Today’s post is going to be a little different. Since I also produce content on Medium.com, and that content isn’t always the same as what I post here, I wanted to take a minute to talk about how you can support Medium authors.
Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing what I’m doing on Medium, check me out @RhianninB on that platform.
Birthdays aren’t always easy. I’m not afraid of growing older. But, I do worry about not being where I want to be in life.
Today is going to be another personal one. You see, my birthday is coming up soon, and I’m feeling rather conflicted about it.
No, I’m not worried about getting older, exactly. Age, up till reaching the challenges of extreme old age, has always seemed an enviable condition to me. Middle age, in fact, is something I look forward to.
So, while the years themselves aren’t troubling, I’m still young and I know it, there are other challenges. This birthday marks a series of specific goals I have long held, goals I have not met, and am unlikely to meet in the 12 months following my birthday.
Unfortunately, the internet being what it is, I have to be rather vague about both when my upcoming birthday will be, and how old I am. But, even without those details, I can discuss what this particular year was supposed to mean, the goals I had laid out, the things I thought my life would contain.
It should be no surprise since I’m making this post, that many of the goals I am about to discuss have gone unmet. So, I’m also going to talk about how I’m attempting to deal with the differences between reality and plan a younger and more idealistic self first created.
Let’s start with the big one. I will shortly be the age I wanted to start having kids. While I am still young, and in many ways still finding my way, I am older now than my parents were when they had me. I am older than at least one set of my grandparents were, having my mom and uncle. I have always known that my goal meant having children later than those members of my family.
But, I privately hoped it wouldn’t be much later.
I saw first hand the benefits of having younger parents. While my friends almost uniformly had older parents than mine, I’ve never wanted that for myself. People talk about young adulthood as a time for partying, irresponsibility, and finding yourself.
Well, I’m not much of a party-goer. I don’t drink much or often. I am much more comfortable behaving responsibly than irresponsibly. I did a lot of the work of finding myself as a teenager and in college.
I believe in life as a series of neverending becoming. I want to be myself. To allow myself to be a person in flux, always growing and changing.
So, I’m uncomfortable, even ungrounded, in the descriptions of what this phase of my life should be. While I’m not comfortable with the idea of myself as a parent, because I know that becoming a parent will require growth and change into a person I have not yet become, it’s at least an idea of being I find familiar and desirable.
It’s also out of reach. Neither my living situation nor my finances support making moves toward parenthood. I am not established in any career. My partner, while steadily employed with a good company, does not many enough to support us without help. We live with roommates, and they are not interested in children, so we need to move out before beginning a family.
The steps it would take to make parenthood a reasonable goal are long-term plans. Things that will take time and energy to create, and which almost certainly won’t happen within a year.
So, this goal, my private marker of the age I should be when I become a parent, is going to go unmet.
A secondary, but equally troubling fact. I have long thought that I would be able to establish myself as a writer by this age. Friends and family have been convinced that I would be published at almost any time for the better part of a decade.
Meanwhile, I have always been less certain of immediate writing success, and more certain of eventual writing success.
But, I am not a published author. I am a freelance writer, but I am the kind of freelance writer who struggles to pay the bills and takes just about any assignment I can get. I produce a huge quantity of writing in a week. Usually close to 20,000 words. But almost none of that mountain of production is my writing, my projects, my ideas, and inspiration. It’s writing to meet goals, deadlines, and the ideas of clients.
All that writing leaves little time for my projects, including this blog, organizing my desk and computer files, and working on querying for short stories. Not to mention the 2 novels I’m working on.
So, while I’m paying the bills, progress toward my long-term goals has been glacial.
Meanwhile, other friends and family members are creating successful careers and launching their dream businesses. As I help writing friends craft query letters and try to make time to read and critique other friends’ work, I find myself struggling with twinned emotions.
On the one hand, I am happy for my friends. I’m genuinely proud of the work they are doing, and the tenacity, bravery, and skill it requires. I’m glad to see their successes.
At the same time, I have to resist the urge to compare their successes to my failures. As I help a friend prep a manuscript for publication, I find myself lamenting the fact that I don’t have a manuscript of my own to prepare. As I share posts and art and try to boost the signal, I find myself wishing I had more of my own content to focus on.
