one for binge watching and yet I watched almost all of a series in one day last weekend. I’d like to point your attention to series 4 in particular, which is the series I first watched because I’m a Joe Lycett fan. It’s got a good mix of personalities and it’s still my favorite series that I’ve watched so far. (I’ve now seen S1 and S2 as well.)

The other thing bringing me joy right now should come as no surprise to you if you follow me on Twitter, and that is Animal Crossing New Horizons. The previous game in the series, New Leaf, was my crutch through the biggest depression of my life back in 2013, so it feels weirdly correct that the new game has appeared during a dark time as well. It’s just one of the cutest freaking games out there! I managed to start off with one of my all time favorite animals on my island (after resetting 4 times because I kept starting off with really hideous animals).

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The routine of all the little daily tasks to do to take care of and grow the community on the island is very comforting to me now, just as the last game was in 2013. And it’s also been a nice way for me to spend time with friends in a way while we’re all separated!

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I understand not everyone has access to a Nintendo Switch, so please allow me to recommend a couple of other games. Stardew Valley is available on computers and other consoles and I found it to be a pretty relaxing time sink last year and lost large chunks of time to tending my farm and making friends. I’ve also downloaded Neko Atsume to my phone. It’s a cat collecting game that was first big around maybe 2013? 2014? It doesn’t have much in the way of gameplay per se, but it is very cute! I also 100% recommend Untitled Goose Game, available on all consoles and computers, to everyone who loves being a hilarious agent of small stakes chaos.

And that’s all I’ve got to say for now. I hope you all are doing as well as possible! These are rough times, but nothing lasts forever and we will get through one way or another.

Flowers (Meditations on Dating)

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It’s just after the new year when I finally make it to the salon for my quarterly haircut. It’s the coldest day of the winter so far. My hairdresser’s coworkers are gently teasing her about the massive flower arrangement she received at work that afternoon. She’s embarrassed, but excited, pink with the flush of new romance. Her joy could turn the winter to spring. I’m happy for her, and her mood is adorable and infectious, but my heart twists slightly with jealousy as I admit to her that no one has ever given me flowers. (Well, my grandma did once when I was in a play in middle school, but that doesn’t really count, does it?)

What I don’t mention is that the lack of flowers is entirely my own fault. When I was younger most of my partners were the kinds of immature guys that would never think to buy flowers, but when I sensed someone might try to buy them for me I said “don’t.” This wasn’t because I didn’t appreciate the thought or how pretty they were, but because it seemed pointless and wasteful to spend the money on something with such a short shelf life, to spend so much on something that would inevitably die. 

And yet, when I think about it I see how I have repeatedly spent so much of myself on situations with short shelf lives. If I had paid attention, I perhaps could have protected myself from being left to wilt. The past shouldn’t be changed because we are who we are because of our experiences, but who I am is so tired, especially by the thought of dating. 

My mom keeps a big ornamental grass in our backyard. Every winter she cuts it low when it dries up and every summer it grows back, full and lush. My last date was about two and a half years ago. Part of me was cut back then too, but I have not yet found the energy for regrowth.

How pointless to give time to someone, to become comfortable and open up, when they can suddenly decide you no longer fit the scheme of their garden, yank you up at the root, and chuck you out.

How wasteful to spend time grieving something you could not preserve, clinging to the memories like you’re pressing flower petals for framing only to have the blooms dry up too much and crumble to dust.

But when romance is freshly blooming, when they send you flowers at work, when they smile at you in a way that makes your heart feel so full it could blossom out of your chest, that is the point, that is the opposite of waste.

So when I see Sara, flush faced, caught up in something new, the flowers not yet wilted, I think that maybe this will be the year I try dating again. Maybe this time I’ll wind up with a field of bright blooms.

Goals for 2020

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My first selfie of the year!

I typically don’t like to set annual goals/resolutions for myself because I have a tendency to not complete them and then a tendency to really beat myself up about that. It’s not like I was in the habit of setting crazy goals — for the most part I picked things that I thought were attainable. And…then…still managed to not make them happen either through the universe conspiring against me (hello, years of saying “I’m gonna get a new job this year” and sending out resumes that no one responded to) or via my own lack of discipline (see: any time I said “I’m gonna do creative thing X more!”). 

