The Crushing Weight of All You Ignore
Smartest, dearest and most beautiful of all Amys,
I don’t need advice per se, I know what I need to do but I lack any will at all to actually get my butt up and on that. What I need is to lay everything out to someone I hope will kind of understand but who is NOT directly related to me and can thus be disappointed with my life choices. I have been reading your blog since around when Ike was born and well, recently in an effort to find motivation for myself I went back and re-read your archives starting from when you got pregnant with Noah. Weird, but in a lot of ways you are an inspiration to me. You are a successful adult raising three (3!) well adjusted children. That is like rock-star status in my mind (mostly because I have serious doubts about my abilities to do any of those things). So I will start with the basics.
I am 27 (28 in May) and currently 7 months pregnant with my first child, a precious little boy who likes to try to jamb his limbs through my abdomen at random points during the day, my husband and I are very excited as this baby was VERY planned for and stressed over and is loved so much already. The problem (if you can call it that) came later.
In October of last year my husband’s boss got fired, which led to a major overall of his “team” and prompted him to eventually leave for a new position. Now while I am happy that he is in demand enough that he found a new position pretty much immediately, said new position moved us from Rochester, NY to St. Louis, MO, forcing me to leave my job as of February.
*way too much background to follow*
I am theoretically a teacher, theoretically because the job I had was as a research librarian/ teaching assistant not a classroom teacher (even though I have my Masters in Ed, the job market in Rochester is such that I took a much lower job in order to get my foot in the door and try to get a better job) This job, while not great, was one that I struggled to get for more then a year. Before that I had various substitute jobs but like I said the market was sucky, in fact I spent six months after grad school even looking for sub jobs before I found anything.
This did a number on my own self-esteem/self-worth quotient, making me doubt seriously my own abilities, my motivations, my drive, my everything. I spent a lot of nights feeling like I had wasted copious sums of money getting my masters in the first place (NY State requires a masters for permanent teaching certification) because I could not get my foot in the door anywhere. The self doubt led to a minor bout with depression that I (if I am completely honest) am probably not over. But then I found something! And things seemed to be better, even though I was not making really any money and working my butt way harder then necessary, I was working with kids. I was HELPING them, they were LEARNING and questioning and it was fabulous and I loved it and this was totally what I was supposed to do! (Angels may have sung, it was that awesome)
I was also bumping up against a self imposed child timeline, my mother and grandmother both had very serious child bearing complications after they turned 30. So serious for my mom that having me and my sister very nearly killed her in a very literal sense. Now, I know that means pretty much jack squat to me but I made the decision long ago that if I wanted my own kids I would have them before I was 30. Life had different plans and my continued lack of sufficient employment also became the reason I couldn’t have a BABY, adding yet more stress and woe and OMG what a huge mistake I have made. So I, with my husband (though there may have been feet dragging on his part), decided to try to get pregnant.
I have always had serious hormone issues so I went a little more hardcore then most people, but my various weirdo strategies worked and within 6 months I was the proud owner of a bonified blob baby. Life was working , things were going my way! And then my hubby got this new job. Which in theory is wonderful, its a great job that he loves and is very happy at but it required me to leave my job and move to an entirely new STATE.
*back to present day*
So now, I find myself paralyzed. It took me so long to find any semblance of a job in Rochester, I was working 60 hours a week (on a good week) trying to meet my goals but barely making it by, working WAY below my education and potential (earning and otherwise). My husband understands that I left my job for him, even though it wasn’t a great job it was still mine and well, technically we don’t “need” my income to survive, so we are okay on that front. But he knows that not having a job f$*ks with my head, and add the whole “baby” thing to it and I am going a little crazy.
Specifically my crazy is manifesting in me just not doing anything…like at all…no planning, no applying for jobs, no buying baby clothes, putting off looking at pediatricians and day cares, and kind of in general putting my hands over my ears, burying my head in blankets and shouting LALALALALALALA at the top of my lungs. This is wrong and I know this, I am trying to convince myself to do things its just not really working. I am afraid to try anything for fear of FAILING as epically.
Do you see the failure that is my life?? Anyway actual question: How on Earth did you find the courage to do all these things that you do? I know some of it you don’t have a choice in but you followed what you wanted in life career and family wise and I want that. How do I get myself up and out there to do it?? Where do I even start with this? The crushing weight of all the things I am ignoring is getting a bit overwhelming. So yeah. Honestly anything that you can say would be super helpful. Thanks.
Well here’s a dirty secret, dear sweet C. You and I are very, very alike. You’re holding me up as some kind of pinnacle of togetherness and success, but the fact is I could have written this letter back when I was your age. The anxiety, depression,, self-doubt and crippling fear of failure. The paralyzing yet self-sabotaging cycle of procrastination. The feeling like I was some kind of colossal, closeted f*&k-up who was lucky to get through the day fooling people into thinking I wasn’t. The sense that I was living a life without purpose, without real value, and a life that was crushingly far away from the one I’d imagined I’d live, once upon a time.
“The crushing weight of all the things I am ignoring is getting a bit overwhelming.”
Yes. THIS. I could have written this. Many times in my life, actually.
But listen: It’s okay. I think 27 is a great age for a good existential crisis. Get it sorted out now and out of the way for later.