As my friends realize they want to be writers, I sit and quietly wonder why they are successful when I have been working toward this goal since grade school.
It’s jealousy. And I know that comparing my life and work to other people is never going to be a fair or reasonable metric. But it’s a struggle not to when I’m helping others achieve my dreams, but cannot seem to do it for myself.
This birthday, for me, feels like something to be mourned rather than celebrated. I know that I have most of a lifetime ahead of me to achieve my goals. I have most of a lifetime ahead of me to continue my journey of being and becoming.
But, for me, this month is a marker of what may have been. What I may have done and have not. What I wanted, and cannot now reach.
I am not sad to be growing older. Quite the opposite. But I think I am mourning for the child I am no longer, and for the idealism that created the goals I cannot meet.
I think the cycle of joy and mourning is natural and normal. I’m not sad to be mourning, although mourning is sad.
At the same time, I am trying to set my sights on celebrating the success of reaching another year. I have made it another year. I have overcome difficulty, I have grown and changed. I have learned. I have loved. I have spent another year on the path of self-acceptance and growth.
I have made important achievements this year. I graduated with my Bachelor’s. I stuck to my dreams enough to start building an income from writing. I have learned to be kinder to myself in hard times. To give myself breaks in good times and bad.
I am still learning these things. I hope I never stop.
So. Here’s to an upcoming birthday. Here’s to conflicted feelings and uncertainty. Here’s to knowing that there is no one true path. Here’s to getting lost in life.
So, I have to admit I haven’t been as on top of writing for the blog as I’ve hoped. Fortunately, things are starting to settle, so hopefully there will be more content going up here soon!
Although, admittedly, getting caught back up on chores and errands has had to take a bit of priority.
So here it is, I’m working on writing 8-12 hours a day, Monday-Thursday, ghostwriting content for a variety of websites. I enjoy the work, but it doesn’t leave much time for other concerns.
I’m still planning on book reviews, personal updates, and long-form content as well. It’s just coming on a longer schedule than planned. But, never fear, the creative juices are still flowing, and here’s a poem to prove it!
Wow. This has been an absolutely crazy couple of months.
I have a few blog-related announcements and well as just general catching up to do after being away for almost a full two months.
When I started writing seriously on this blog again this year my goal was to update the blog at least once a week, and preferably twice a week. I was doing really well for a while, and that consistency gave me my best traffic and viewership so far.
Thank you for that, by the way. Seeing that someone else actually reads what I write makes it seem a bit less like I’m shouting into the maw of a vast and uncaring universe.
But then my freelance work picked up and suddenly I was making a little money, and making that money took all my time.
That’s still largely where I am right now. I’m getting faster at writing my paid articles, which is why I have the time to put this out there today, but almost all of my time is still taken by the articles that (sorta kinda) pay the bills.
At the end of the day that means that the character of my blog needs to shift pretty dramatically for me to be able to keep up with it. And I think that you, the people who follow my blog and read it regularly, deserve to be kept informed of those changes.
The main thing is that, in an effort to get more content out, I’m going to start talking about personal stuff as much or more than I am putting out my typical social commentary and political analysis. Writing about whats going on, my new kitten, and other lighter subjects just takes less time.
I would rather shift my focus than lower the quality of my work and potentially not be able to adequately back up my views and opinions. I’ve worked hard to source and research the commentary articles I’ve put out so far, and I would hate to see that work sullied by inferior research and investment into follow up articles.
I still want to take on my Just World Hypothesis articles, as well as continuing to address the Democratic presidential candidates and the eventual 2020 Presidential race here in the U.S.A., but I can’t commit to any specific timeline on that kind of content since it does require time for research and analysis that I just simply do not have on a regular basis.
I also need to start making changes in this blog to build it into an income source of it’s own, which will allow me to spend more time on my writing here and less time ghostwriting other internet content to pay my bills.
Toward that end I want to hear from you. I’m planning to look into the Amazon affiliate program and starting to write book reviews as an amazon affiliate.
I am also considering starting a Patreon or Ko-fi profile and putting out novel chapters, short stories, and other works from my fiction writing there.
