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I’ll cut straight to the point.
I felt like quitting. I felt like quitting this blog… and many other things about my life.
When things feel beyond your control.
Until now, I haven’t been completely honest about what I’ve been going through. It’s something that’s painful to share and at this point, I don’t really know who’s reading.
I actually started this blog post two months ago, when GoDaddy, my website’s host server, began threatening to shut GRRRLTRAVELER down for getting too many search engine hits. I normally juggle everything on my own, but this was beyond my scope and I was forced to hire an IT expert for help. But when everything we tried didn’t work and my readership began falling, it created an overwhelm of one more ongoing thing to deal with that was beyond my control.
Walls closed in from every direction, dealing blow after blow– a two-year career stalemate, bouts of infrequent employment, few opportunities– career life, acting life, money-making life, travel life and now, blog life! Everything was plummeting or at a deadlock, despite my best efforts. This fueled feelings of inadequacy, frustration and self-loathe. And to make it all worse, I wasn’t getting any younger!
My life was rebelling. My identity… was disowning me.
I was drowning and rather than treading more water and enduring more wave-crashing blows, I just wanted to let everything go…
Failing at 40 and Dealing with depression
Everyone experiences depression. Being an artist, it’s something I’ve learned to cope with it. Creativity is my therapy; work and travel are my drugs. But take those away from me and dealing with the severity of depression, is like survival, without experiencing any joy. You feel like you’re fighting each day, simply to hold onto the bare minimum of who you are. A Sissyphean effort.
Going from career as a professional dancer and artist, to New York’s entertainment industry, having succeeded at clocking $400-$1200 a day in a leading crew position, given mostly to men, paid to travel and sling out entertainment for popular nationwide TV shows… to being an ESL teacher living abroad and making money to fund my travels… and finally, evolving into a person failing miserably at life, making $9-12/hour at “on-call” office temp jobs in Hawaii. My ego was annihilated and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t able to dig a way out of it and was worried if I ever would. I was used to defying the impossible and hurdling obstacles to my dreams possible. Now life was defying me and showing me that I was capable of failure.
Unable to work in an industry I loved, to feel valued for my experience or to afford the independent lifestyle I once had, was incomprehensible, painfully heartbreaking and alarming to me. Opportunities flew over and passed around me. If I got a job, it would fall through at the last most inconvenient moment. Even shit jobs didn’t hire me! Not having much of an income, I made excuses to not go out with friends to save money on gas. Was I failing at being 40?
It started to feel that way.
Knowing when to give up
What’s your tolerance to ongoing pain?
The other night, I had a dream :
I was a boxer pinned in the corner of the ring. An shadowy opponent is blasting me left and right. He’s bigger, more powerful than me. He’s pounding me to a pulp. I have no coach to direct me, so I start flailing with all my might to get out. Why I didn’t just drop to my knees and surrender, I don’t know. Maybe I was more terrified of giving up on myself, than getting beaten to death.
Unlike other Asian upbringings, I never got pressured to be “a success” in financial or material ways. Instead my loving parents said:
“You don’t have to be the best at what you do, for us to love you. But always do your best. Never give up on yourself or let others tell you what you can or can’t do.”
This wisdom always gave me the resiliency, to fight my battles, defy the odds against me and succeed. I challenged rejection constantly, feeling impervious to it… defiant. But sometimes, life’s negatives can come all at once, in unrelenting typhoons, tearing down confidence and strength. Friends and family can withhold encouragement at the most critical times, relationships can turn into politics, and life and bad luck can skin you so raw, that you literally feel fucked from the inside out. (Yup, it’s a real feeling)
…So that ultimately, it takes one mite-sized thing (in the grand scheme of it all) like GoDaddy being an unrelenting butt-head, to trigger your depression into wanting to end it all.
Thoughts on suicide and depression: What happens when you feel like quitting?
We all experience loneliness and disappointment on an ongoing basis. But we’re as unlikely to share that truth with people, as we are to say, “More failure, please!” Instead, we smile and throw people off our trail with humor, saying… Everything is okay. I’m just fine.
In the process of my writing this post, I’d read that travel blogger, Anita Mac took her life. Our ages weren’t far apart. While the travel blogging community was shocked, I felt a stab of …envy. Her battle with oppression and depression ended. Mine continued on with no signs of getting better.
Some say, that suicide lacks courage; I disagree. As real-life solo warriors, we all take tough hits to survive on life’s battlefield. When one of us falls, it’s tragic. But with societal norms, the rising cost of living, pressures to fit a western mold to be “successful” in life, find a partner and to afford a good life for your old age… life has us forced onto a minefield, navigating both, real and self-constructed mines. Who’s the real enemy?
Whether deciding to take your life or to face it’s unfathomably painful consequences with no guarantees of a better future… neither, are easy, ideal or winning decisions. Stuck between a rock and a raw deal in life, both require insurmountable energy and courage to act upon.
What if I can’t troubleshoot life… how can I reboot it?
Whether it’s a two-year stroke of bad luck, an infertile location, or a bug in the environment we’re working in… some things are just beyond our control. Still, it’s hard not take things personally or to judge ourselves as a failure. In the case with GoDaddy, things never got better and my final resolve was to terminate my plan and move to another provider. So much for finding answers through symbolism!
I’ve tested every angle I could think of. I researched new careers. None of my attempts were fruitful. So I’m back to the drawing board, reflecting on what I can let go of and how to reboot.
Maybe I need to lighten my life and downsize expectations. Perhaps, I’m still uncertain about where my heart is. Or maybe, just maybe I can’t have everything I want in life and must choose the one thing I can live with for now. There is still much uncertainty to cope with and that’s the best I can expect. I’m taking one day at a time.
Like most people, I like to hear the occasional kind word to know I matter. I like to know that the work I do is valued. I like to know that my efforts occasionally inspire and that I’m purposeful. To be appreciated makes a person feel successful. But too often people are too busy to even offer kindness or appreciation. Life doesn’t slow down. People forget to say ‘thank you’ and everyone is only concern with their own reality and ego. I don’t like that, but I get it.
Hawaii has allowed me to spend much needed time with my parents and for that I’m grateful of. Their growing age is the one thing that worries me about leaving the islands. But Hawaii will not work for the type of travel life or career life I aspire to. Nope.
The pressing question is.. what will?
[Note: I’ve already gone through this stage to be able to write about it and share it. I’ve lived by a ‘live to work’ mentality for a long time, because work gives me a feeling of value and self-worth. Having made a living doing things I loved didn’t always come easy and I’ve always reached for fairly big dreams. There is a stubborn fighting streak in me that always hopes to defy the impossible, which is blessing and a curse]