I’m feeling a lack of words again. If last month I worked myself to the bone, like a hamster in a wheel, this month I’m trying to get better. I don’t want to keep doing the same things I do wrong, over and over. I want to make it right. It means I’ve been reading a lot of things to figure where my pitches are falling short, looking at the work of some folks I am inspired by to see what they’re possibly doing right, and generally reading a lot of work that comes my way. And then there have been the emails — fresher, better pitches, three better crafted stories (one of which was killed after it had been commissioned, worked hard upon and submitted, but that’s a story for another day), some back and forth on a new assignment that requires me to be on the telephone way more than I have been used to, and remembering to come here and write a post a day. I feel like I’m out of words for the week, already. I’ve been unable to read at the end of the day like I am used to and I’ve been feeling quiet this week, not my usual chatty, responsive self on whatsapp either. Then there was the newsletter I sent out earlier today. Which makes a good post, because it’s a summation of everything that’s been swimming around in my brain, neatly distilled in a letter (with a really cute gif for extra measure!). So for all you folks who haven’t subscribed, I’m stealing a bit of it for this post. Because I have no new words to give today.
The left and right halves of my brain have been in a perpetual twist over what I should be doing and what I really want to be doing. And it’s given me a terrible case of month-long hiccups. It’s always the hiccups that bring out the demons. The roadblocks that run you down, make your confidence plummet, and things seem a lot worse than they really are.
So when I found myself in a hole at the end of September, I had to take a moment and let the right side of my brain take over. Because it’s the side of my brain that rules, and reminds me that it’s the experiences that matter, that there are no mistakes – only lessons, that I am enough, that this may look utterly shitty now, but you can’t connect the dots looking forward.
The reason everything looked utterly shitty is I have been measuring myself by the rules of success that were never mine to begin with. I have never chased the kind of success that comes from hoarding an astronomical bank balance, or working 8 hours a week all week at something I don’t enjoy, or building it all up so one fine day I can sit back and enjoy it. None of this is to say it’s a terrible crime to want any of that. The astronomical bank balance does great things, I’m aware. As does the hard work and dedication extended to work that isn’t all enjoyable. But it’s just not for me. I have never been able to get on board with accumulating a lifetime of experiences, money and aspirations to enjoy it in a hypothetical time in the future, when really, all I have is the here and the now. And it’s waiting for me to step in and savour it.
All we only ever have is the here and the now. Maybe a little bit of knowledge to predict the immediate future, but not with any degree of accuracy, anyway. But what we do have, is a wealth of information about our past. To know what worked, what didn’t, and what you’d do differently the next time around. So that every moment ahead of you, is better than before. Isn’t that really what being happy is about? So if finding your bliss sounded like unattainable mumbo-jumbo, don’t worry. Here’s science to prove it:
Widely shared on the internet, this is an image of molecules of the protein called myosin holding up a massive ball of endorphins, dragging it along a filament into the inner part of the brain’s parietal cortex.
Happy hormones walking a tightrope, making their way to your brain. ALL SO YOU CAN FEEL HAPPY. Like S once exclaimed, that’s literally the most accurate depiction of happiness: just focus on the here and now, keep placing one foot in front of the other, and just keep going on.
What you will be left with is a trail of experiences — good bad, shitty, traumatic, a bucket load of everything that comes your way. A lot of it will be amazing. A lot of it will leave you cold. A lot may not make sense, not immediately, anyway. But it’s all essential. All of it has a part to play in the larger scheme of things, as you plod along, carrying your big ball of happy on your back.
When I was done telling myself time and again how shitty September was, which is when the right side of my brain took over, I looked back. I realised that first of all what I’d deemed shitty was really just one aspect: my work. I’ve let that one aspect eclipse all else, outshining all the other wonderful things that happened. Second, I realised that despite everything, I had some amazing moments. I celebrated my eighth anniversary. I broke into one of my must-crack international publications — Broadly, a VICE channel — with a story that I’ve wanted to explore for over a year now, this story that I loved interviewing for writing finally went live after over a month of sitting on the bench, and I bagged a semi-long-term gig with The Telegraph UK. Apart from that, all the confusion and upheaval forced me to a point where I decided I needed to move ahead, rather than wallow. So I did. I changed tracks again.
Movement is always good, no? And there’s the thing I realised once again: confusion is essential. Unhappiness, chaos, discomfort — they’re essential milestones for change on the path to getting on with it. Sometimes that path is rocky, a squelchy mess, far from fun. But that is okay. I wouldn’t have realised any of this, unless I’d looked back on the shitty, shitty September. So it’s true what Steve Jobs said.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
I’ve always been a gut-feeling kind of person, counting life experiences over time, and I think Karma has a lot to do with everything that comes our way. Somewhere, I’d forgotten that. And it took a shitty September to remind me to recalibrate my measures for what matters, and how much I want to do to get as far as I want to get.