But for either of those thing to work, I need to know that you are interested in seeing that kind of content from me. Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think of those ideas, or if there is some other type of content that you would be interested in.
Maybe there’s a topic I haven’t addressed and you’re curious about my take on it? Let me know.
If you’re interested in following the updates on what I’m doing you can also follow me on Twitter @RhianninB or on my professional Facebook page. I also will occasionally be posting on Medium, although some of the content there will be the same content I’m writing here.
Thanks for being here, and hopefully this next phase will be as exciting as the last!
I’m going to be very real for a moment. I deal with PTSD, it causes depression and anxiety in alternating strokes. It’s hard to deal with, it’s hard to do anything around it, it’s hard to motivate with it.
And yet, I’m still here, still writing, still trying to create something worth putting out into the world.
Earlier today, for most of my working day, I have been struggling to write and article that I have, in truth, been working on for most of the week. It’s personal, it’s political, and it requires me to put myself out there in a way that is uncomfortable and frightening.
I also think it deserves to be written and deserves to be shared.
But it isn’t what I’m writing right now. You see, I have also been struggling with a mental health crisis the last several months precipitated by the car crash I wrote about in more detail several months ago.
But one of the biggest struggles has not been writing, I do that all the time, it hasn’t been finances, I saved to make taking a shot at this possible, it hasn’t been interpersonal, my partner is the most loving and supportive human I have ever met, my friendships are stronger now than ever before, my family cares about me and also supports this attempt.
My biggest struggle has been going for this dream, still being depressed and anxious, and feeling like a failure because of it. Life is as close to what I want as it has ever been. The missing pieces are small, the benefits are huge. It often feels like I can’t possibly do this without loving every second of it.
That isn’t true.
Mental health crisis is a part of life. So is hardship, lack of motivation, and difficulty finding inspiration.
I don’t want to hide those things. This work is difficult. It doesn’t yet pay. It takes me doing research, writing well, and being honest with myself and with you.
I am learning, all the time. And I am often overwhelmed.
And yet it is still worth it.
I’m writing this to repeat and to emphasize a bit of wisdom that is often repeated, but, I think, less often listened to. It is okay to be depressed. It is okay to struggle. It is okay to occasionally be unhappy.
Your depression defines neither you nor what you do.
Even when your depression or anxiety becomes difficult to manage, when it makes you second guess everything, it is still not all that you are.
You can do great things while depressed.
You can be a wonderful person while depressed.
You can be fulfilled and make meaning in your life, while depressed.
It’s trite, it’s true, and I often need the reminder myself.
So. I’m posting this instead of the article I have been working on all week. That article is coming, as are future posts about the Just World Hypothesis, updates on my other writing endeavors, Cool Things Other People Do, and much much more. Because my depression and PTSD is not going to stop me from being the person I want to be and doing the things I want to do.
Updates on my personal life, kitten photos, and some thoughts on managing PTSD and big dreams.
Well Hello There!
I have good news! I have a new kitten, who is currently trying to distract me from writing. Pretty successfully too.
He’s from a local rescue that was holding adoption events to help find homes for the many kittens they get in spades this time of year.
But he wasn’t really a spur of the moment decision. Sure, we decided pretty quickly to go to the adoption event, and decided pretty quickly at the event on which kitten wanted to come home with us, but I’ve wanted a cat for years now, basically ever since having to leave my previous cat with my parents and her tight-bonded sibling when I left for college. I’m hoping Jasper will grow up to be on the cuddly side, certainly he has been so far, but it’s okay if he doesn’t.
More than just because I really believe that our pets are going to be themselves, and not necessarily what we want them to be, I’m okay with whatever his personality turns into because I got him as another connection.
Let me explain.
Having PTSD, at least for me, means managing a lot of complicated interactions between stress and pretty much everything else. What I want and what I need are often very different things.
For instance, I have to actively manage my stress and how much I work. It’s not a matter of just having a bad day or a bad week, or even month, if I get too stressed it interferes with my ability to think, to work, and to make good decisions for myself and the people around me.
