I ask this of you because you wrote the Adulthood Is A Scary Horse post, and I thought you might have some insight on Adult Things. I need some help with developing Consistency.
I am good at doing things in three-month runs. Examples:
I can give up drinking diet Coke, which is slowly eating my esophageal lining and the enamel on my teeth, for three months at the most.
I can find internships for three months, but I have never found a job (now on either my sixth or fourth internship, depending on how you look at it.) (I am not sure if my continuing with school is related to not wanting to settle down, or if my inability to find the condition in which to settle down made continuing with school a good idea.)
I do well with my schoolwork (just finishing a master’s, will probably do a PhD, am twenty-five) for one semester, and then the next semester is gray and dull and mediocre.
I rode my bike for 30-40 km every week for three months during the spring/summer, and then somehow I stopped.
This pattern has stretched over the past eight years. I pick up new hobbies relatively frequently (maybe two or three a year) but I don’t maintain them — I circle back to them every so often. Three years ago I started painting, and I’ll do a rush of 6-10 paintings in a couple weeks, and then I won’t paint for three months. I did linoleum prints until I developed hand cramps, then stopped and picked up something else. I just started knitting; presumably I’ll do that for a bit then stop. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Same for writing short stories. It seems like I can work hard in one area for only three months, and then I have to take a break with that thing and focus hard on something else for three months.
My theory is that Adulthood is directly correlated to Consistency. I have done some reasonably cool things, on both personal and professional levels, but I don’t think I will ever get all the things I want to get done DONE unless I develop Consistency — i.e. the ability to put in the same amount of work every day for years at a time.
I have some mental health issues of an ambiguous nature. I have had two major, crippling spates of depression in my life, and my emotions are not well regulated or proportionate — they tend to either be numbed or violently over-the-top. I struggle with something like Seasonal Affective Disorder as well. This has predictable consequences, but it seems to me that many people who struggle with mental health problems still develop Consistency. No, my moods are not predictable, but many people with problems far more severe produce a much greater volume of work.
As a person who seems to have many interests, both artistic and scientific, how do you balance them and give them each enough attention? How do you achieve Consistency and Reliability, even though on a given day you might feel like a piece of asphalt? How can you both manage to be kind to yourself and take good care of yourself while saying, “No, self, you do NOT need ten hours of sleep tonight, just because you feel weird and sad. You should do Other Thing for a couple hours so that you feel a sense of accomplishment!” Many times I feel that Self-Care and Productivity are directly at odds, and while I realize Productivity is not the measure of a human being’s worth, I want to make a living doing things I love, and that will never happen without Productivity, which will never happen without Consistency.
Thoughts? Help? Squawk?
[A. I think I am pretty silly for sending this to you, but everything you write seems so wise, so maybe you have some spare wisdom lying about, however
B. you have a longboat and a job and skeins brightly colored yarn and jam dates and a Dr. Glass, so maybe just regard this as a random paper airplane that landed on the boat, without necessarily thinking of it as a thing that needs be answered.]
Thank you so much for writing to me! I love getting mail. You sound like such a cool person, and we’re in such similar places in our lives right now, that I just want to grab you by the face and tell you “YOU ARE SO GOOD. YOU ARE DOING SO FINE.” Thank you for writing such a beautiful letter and putting it out there.
I know you wrote to me ages ago, and I’ve been thinking about you for a long time.
Firstly, you mentioned Adulthood is A Scary Horse, a guest post I wrote for Captain Awkward. And so I began to write a response to you, which became ridiculously long, and sort of stopped being about you. It ended up being this Guest Post at Captain Awkward on the Low Mood Cycle.
That was meant for you.