Monday, March 16, 2015

I Can Adult

I've been working rather hard lately. So hard, in fact, that I rarely find myself with enough time to sit down with a nice video game and clock in a few hours shooting bandits. On weekdays, I wake up and work on my daily freelance assignments, blog, and do any additional freelance writing work necessary, which sometimes involves a good few hours of writing and editing. This takes up my mornings and goes into the afternoon. On good days, I'm done by 2 or 3 and have a couple hours to relax. In the evening, two days a week I have off to myself. The other five I work as a delivery driver to supplement my income.

So I'll have weekend mornings and afternoons off (though I can start delivery driving as early as 3:45) and two weekday evenings off. However, these can also often be used for freelance writing commitments or long pieces for the blog. I also try to socialize, which as an introvert uses up mental energy rather than restoring it.

While this may seem rather mundane to some, what's got me baffled is the fact that I don't feel completely overwhelmed all the time to the point that I want to die. Sometimes I feel worn out or burnt out, and sometimes I need to neglect the blogging or freelancing a little to give myself a break. But mostly, I'm okay. I'm fine with what I'm doing. I no longer count the amount of hours I have by myself to play video games or just lie on the couch and watch TV because I feel like if I don't get enough of that in the week I'll completely break down.

When I was a teen, I used to think that I would never make it as an adult. I thought that even if I somehow made it through college, I would never be able to make it in the working world where you don't get hardly any vacation time and you have to be at work 40 hours a week. I found middle school to be barely tolerable in terms of the amount of work. I constantly felt stressed and tired and worn down.

But that's how it feels with anxiety and depression. Any amount of work is monumental, and you have to mentally prepare yourself for the work you have to do, reassuring yourself that you can get it all done in X amount of time and still have X number of hours to relax. Anything added on to that is a terrible burden. I remember the feeling of dread any time a new class project or test was announced, because I knew it was going to eat up so much of that precious free time that I needed just to feel like I could survive. And all the worse if I had to present it to the class. Good lord. I could go on about the lack of consideration for people with anxiety disorders when it comes to school presentations.

Anyway, everyone said that college was harder than middle school or high school. Everyone acted like life just got harder the older you got. It was all "just wait until you get into high school, go to college, have to get a job, THEN you'll REALLY have to work." It was terrible. I had zero hope for the future. I figured if I could barely handle middle school then I would have a mental break down and be institutionalized before 25.

And I wonder how many other teens felt that way. How many feel that way now. Yet so many people treat them as though their lives are easy.

My experience was different. Getting into therapy at age 16 helped a lot. High school was still hard, but I was better able to manage my intense anxiety and stress, and my depression lifted. As time went on, newly announced projects, though annoying, didn't seem as terrible.

And college? College was easy. Neither my desired major at the time nor my backup major required a Master's degree, and I knew that very few employers were going to ask for my college GPA, so the pressure to be perfect was lifted. I allowed myself to slack off a bit. Projects were much more enjoyable because often they were on things I was actually interested in, and if I got a bad grade on one, no one who would care needed to know. And it only got easier as time went on and I got my required science and math classes out of the way so that I could take more writing classes. The homework for those classes was nearly 100% "do the things you like doing in your spare time anyway."

I know this is definitely not everyone's college experience, but it was mine. College doesn't have to be murderously hard. College isn't always studying all night until you think you might cry. And when you're actually happy with what you're doing, the work is so much easier and so much less of a burden.

As a teenager, I never thought I would be able to handle a schedule like the one I have now. I realized this a couple days ago and just kind of watched myself in wonder as I went over everything I'd done in that week and everything I had to do for the rest of the week and the following one, which involves very little time to myself, and felt okay with it. I can handle it.

I can spend my free time on Sunday doing some blogging and freelance work in advance so that I can visit my sister on my day off from delivery work Tuesday. And I am okay with going to hang out with friends, even though they are ones that I don't know as well as others because I know them through my boyfriend, on my night off the day after that. I'll probably feel a bit worn out by Thursday, but I know I'll make it.

I have a typical working adult life, full of commitments and goals and trying to balance in some socializing and special time with the significant other. And I'm okay. Even happy.

I wanted to write this all down because maybe if I'd read something like this as a teen, I would have had some hope. I remember how miserable I was then, and if things had been much worse, I might not have made it. I was lucky to be white and cishet and middle class. I was lucky to have access to therapy and anti-depressants. I only wish I'd had access to the broad support networks I find online these days, and I want to be a part of that support for young people today.

I know the whole "It Gets Better" campaign is wildly insufficient. We need to help depressed, anxious, overwhelmed teens NOW. I'm not going to let myself think that writing this blog post is enough. But it's something. If only my teen self could have seen me now.

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