Worst case scenarios are total shut-downs that can take hours or days to resolve, during which time I might need reminders to eat, to bathe, to do something to distract myself. Work, even work I enjoy, isn’t possible during those times.
Except. Taking care of a cat is always possible for me. It doesn’t matter how bad things are, or how upset I am, if there is a cat that needs food, water, or petting, I can do that. I can make that happen for that animal.
Maybe this key to doing something even when I’m under extreme stress comes from having been raised with cats. I don’t remember a time I didn’t have cats. Usually I had a cat that was mine, and a cat that was my mom’s.
Jasper is more even than that to me. Yes, having a cat is important to managing my worst symptoms. Having a cat in the room helps immensely. But we have other cats, other animals in the house I can go to for that unique comfort than comes from our furry companions.
Jasper is a connection, a link, another string in the dream catcher of my social support network. Jasper needs me. He needs me as much or more than I need him. Already we are showing signs of the tight-bonding that occurs between some people and their closest pets.
You may be wondering if pets can be included in your network of social supports like that. I argue that yes, yes they can. The relationship between animal and human may not be the same as the relationship between two people, but it is still a strong bond.
More, animal companions can be there when people cannot. When my partner is at work, Jasper is still home. When I need to vent or reach out and can’t, whatever the reason, I can cuddle or play with Jasper. I can talk to him to order my thoughts, I can watch him to lift my mood, I can trust that he will be here at home when I need emotional support.
In exchange I can’t offer him the things I would offer a friend. But I can give him all the love in my heart. I can make sure he has healthy food and plenty of clean fresh water. I can get him toys and play with him. I can hold him and make sure he is warm and safe, and take him to the vet to make sure he’s healthy.
I can make sure he’s as happy as any house pet can be.
We rely on each other. It’s a deep and meaningful two-way connection that brings value to us both.
That’s a huge part of managing PTSD. At least I think so. I don’t have a ton of friends. I don’t need them. I cultivate the few, deep, meaningful connections I need. I set the expectation for myself to be of benefit to the people who benefit me. To offer them the support and care they give me.
I manage it carefully. I can’t always do it, and neither can they. These sorts of bonds take lots of work, knowing when to take a step back, and when your friend needs you there even if they aren’t able to deal with the things bothering them.
It’s knowing when you need a break.
Jasper is quickly becoming my break space. He’s also a major motivation. Because he needs me he needs me to make good choices. He needs me to work toward being my best self.
His presence relaxes me. I can give myself permission to take a minute, to take a breath. Plus, he sometimes demands my total attention, trying to steal taco meat from my salad, curling up on my lap, licking my face, and purring like a motorcycle with all his tiny self.
And yes, being my best self means following my dreams too. My best self is someone with big goals. I don’t always have the confidence to get there, but I can give myself the additional motivation to make that happen.
Jasper, right now, lives for cuddles and toys. We’ll introduce him to catnip and treats and new toys soon, but for now, in our room, he lives for the fun of the space and the love from me.
He needs me. I need him. He keeps me going, and I’ll show him all the joys of cat life.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty great friendship to me. A pretty great support. A pretty great tool in my mental health toolbox.
Long story short, I don’t show up in Google and I’m trying to change that.
I’m writing this mostly to let my current readers know that you might see some updates to my current articles and content in the coming weeks. The core content will not change, whats there is there, but I will be going through and doing some keyword optimization and slight adjustments accordingly.
Basically I’m doing an SEO (search engine optimization) audit. What I’m saying isn’t going to change, but I’m going to more closely align what I’m talking about with how people search for those terms. For instance, my articles about what I have been calling the Just World Theory will be replaced with the Just World Phenomenon and the Just World Hypothesis, not because I’m changing subjects, but because those search terms perform better in Google.
I’m telling you this for a couple reasons. For one thing, I don’t want to waste your time re-reading articles that are, at the core, exactly the same as they were. Mostly, though, it is in the interest of transparency. I am attempting to capture some search traffic, which means that from now on my articles are going to go through a SEO process in order to learn what makes my content more accessible on the web.
As part of that process, beyond changing the terminology on my articles slightly, I may also look at altering my current website template, my username will probably change in order to make my writing more searchable, and the click-through menus on the website might change.
