I recently stated on Facebook that this has been a summer of ups and downs. I've had two amazing trips this summer--one to Rehoboth Beach, DE, with the family, and one to Gen Con which was probably one of the better experiences I've had there in the years I've been going. On the other hand, there have been some serious low points--some about which I cannot speak, but others, such as my current job, which I thought was an amazing opportunity, going very sour. I've been wondering a lot why this keeps happening to me, why for three jobs in a row, now, my position that looked good at the outset, ended up just going sour. "Is it me?" I wonder, and I'm sure there are some people out there who don't give me nearly enough credit who will think it must be. But I've worked hard at these jobs, tried to do what I had to do and even a bit more, and things have just gone bad. I also have to consider that for the three (very long term) jobs prior to these, I was pretty darned happy. I just fell prey to the "you need to make more money," bug, and the "you need to get out of this job--grab the first thing that comes along," bug.
That's not to say I bear no responsibility. The events of this summer have made me start to do a lot of deep soul-searching. I do have a tendency to self-sabotage. I'm very bad at checking my own work--I overlook things that I probably shouldn't overlook. I make mistakes. These are things upon which I really need to work, but I'm not sure how to fix the issue. I do check over my work, sometimes four or five times, and I still miss things. I'm not sure what the solution is. Now, I normally don't repeat mistakes I make, but it would be really nice to not make them in the first place. I'm not sure how to approach and resolve that issue.
I'm working on fixing the general work-related stress issue by not applying for every job I think I'm capable of doing. I'm only applying for jobs that I really want. Jobs that I think will fulfill me, or at least be low-stress enough that I'll be able to work on things that will fulfill me. I'm tired of the rat race. I'm tired of, "I need to make more money because that's what everyone else does." I am learning that really, I just need to be able to pay my bills. If I can't afford to go out to nice, high-priced restaurants with everyone else, so be it. I don't need to do that. About five years ago I was working as an executive assistant and receptionist at another department here at Pitt, and I was pretty damn content. I was making ends meet, paying bills with no real problems, and I had the time and low stress to enable me to work on writing and other projects. So what happened? The bug, of course. I talked myself out of being content there. I decided I needed to make more money and do something "important."
I'd give anything to go back to that job.
What I failed to understand is that it's not something "important" that I want to do. It's something fulfilling to me on a personal level. And I had that at that job, in the ability to pursue my writing. Things have developed on that front that may indeed make my writing a source of decent supplementary income, which will in turn enable me to pay down some debts, but I need to be patient. I need to stop rushing things, or wanting them to rush.
But my soul-searching lately has been more than work-related. I've been taking a good, long, hard look at myself and trying to focus on personal areas that need improvement. I think this kind of started at Gen Con this year. I posted on Facebook about having tipped a waitress at Fridays there, on behalf of a table of rude patrons who did not do so. When I did that it made me think, that's the kind of person I want to be all the time. I don't want to be the person who gets irritated at someone for being slow on the uptake, or being an asshole (or just ignorant) driver. I don't want to be the guy who gets angry over a drive-thru getting my order wrong. I want to be patient and kind. I want to be thankful every day for people in my life who enrich it, like my wife. I want to be able to look up at the sky and think, "What a beautiful world," at least once a day. I don't want to think "why me?" all the time. I want to think, "Thanks for what I've got." I want to help people--even just little random acts of kindness. I don't want to be so cynical and bitter about things. I want to be the kind of person who makes someone's day better for having encountered me.
I'm going to take a minute to wax spiritual, so for those amongst my friends and readers who are atheist, I apologize if this irritates you, but for what it's worth, it's my own spirituality I'm talking about--I'm not advocating it for anyone else.
They say, "God helps those who help themselves." I've often angrily wondered why I don't get helped, then--after all, I try really hard to better myself and to do what is expected of me, do what's necessary, etc. But usually those bitter wonderings are about things like "I'm putting in all these damn applications and I'm qualified--why won't You just help me get an interview, or get a better job??"
Maybe, I have to wonder, helping myself means more than that. Maybe it means helping myself to be a better person as well as doing what I need to do. Maybe it means being less self-centered and more giving. And maybe it means doing it for the right reasons--ie. because I want to or because it's the right thing to do, rather than "because I want to build up karma."
Maybe that's what it means to do something important. Maybe living a life of meaning is paying it forward, appreciating what you have, acknowledging that appreciation, and doing what you can to make someone else's day a little bit better. Maybe helping yourself means being a better person, not just doing the practical or material things you need to do.
My heart and gut are telling me that's the way it's supposed to work.
I don't know. I do know that at this moment, I'm a work in progress.
Let's see how things turn out.