Thus far this blog has been fairly wrestling-orientated. You noticed? Ten points to Team Sherlock. But today, allow me to get a bit more personal.
On March 27th, I will turn 25 years old. Just writing this sentence makes my stomach plummet like I’ve just read a headline about a popular beloved figure passing away. I’ve never been very comfortable with the idea of time passing, and I’m slowly learning why; with every post from a contemporary about their new job, home, marriage and/or child, I feel a sickening dread that everyone else is growing up and living the lives they want to, whilst I stay eternally stuck spinning my wheels as a giant clock ticks by loudly – I imagine it looking and sounding like the clock from Countdown.
I’ve felt this strongly in particular since moving home from university in June 2014. Up until then, I’d mostly had a strong focus in life (normally studies, with a clarity of endgoal/future career in mind) and a feeling of moving forward, growing as a person, and experiencing many different relationships, friendships and times. But in the space of a few months almost all of that went away. I was lucky to have supportive parents and some friends who remained, but even so, it was a culture shock.
Fast forward to January 11th 2017, and I’ve bottomed out. Forget Blue Monday, I’ve hit the well a full five days beforehand this year.
In some ways I envy people who can take a mundane job on to support themselves and/or their dream career. Since being diagnosed age 9, I’ve worked hard to manage my Asperger’s Syndrome so it doesn’t affect my day-to-day life as much, but retail, bar work and other fairly base-level work are all things that would still literally cause meltdowns. So in lieu of that, and remaining stuck in the chicken-and-egg scenario of graduate job listings demanding inexplicable experience levels, I chased a freelance career, and whilst that had some amazing moments, it also caused a cycle of stressing about where the next job will come from, long stretches of having no money punctuated by the occasional high when a paycheck drops, and gradually deteriorating mental health. And so to now, where the freelance work has dried up entirely (I apparently didn’t get the memo at uni that said a writing degree is basically a crap marketing degree), I’m flat broke post-Christmas and I’ve just signed on.
It’s no coincidence that the last time I felt this directionless was 2011 – the first time I was signing on. In the year between finishing sixth form and finding my university course, and having a grumpy supervisor bark at me to ‘just get a job in f***ing McDonalds’. Having promised myself six years ago that I’d never end up back there, you can see why this week has left me feeling like a bit of a failure. Coupled with the altogether rather daunting times in the world at large, particularly for a hopeful millennial, this is a week that could easily have broken me.
Sunshine and rainbows so far, right! Well here’s where things get positive.
Things need to change. Fair to say? I think so. And whilst it’s incredibly sobering to realise what you’ve done so far just isn’t working anymore, a walk in the woods today gave me a refreshingly clear perspective on the situation. A quote from the marvellous Lauren Evans at This Stuff Is Golden probably helped, too:
‘As long as we keep pursuing a career that means something to us, whether we know what it is or not, then we are not failing. As long as we re-write our plans when they aren’t making us happy anymore, then we are not failing. As long as we can proudly say that we want to keep trying, then we are not failing.’
(Link to full post here)
I could sit around and give myself repeated brain punches over supposedly ‘wasting’ two years of my life post-uni. Or I can carry forward what memories, lessons and friendships I want to from this period, discard the rest, and prepare to set a new agenda.
In lieu of that, here is my Quarter Life Manifesto.
- Find the consistent core ‘thing’ to jump out of bed every morning and do every day. It will involve thinking outside my previous box, reconsidering job roles I had previously written off, or potentially returning to study – a chat with the excellent Kate Foray has got me pondering a route in graphic design, for one. Whatever form it takes, that core ‘thing’ is vital, along with the structure, confidence and progression it should bring.
- Use 1) to support my freelancing work. Trying to do freelancing as my 1) so far hasn’t worked, but for many using a day job to launch the dream career has, far from as I feared burning them out and leaving them unable to focus on anything else, been exactly what they needed. And it makes sense, given at university I fed off the self-confidence, motivation and independence that studying towards my degree gave me in order to gain several writing gigs. I found time then to work outside my studies – why not now?
- Use 1) and 2) to properly indulge my creative outlets and side projects. I’ve been on Youtube since 2009 as Team Bombersports, and in recent years I’d felt a pressure to be more like a ‘full-time’ Youtuber, which led to massive creative burnout. The fact is, if 1) and 2) are a thing, it means side projects aren’t under so much pressure on their own to ‘succeed’; they can return to being a hobby and a way of relaxing and doing something different. Now, Team Bombersports will sit alongside my two new Youtube channels, AJV1Beta (vlogging) and Armbar Arcade (gaming) as something I will take my time with, have fun making content for, and being a fun outlet rather than a burden. Poetry and novel-writing also sit in this space. I may spread myself too thin, but at least I won’t be doing so for anyone else but myself!
- Self-care. VERY important. If this means turning my phone off of an evening, going dark on Twitter from time to time to tear away from scary stuff in the world, or making time to properly unwind with an old videogame or new book, then damn, so be it.
- Related to 4): rediscover the simple things I used to enjoy. Listening to vintage records. Sinking hours into a videogame story. Playing guitar ’til my fingers hurt. ACTUALLY READING FRIGGIN’ BOOKS. All are things I’m aware I just…stopped doing. For no reason. Anyone else have this?
- Mental and physical health. Neither of which I’ve been happy with for a long time, but neither of which I’ve properly addressed in a long time either. What’s up with that? Ironically both can be linked, so if now is the time I finally trim down my gluten intake, start getting a sweat on in the gym, and make time to remember the CBT techniques which served me so well three years ago, let’s do it now and do it proud.
- Avoid a reactionary mindset. It’s easy for your life to become a constant stream of reacting to things you’ve read and seen that day, but I’ve learned the hard way (hosting an F1 podcast will do this!) that this isn’t healthy week to week. So yes, I’ll call out the hate brigade and the Orange Wank Pheasant’s shit where appropriate, but I won’t let this consume me anymore.
- Talk to people. When I was younger, it didn’t particularly matter that I didn’t always have much cool to say – I’d just talk to people. Friends, people I was attracted to, people I’d barely met but found interesting and wanted to get to know. Somewhere along the line this went away, to the point that even phone calls and Skype conversations with those close to me fell out of favour. I blame you, anxiety, you prick. This is one nostalgic trait of my teenage self that I AM proud of, so time to bring it back, particularly as I have so many friends spread around the world now and have let previous friends fade away far too easily.
- Stop being miserable about the past and terrified of the future, and live in the present.
Deep breath, and away we go. Let me know what’s on your manifesto right now. Whatever it is, you can achieve it. Trust me.