I will be working hard to make sure that none of my content is lost in the process, and I am committed to ensuring my integrity as a writer, and the content I produce, remains the same. I will continue writing political commentary, personal essays, and boosting the kinds of cool things other people make and do. If I do it right, you probably won’t even notice the minor changes. Once this process is finished and my website is again in a stable version, and I’m not making minor content and title adjustments, I’m going to take this post down. But, right now, I thought it important to tell you that those minor adjustments are being made.
Moments of fear and uncertainty, yes, even panic, can be moments of positive momentum and transformation. The trick is taking the reins and not letting the fear stop you.
I mentioned yesterday that the future, post college-graduation, is both exciting and frightening. In a lot of ways I suspect that that feeling is not unique to graduation, any graduation, but to any moment where who and what you are is in flux, like it is when you leave a job, work toward a major goal, or even stick to a New Year’s Resolution. So let’s talk about it.Continue reading “Leaning Into The Future (and Failure)”
I still ask whether the debt and the time and the stress and the crisis was worth it. But I can say, with confidence, that I am a better person than the version of myself that graduated high school and thought that college would be easy.
It actually happened. I don’t know how it happened but… it did. I have officially earned a piece of paper more expensive than anything else I own. It might be a more expensive piece of paper than all the other things I own put together… I don’t know if that’s impressive or depressing. Continue reading “Graduation”
So… you may not know this, but I disappeared for a while. I went from February 5th to March 15th without posting a single thing on this website. I know, I know, “big deal”, right? I’ve only had this site since 2016 and am I’m only starting to use it regularly now. Plus, I’ve posted two new things since that gap. I get it. But, this was part of a major commitment to myself to start having a real, tangible, presence as a writer. Blogging is probably the easiest and most beginner-friendly means of getting your voice as a human out there. And yet, as I have discovered, it is not in fact easy… Why? Well, mostly because life happens. When life happens, if your blog, like mine, is not a part of your income, it’s really easy to let it fall to the wayside.
Part of that, I think, is because we tend to treat blogs as journals. That’s pretty much what this post is about. Here in a moment I’m going to talk about what’s been going on in my life that stopped me from posting for that month. But I want to talk about what I’ve been thinking about in that time first. This blog is pretty much intended to be my personal social commentary platform. I’d like to monetize, and I’d like to start vlogging or podcasting, but all those things come with start-up costs and I don’t want to waste my own time and money (or your time and attention) with the monetization process until I can prove to myself that I can and will stick to this. Part of this is a continuation of my personal distrust of myself and my own motivation, but a lot of it is that I’m a pretty cautious person by nature. Social commentary is both socially risky and exists in a glutted market right now. In my social circle I can open up Facebook pretty much any time and get a LOT of social commentary from my friends. It’s valuable stuff, but that makes it harder to carve out a digital niche for the kind of content I want to produce. I still think that speaking up and out is valuable, I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise, but that also slows down the process of transitioning from creating content to making money from that content.
Why bring this up in a catch-up post? Well, it’s important to me to be transparent not only about what I think and what I’m doing as a content creator, but also to be transparent about the thought process behind it. I want to monetize. I want to write consistently and to have this blog be a regular part of my personal internet conversation with the world. And, for a month this year (which we aren’t even half way into) I didn’t do that.
So what happened? Well… a lot. Early in February I got hit with a double whammy of a resurgence in the depression that comes with my PTSD. Late winter / early spring has been my least favorite season since I was a kid. Everything outside turns brown and gray and I live somewhere that usually stays muddy for months on end. We get just enough snow to stay in a pretty constant state of melt without getting to enjoy the soft white stuff blanketing the landscape. I also have a vitamin D deficiency significant enough that my doctor thinks I may be mildly stunted, which makes some sense since my brother is a giant. He’s also a redhead, and the recessive gene that causes redheadedness also comes with a change in the way our skin produces vitamin D, basically making it so that you get more vitamin D compared to the quality of sun you’re exposed to. It’s cool stuff. But he got the magical hair and the greater than 6 foot height and I got dishwater blonde hair and strictly American average height. Between the weather just being generally unpleasant, my PTSD, the vitamin D deficiency, and the fact that I live in the northern hemisphere, I am more susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Basically I get the winter sad, and it usually hits in February.
