Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Storm Before The Calm

Monday, Nov 20th - 2a.m.

I don't know what the fuck I'm doing anymore.  There, I admit it.

One oft-repeated phrase among people who know me well is that I am "optimistic to a fault".  Sometimes, when friends are complaining about a rough situation, the last thing that they want to hear is me telling them everything is going to work out in the end, or that things aren't as bad as they seem, or that there's a silver lining to whatever situation they feel stuck in.  That's where the term "Shelly Flowerspeak" originated, and it isn't always meant as a compliment.  While I do my best to be mindful of that when dealing with people who are stressed out, I do believe in my heart of hearts that people see my positivity as a good thing.

But sometimes, I manage to do it to myself.  I'll be in a situation where I actually should be concerned that things aren't going to go well, and instead of worrying about it, I'll convince myself that things will work themselves out and try my best not to let the pressure get to me.  Times like those are where being "optimistic to a fault" starts to get dangerous, because every once in awhile it means that I might not realize that there's an actual problem until it's gotten too large for me to solve.

Cryptic enough for you?

There's a certain irony to losing sleep because I'm worried that it was wrong to follow my dreams.

In this case, I'm talking about the slow dawning realization it's going to be near-impossible to support myself financially writing.  As great as it is that I transitioned and am willing to write about my experiences - who cares?  There isn't ever enough demand for that to make a living off of it. We live in a world where literally everyone has a voice that they want the world to hear, and it was foolish of me to assume that people would pay to read mine simply because it happens to be different from what other people are doing.  There's a million places to read content on the internet, and 99% of them don't cost anything - which retroactively makes me feel like kind of a dummy for having the belief that my writing would be some revolutionary thing that would make people break out their checkbooks.

I mean, I have ideas.  I think there's a market for a transgender-centric advice column, written by someone like me, where people can anonymously post their questions regarding transitioning / dating / socializing / coming out / whatever else might be on their mind.  But after racking my brain and searching the internet, I can't come up with a reason that anyone would ever pay for that when it's so easy to find that kind of thing for free.  And that's ignoring the simple reality that the trans* market, more often than not, has a lot better stuff to spend their money on then paying me to write a bunch of words.

But now - finally - I'm starting to get to the point where my ideas no longer have that little glimmer of "oh I just know that this is going to be the one that works!" because frankly, a lot of my recent ideas haven't been working.  The dream version of my story, where my writing is so good that everyone shares it and I take the world by storm, is starting to melt away and get replaced by the reality that I probably would have been more productive with my time working a cash register at a grocery store or something.  At least cashiers get a paycheck.

I'd be lying if I said it wasn't upsetting.  If my whole idea was to leave my established life to try and follow my dreams, where am I supposed to go once I realize that what I was chasing was exactly that - a dream? There's still Misfit Cords, but there isn't enough work for me to do where I can comfortably contribute, and so I'm now left wondering what my actual Best Case Scenario is.  The only way I can think of achieve stability is to give up on autonomy and fun - and right now, I'm not even sure how to do that.

So where do I go from here?

It's not all bad.  I'm still really proud of what I've written so far, and I still want to continue to write on a daily basis because it's something that I find fun.  But at this point I think I need to give up on the fairy tale of doing this for a living, at least for now, because at this point I'm actively harming myself putting this much effort into something that doesn't provide a paycheck.

I think I thought that being a blogger was the destination, when in fact it's only part of the journey.  I still do believe that putting myself out there into the world is the right way for me to connect with the people I'm meant to connect with, it's just that I have to stop tricking myself into believing that I can do nothing but this for the rest of my life and expect to succeed.

Monday, Nov 20th - 9p.m.

Sometimes, it takes a sleepless night of stressing out about the future in order to gain a sense of clarity regarding how to proceed.  The entry above was written without my ever intending to post it - I mainly did it for myself because I couldn't sleep and needed to expel some negative thoughts from my headspace.

I don't think the issue was looking for a magical solution to my problem; it's more that I was just casting the wrong spell.

I think it did the trick, because I woke up with a certain sense of clarity that, to this point, I had been lacking. As with a lot of my posts lately, it all boils down to my Best Case Scenario.  I originally wrote it as a business plan for Misfit Cords, and then modified it as a business plan for Shelly Moonbeam - why does it have to be a business plan at all?  Why can't I just apply it to my life as a whole?

This refers specifically to "stability".  I was stressing out so bad about how to make money off of writing that I had forgotten the original reason I started blogging.  It's supposed to relieve stress, not create it!

I care a lot about helping out trans* people and plan to continue writing in a way that might help others who read it down the road.  But over the last two weeks, by putting all of my thought into how to monetize my blog, my efforts to focus on stability caused me to lose sight of autonomy.  Instead of writing about things that I found personally inspiring, I was searching for topics that I thought would help me build up readers.  Not only do I find that a lot less fun, but it made me feel bad every time I tried (and failed) to sell out a little bit more.

So I asked myself - why does financial stability have to come from blogging?  And, to my surprise, I think I realized that that was the missing piece of the puzzle.  I went back and reread this post that I wrote right before I left my job at Gentle Giant, and a particular quote stood out to me:

"Of course, the side effect of making an effort to connect with my user base was that it made walking away from the job incredibly difficult.  I broke into tears a lot on my last week of the job - happy tears, because I'm saying goodbye to something that's been a fundamental part of my identity for the last five years.  "Don't worry, I'm a professional technician" is a long-standing running joke between Kayla and I that I used to say whenever I solved a problem, technical or otherwise.  There are a ton of people at Gentle Giant that I'm going to miss seeing at work every day - and while we're nothing more than a click on the internet away from each other, there's a part of me that's afraid that I'm walking away from a good thing that I'm never going to find anywhere else."

I had forgotten how much I liked being a professional technician!

The things that made me want to leave Gentle Giant had nothing to do with the job itself.  It came from wanting to go out and test the waters to see if there was something I wanted to do more.  And while it seemed like a nice idea in my head to write for a living, I think I was taking for granted how much I enjoy having a stable paycheck and a place to go every day.  I write because I think it's fun, not because it generates income - and trying to mix the two isn't nearly as easy or enjoyable as I thought it would be.

That realization helped me out a lot.  I still plan to stick to the "new post every weekday" schedule because I want to make my blog as good and interesting as possible.  But I'm going to stop making decisions based on trying to gain financial stability from the blog, and instead look for that elsewhere in life.  That way, I can continue to write for no other reason than the pleasure I get out of it.

It's funny.  My last post was about "am I happy?" ultimately being the most important question we can ask ourselves.  I didn't even catch the irony that, by honing in on "how do I make money blogging?", I was going against my own advice.  And so as of this week, I'm re-dedicating myself to the search for financial stability, with the newfound realization that it doesn't have to be tied to my writing.  I like multitasking!

It's going to be really tough to find a work environment that was as good of a fit for me as Gentle Giant was. But who knows?  Maybe there's an even better place out here, and I've been cheating myself out of it because I was hung up on the idea on being my own boss.  I owe it to myself to at least look.

1 comment:

  1. I love that you don't think of it as moving backwards, instead just another step forward. Good for you!