You said you don’t need advice per se, but Imma give you some anyway: Get a therapist. See them weekly. Talk. Spill. Confess. Rant. Rage.
This is an order, by the way. This is not negotiable. And this is not a bad thing. This is not an indication that you are crazy or broken. You just need some therapy to work through your crap. Just like I needed therapy to work through my crap.
You asked: Do you see the failure that is my life???
No, actually. I see zero failure. I see LIFE. A crappy job hunt in a notoriously bad economy. A dues-paying entry-level job (we’ve all had one! or several!) that you made the best of. A big stressful job change in your household, then a major move right in the middle of a pregnancy, combined with the loss of said dues-paying entry-level job. (I dunno, can you cram a couple MORE major life changes/stressors in there? Let’s not underachieve here.)
Here’s what else I see: I see someone who has let her self worth get tied up in a job, a title, and a paycheck. I see someone who is really, incredibly hard on herself and holds herself to high standards based on what she perceives other people are doing better than her. I see someone who tends to anticipate the worst-case scenario and base her decisions (or indecisions) on that scenario alone. (You must! have! children! before 30 because of anecdotal family history, the implied use of “hardcore” TTC methods because your hormonal issues would clearly! mean! infertility! otherwise, and now not applying for jobs because OF COURSE, what happened to you before will definitely, absolutely 100% repeat itself in a new city and state.) I see someone who constantly second-guesses her decisions in a very blame-y, “I should have known better/what was I thinking/I’ve ruined everything” sort of way.
You’re also seven months pregnant. Oh my God, stop being so hard on your poor swollen self! You say you don’t NEED a job right now for financial reasons, but clearly you NEED to be kept busy to feel productive. Good! Seven months pregnant is a pretty crappy time to be looking for a permanent position anyway, so I think you should find some volunteer work. Help people. Help kids! Get out of the house. Find a charity or organization that works with disadvantaged children or early literacy or something and get involved. Even if it’s just a few hours a week, I think it will be MASSIVELY helpful for your mental health to get out of your own head for awhile, gain some perspective, and give you sense of purpose/worth.
(Plus, tabling the job hunt thoughts completely until after your baby is here is perfectly reasonable and understandable, and perhaps doing so will give you the freedom to STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP about that particular situation of procrastination dooooooom.)
In between volunteer shifts, you see a therapist. You see movies by yourself, the ones your husband doesn’t care about. Try new recipes, learn to bake bread or make fresh pasta, and post your successes and spectacular failures on Instagram for a laugh. Explore your new city and walk outside in the fresh air and sit at prime people-watching spots with your laptop and write about what you see and what you’re thinking about. Maybe write letters to your baby. (Way more valuable use of your time than spending hours at Target buying a buttload of onesies, by the way.)
On that note: Please don’t stress about not feeling up to buying baby stuff yet. It’ll come, either with a hormone shift into NESTING NESTING NESTING or by simple, eventual necessity. This is why God invented Amazon Prime — you can get anything you need when you need it. (Some people believe that bringing baby stuff into their home before the birth invites the Evil Eye, so see? You’re just adopting new cultural traditions. Your husband and family can shop while you’re in the hospital.) Finding a pediatrician isn’t as big of a deal as people make of it — I did the whole New Parents Night Orientation Let’s Learn About All Their Views & Approaches one time and…okay, it was kind of overkill. We still ended up choosing the first practice we found that was reasonably close to our house and accepted our insurance. And if you accept the idea of putting off the job search until the baby is here and you’re in a better place, mental healthwise, you don’t need to be stressing about daycares yet. There. I just solved all your problems!
I’m kidding, of course. I know you, because I was you, and right after hearing the reasons why I could stop worrying or feeling guilty over items A, B and C, I would immediately latch on to items D, E and F and start down my anxiety/avoidance behavior path all over again. Therapy helped me figure out WHY I did this, and WHAT to do about it, and how to, essentially, SACK UP AND BE A GROWN-UP WHO DEALS WITH HER OWN CRAP. (A very important life lesson that we all have to learn at some point, as unpleasant as it may be. I should embroider it on a throw pillow.)
And here’s where I circle back to prenatal depression and anxiety, which are super common, especially among women who have previously suffered from depression and anxiety. Which…hello, you! Even if you’re feeling completely thrilled and positive about your baby, it’s STILL entirely possible that it’s the pregnancy’s “fault” that your pre-existing “issues” are now exacerbated and have spiraled into something dark and deep and it feels near impossible to crawl out of. All the more reason to find a therapist. If that’s the ONLY thing you do in the near future, the ONLY thing you accomplish for the next couple days, I will hereby declare you a success who is winning at life.
But like I said, your late 20s is a great time to deal with destructive habits/thinking — pregnancy-related or otherwise — and break the cycle of anxiety/procrastination/self-doubt/ALL OF THE THINGS. People like you and me don’t just magically wake up one morning with all of our crap together — we have to work on it, on our bad habits, on ourselves. But it’s worth it. You’re going to come out the other side from this, I promise. Happy, healthy, fulfilled…and living the sort of chaotic, hilarious, barely-together life that still somehow manages to be inspiring and rock-star status to people on the outside.