So generally, I’ve found that it’s better for my relationship with myself to not even bother, even though I know that setting goals and making efforts to reach them is a way of growth, even if I do not ultimately succeed. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never been able to set my mind on any big concrete lifetime goals. I have multiple friends that want to be published authors and others that want to improve at art while maybe getting to make money from it. I have two friends that aimed to be teachers, and now they’re doing it, which is awesome! 

I have two goals in life, neither of which are particularly concrete:

  • to be able to fully support myself financially; and
  • to be at least mostly content in my day to day life (because I know it is horrifically unrealistic to expect 100% happiness).

The second one I tend to do reasonably well at usually, which I am thankful for. The first one? Well, I’m currently typing this from my bedroom in my mother’s house, so, uh, there’s that. I can say, however, that even though I can’t afford to put a roof over my head, I don’t have to ask my family for money with help with my personal bills. And I will get closer to having the finances to move out when I finish off my college loans later this year!!!

But lately I’ve been thinking that having such vague goals is probably to my detriment. I’ve been having a bit of an existential crisis where it occasionally hits me that I do the same set of things every day and will probably be doing them over and over with slight variations until I die. My life feels really really pointless to me. The closest analogy I can think of is when you reach the endgame in an MMO, you’ve maxed out your level, and you’re stuck doing the same few dungeons over and over, just because you’ve put so much time in that you can’t give up on playing.

I am a person who loves having a routine and finds comfort in it. But I feel I am getting to a point where the repetition is starting to drive me a little mad. The path I’m on leads nowhere and in some ways I wish I didn’t have to continue on it. (But don’t worry, I will continue because there are good things in my life!)

So I’ve set myself two goals for this year, which I feel are highly, highly doable.:

  • Write at least one blog post a month. (I enjoy writing, but my lack of discipline the real challenge.)
  • Finally clear up some of my gaming backlog, starting with World of Final Fantasy, which I’ve been chipping away at for two years or more. (Too many games that I want to play have been coming out in the past few years and I tend to dip in and out of them, and not get around to finishing any of them, which is what keeps happening with WoFF. It’s cute and I’ll play it in long spurts and then abandon it for equally long spurts. I thiiink I’m reasonably close to the end, but I don’t want spoilers so I haven’t looked at a guide.)

There is a third goal I have in mind for the second half of the year, which is to get a new job (for real this time, I swear, guys). I’m holding off because I have some travel coming up in the spring and don’t want to start off a new job with “sorry, but I need to take these 7 days off scattered across the next few months” especially when many jobs do not start you off with any paid leave. My sixth anniversary at my current job is in May and I have once and for all finally fully come to terms with the fact that they will never pay me a living wage for our area there, despite telling me repeatedly what an asset I am to the office. That coupled with a ton of bullshit that happened in 2019 (not to me personally for the most part, but just things I witnessed) has me feeling very “fuck you guys, I’m done.” 

Besides all of that I think I really do need to get some kind of hobby that I need to work at and set time for me to do it on a regular basis. Because I enjoy video games, but at the end of the day they don’t go anywhere once the story is done. I’m not putting huge pressure on this for myself, but maybe I would feel better about myself if I could say “okay, maybe no one is willing to hire me, but look how much better I’ve gotten at watercolors.” Or maybe I could take up the guitar again. Or even if I just would read more books, and not only just cram in reading on my Kindle during lunch, I would feel like I was making progress at something. Doing more reading would also give a bit of a break to my hands, which have been feeling increasingly terrible since I was promoted to a position where I type a lot of dicatations a year and a half ago. 

Is this stupid? I don’t know. All I know is that this is the last year of my 20s (my 29th birthday is 1/31) and ever since the tenth anniversary of my high school graduation in June a part of my mind has been fixated on the notion of “ten years have gone by and I have nothing to show for it.” Which logically I know is very wrong, and I also know I’m not alone in this feeling, but I find it difficult to quiet the part of my brain that feels like I hasn’t lived up to my potential so here we are.