I’m also long-winded. I’ve been told. Please don’t stage an intervention.
This February I found myself questioning whether writing was a viable or reasonable path for me. I have a lot of people supporting me who think that going for my dream is a good idea, but I am plagued by the Gifted and Talented trap of constant imposter syndrome. People have always expected me to do well, and the fact that I have always done pretty well academically and creatively feels like a lie. Like most people, I look at the things I produce and can easily compare the actual product with my internal conception of what it could have been. That imaginary picture is alwaysa better version than the final product. Because I can see those flaws there is also a part of my brain, lets call it the creativity-killing Gremlin, that thinks that the positive reactions of others are pitying lies. I was questioning whether I could justify trying to make money off a less than perfect end-result. I know how silly that is, I used to work for Comcast for goodness sake, and ain’t nothing there is perfect. I know. You know how I know? I spent eight hours a day hearing about how not perfect everything about Comcast is. But they are still a HUGE highly successful multi-media corporation that not only provides valuable services but also influences our interaction with fundamental parts of our lives, like the internet. Unfortunately the Gremlin isn’t great at logic, so reminding it of little things like ‘nothing is ever perfect’ doesn’t actually put it back in it’s crate.
Just as I was starting to come out of that funk, largely thanks to my wonderful partner and supportive friends and family, I was in a car crash. I was hit by another vehicle in a parking lot, my little Volvo hatchback was totaled, and I got a concussion. My partner was also in the car. Thankfully they are okay. So is the other driver. But, between the concussion and the suddenly precarious position I found myself in thanks to the totaled car, my depression came surging back. It’s been a few weeks now, and I still don’t have a car. We’ve looked at a lot of vehicles in our price range, but all of them have had some pretty major issues that would require urgent repair. I’m less in control of my own negative mental processes than I have been in a long time, in part because my brain’s ability to regulate it’s own chemical process is even more challenged than normal.
In the meantime I also have college. This semester has been better for me that school has been in a long time. I enjoy my classes, the material is interesting and the professors have new insight and analysis that fascinates me. My grades are also higher than they’ve been for a long time because I’ve been able to stay on top of my work and produce higher quality work than previous semesters. The concussion put all of that at risk for a while (although I’m mostly out of the woods now).
So, between my natural depression, college, a concussion, and the general stress and shakeup that comes with a crash like this, things have felt really out of control and impermanent recently. I had just recently put a lot of money into the maintenance on that car, my partner’s truck is older than either of us and needs some work before it’s drive-able. We also live about 40 minutes outside the nearest city, and there aren’t really any closer small towns. So we’re currently reliant on the transportation of our roommates. We’d carpooled for a long time, so it’s not really an issue, but our freedom to run errands, make appointments, or even just to do general chores is severely limited.
I talked earlier about how I think we tend to treat blogs like journals. I treated this blog like a journal because all of these other things became more important to me than posting here. I didn’t stop thinking about things I’d like to write and post, particularly in the political realm as the Democratic race for 2020 has started to heat up, but I didn’t write up those posts. Or, when I did start writing, I didn’t finish the piece, or decided that it had taken long enough to write that it was no longer relevant to the political conversation. I’m trying to second-guess myself less on those kinds of things. It’s literally impossible for one person without a research team to keep up with the 24-7 news cycle, so I’m trying not to hold myself to the impossible standard of by the minute relevance. I’m also trying to tell myself that the goal is to produce quality content, even if that content isn’t coming out immediately after something happens in our world. I also know that sometimes life has to come first. I’m not mad at myself for not posting, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge it. This blog isn’t a journal, and it needs a higher priority in future.
Wow this post got long. Thank you for sticking with it, and sticking with me, while I forage my own path toward this lifelong goal. I can’t promise there won’t be more bumps in the road. In fact, I can pretty much promise that there will be bumps aplenty. But I will do everything I can to be transparent and honest and real.
Whelp. That’s it for today folks. I’ve got ideas for some new content, so hopefully you’ll be seeing more soon. Let me know if you want me to talk about anything in particular in the comments, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.