So I think one of those things that come with age is that even my immune system is taking a while to recover. Day 6 now and I'm still coughing up like crazy. I woke up Monday morning unable to move because I was coughing so hard Sunday that I pulled something on my back
It almost ruined a pretty fun weekend.
And in trying to figure out what the best Tuesday Thoughts + Mental Health Monday combo post, I came up with the idea to talk about self-care. I'm sure some of you have seen stuff about people practicing self-care, or I like the way The Atlantic put it, something that "has popped up a lot in my peripheral internet vision"
Self-care, as best as I can put it, is a way to recharge, and I think everyone needs it now and then.
In this post, I'll discuss that and I'll discuss its relationship to my writing and my own hypocritical-to-an-extent romanticizing of hustle.
There's an article at Her Campus talking about precisely that.
This particular bit stands out:
This is endlessly important, especially now, in an age where youths are criticized so harshly for complaining, protesting, and becoming activists for everything they deem mildly inappropriate in their lives. While change for the better and acceptance for all is insurmountably necessary and worthy as a cause, the newly realized glorification of over-exhaustion may not need as much attention. Sometimes you do just have to suck it up and do it. One night of little sleep won’t kill you, and it’s important to build character, discipline and a strong work ethic by pushing yourself to succeed. However, it becomes a problem when it’s a habitual routine that results in emotional or mental turmoil, as it often does for so many.
I've pushed the idea of hustle before, especially if you're of the Liberal Arts persuasion, and part of that comes from our generation having the stereotype that we're entitled brats. I don't think we are. If there is entitlement, it comes from the boomers' nurturing it. We didn't get to pick participation trophies, we were told we needed those by the boomers and the older Gen Xers.
But that's another topic for another blog post.
Back to the exertion bit. I've talked about how I feel like liberal arts majors like myself have a sort of handicap that pretty much requires we work a little bit harder. This is not a bad thing, but I do have to remind myself that I'm human and I am not an 18-year old anymore.
I look at the last 12 months I see that I'm at the most successful point in my life as a writer and just now hitting my stride:
- I joined a PR firm as a content creator
- I freelanced for an online magazine, covering concerts, bars, and food
- joined Bartleby Snopes and became an associate editor
- joined Books and Quills as a staff writer
- wrote a few articles for a sports blog
- 45 journals/mags/books submitted to with a ratio of 25 rejections to 16 acceptances (35.6% success rate)
- graduated with an MFA in creative writing after completing and defending my thesis
- won NaNoWriMo
- finished two manuscripts
- contacted 30 agents
- started this site and have consistently updated it to continued growth
- performed my poetry in three different events
- made my first lana ($$$) as a fiction writer
while working a full-time job
On the downside, I've also:
- gained 25 pounds that I've been unable to get off
- slept a lot less
- stopped reading for pleasure as much
- played soccer maybe once
- dropped off a rather decent workout schedule, which included MMA-flavored kick-boxing three times a week
- got advanced strep
- one cold
- three bouts of feverish pain bad enough to keep me home from work and in one occasion really freak me out as my elbows locked up while driving from Spring Branch to Westchase and boy driving down 290 with stiff elbows at 2 a.m. is not fun.
That's why I need to practice self-care a lot more. Yes, writing is important, but as last week was a big indication, if I'm sick, I can't get writing done. I can't even read. When the bread and butter of my career is reading and writing, if I can't do either, well...
What is self-care, to me?
Self-care is a bit like what I experienced this weekend, only without the sickness. It was playing videogames, eating good food, drinking beer, and watching college football in total relaxation. That's one venue. Another venue is writing at a coffeehouse and writing poetry at the Galleria. And a final venue is just curling up in my couch and reading a good book.
I really have no excuse for not doing the last one. When I was a senior in high school, I read 70 books. This year, I got off to a good start, and then in May I kind of ran out of steam. I know 70 books is a bit of a tall order when I'm balancing everything else, but it's not an impossible proposition.
What gets in the way? Facebook. I'd honestly love to get rid of it if I didn't need it for the marketing of this here website and the steady growth of my quote unquote reader base.
Sometimes, I think, man, I've had a stressful day. The Galleria is closed, there's no football on, (ruling out SC Options A and B) so I should read. But instead I'm like...okay, wait, should I read or should I play videogames? Should I watch Netflix or go work out?
So my inability to make a decision lands me straight into mindlessly scrolling of Facebook until it's close to midnight and I'm still stressed and now tired and I go to sleep, telling myself tomorrow is going to be a different scenario.
And then it's not.
And then the echoes of the song title I picked for this blog come in:
DID YOU REALLY WANT TO SIT HERE IN SILENCE
COULD IT BE THAT BROODING IS PART OF YOUR ART
IS IT AN EXTENSION OF ARTISTIC LICENSE
A MOODY DEFIANCE
OF ALL OF LIFE'S TYRANTS
WHILE YOU'VE BEEN SEARCHING YOUR HEART
ALONE WITH US IN THE DARK
I'll try to do better.
TANGENT STORY TIME
Self-care is knowing to step away from an addiction, which Facebook can be.
I remember in law school swearing off Facebook for my entire summer semester and wouldn't you know that was my best semester there. Then I came back to the world of Facebook (without fanfare) and realized that nothing had changed and I wondered...well, did I expect something to change? Nothing was going to change. The interface's changed, new features are added and taken away and eventually people stop complaining. I've been on Facebook since 2006 and I remember how at first the changes were met with great resistance and gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes. Now? I think Zuckerberg could straight up say every time someone had to login they'd have to do three burpees and people would shrug and post a meme.
It's become a necessary evil for virtually everyone, more so for those of us that need it for the whole marketing thing.
But I need to step away if I'm not using it for my marketing stuff.
I know I'm able to, because I remember how I walked away from my favorite MMORPG (and to be fair, MMORPGS in general): Tibia
I played Tibia for a long time. I started in eight/ninth grade when it was the cool thing to do in middle and high school, and kept playing as a sophomore, junior, and senior, when the cool things to do became either drinking or playing World of Warcraft. I even kept on playing through some of my collegiate summers before I late-bloomed into "adulthood".
I loved that game. It played a significant role in getting me to start writing seriously. I also made a lot of friendships that I still have and the game helped me learn Portuguese.
I used to play it mostly in the summer and my sophomore and junior years in HS occasionally during the year for a few months. But the story was the same: I'd play, I'd quit, make a big stink about it on forums and on game, and then come back several months later. When I left for good, I left because I was made aware of how nothing ever really changed. Different guilds would emerge but it'd still be the same crop of cheaters and botters. My friends in-game were the same, the gameplay itself was the same and it was a snapshot of life in 2004-5. And that's great and all, but I realized that it was artificial. That while I felt that I was re-living 2005 (my favorite high school year) I was, in reality, four years older. I was a college student. I was a worker. High school had stopped being a thing. The reason I never gave two shits about college freshmen wearing their letterman jackets at my university (of which there were quite a few people) is because I understood. I empathized with wanting to focus on your past. So one day I just stopped. I didn't tell anyone, I didn't post, I just stopped playing, deleted the file, and moved on with my life. I haven't logged in since.
I miss it, and I know that I could rationalize it and go "well, it's a videogame and it's self-care" but it wouldn't be as fulfilling as my experience with Mass Effect was, for instance.
I'm in the camp of videogames being a completely immersive experience, by the way. It's just like a movie you can play! And honestly, with movie prices nowadays? If my gf and I go to the movies and get a popcorn and two sodas, I'm dropping at least $40 there. I spent $25 on Witcher 3 and I already put in 80 hours.
I'll do better.