Dear Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

On the walk home today from the subway I tried to image what you look like. I think you must volley between two forms.

The first is the purple minion from “Despicable Me.” Yes, the one that just makes everything worse by yelling at the top of its lungs no matter the circumstance. Spending a day with you is like spending a day with an uncontrollable fire alarm that blares every time a social situation borders on anything other than ideal. Yes, I hear you! Stop ringing! You’re the anxiety whose vocabulary consists entirely of always and never statements and your favorite phrases include:

I’ve peaked as a writer and will never write anything good again. 

I’m always going to feel this frustrated and upset. 

I’ll never have it together.

I’ll never find the right person to date. 

I’ll always be bad with deadlines. 

Going into new situations will always be terrifying. 

While you, the purple minion-anxiety, is rash and loud and always on fire, your anxiety alter-ego — personified as a cartoon Dracula — is cunning, quietly waiting around corners, and always knows where my weak spots are.

Dracula-anxiety you’re the type that takes on the role of devil’s advocate. For every new idea I try and propose, you’ve already worked out 11 reasons why it won’t work. You thrive on midnight conversations and digging up long filed away memories just for shits and giggles. Like, “Remember that time you drank one too many beers at a happy hour and told your coworker he had a perfectly symmetrical face? Wasn’t that fun? Lets really think about that as we lay here in the dark.”

Yes Anxiety! I REMEMBER! I WAS THERE!

Together, you two can be a real team — and I don’t mean that as a compliment. You’re real pains in the ass at least once a day.

Last week I wrote in my planner all the things I considered brave that I did that week. Reading back through, I was struck by how little they looked on paper compared to how big they felt in real life.

Brave things Carly did this week

Ask cute coworker to lunch.

Call best friend and talk on the phone for two hours.

Commandeer a desk downstairs at work and hope nobody comes to claim it.

Start planning a fall trip.

Talk candidly with my manager about missing deadlines.

Make plans with a friend I don’t know very well.

Walk into a new restaurant and ask for a table for one.

I know, these things are dinky in the big scheme of things! When I compare them to packing up my life and moving to New York in two weeks I’m often like, wait …. what? Going to a graphic novel bookclub is the thing that’s making you shake in your boots? Really?

But that’s how my brain works and that’s how my anxiety manifests. Instead of trying to shove it into a box under the bed it seems time I learn how to cope with it, starting with the little things first.

So that’s where I am. The majority of the time I can negotiate with this Dracula and calm down the purple minion who is one fire, but somedays they’re just a little more persistent, a little more nasty than normal. On those days, I simply give myself a mental hug and recognize with pride that even though a tiny interaction can give me anxiety, I know I’m going to do it anyway.

Then I go home and make myself some lemon bars.

So Anxiety, whenever you want to breakup just let me know! Until then, could you at least do the dishes?

Cheers,

Carly

 

 

Advertisements

An Ode to Wednesdays

Wednesdays always tend to be a bit of a blue day for me.

I can’t exactly put my finger on what inspires the weekly reoccurrence of  sluggishness, but like clockwork, by 3pm on Wednesday I am clawing at the walls to go take a walk. When it comes to Wednesday, it’s usually the day when I’m most likely to spill tea down the front of my shirt and get stuck on a broken subway train. The day when the perceived coolness of the teams that sit around me at work feel a little more intimidating than normal and the day I’m more likely to get dressed without my glasses and realize at 6pm I’ve been wearing my underwear inside out all day long. It’s the day my brain is full to the brim with queries, video stats, trends, and writing and the thought of two more days of learning seems slightly impossible.

On this particular Wednesday perhaps the blues began when I ripped by pants and then discovered a cockroach in my kitchen all before 9am. It was like all the waves of productivity that have nearly floored me at the beginning of the week had packed up and left overnight, without a wave goodbye or a note saying when they’d be back. Even a bag of funfetti cookies couldn’t quite shift the flood of tiny thoughts swirling in between bites.

With my friends starting to leave New York City, how am I going to make new friends? Are there clubs at work I should join? Am I friendly enough? Will going to something new by myself always be so terrifying? No I resolved, cookie in mouth, I was going to do it! I was going to join a hiking club and say yes to happy hour invitations! Even if the nerves almost killed me!

Despite my gumption, it was a moment when the world just felt exceptionally big and I, exceptionally small.

Running down the stairs to catch the train, I looked up and there was my best friend Imali on the platform. I swear there might even have been a special spotlight shining down on her at that moment. She doesn’t work anywhere near me and yet, there she was, just when I needed a little reminder to stop trying to control all the little details and simply enjoy the things that matter most.

We didn’t dig deep into our days — how much can you really catch up on in-between one subway stop? — but as I got off the train, I couldn’t help but wondered if the universe had pulled some strings to get Imali onto my subway track that Wednesday in the hopes of reminding me that all great, wonderful things in my life (friendships, writing, hobbies, trips) all started with a single step. A tiny bite of the elephant.

So maybe a new club won’t rock my world off its hinges and these coworkers who sit around me won’t someday be giving speeches at my wedding. But then again, maybe they will? Crazier things have happened — like seeing my best friend on the New York City subway platform.

And if they don’t, I can always give Imali a call while waiting for my subway and simply say, “Damn what a Wednesday, am I right?”

 

There Is Enough to Go Around

A big shoutout to Fran Meneses, a constant source of inspiration and pep talks, and the illustrator of this and many more amazing pieces.

Do you ever have those days where you’re standing in the stairwell — rolling a labeling sticker over your black, cat hair-covered sweater — and thinking, why is everyone so much better at adulting than me?

Last week, one of my coworkers gave an amazing presentation on ASMR. If I could have, I would have given her a raise right on the spot. Her slides were organized, her speech was articulate, and her data was levels beyond what I’m capable of doing. In essence, she inspired and intimidated me all at the same time and just like every normal 27-year-old, I left that meeting a bundle of self-reflective nerves.

I could hear my insecurities ringing the doorbell of my consciousness. You could never do anything like that, they whispered, unpacking their overstuffed baggage. Sometimes you’re not even sure what your job is, or how to pull data, or which questions are the right ones to ask. Sometimes people don’t even know what your new job is! Your coworkers are so much more capable than you. What are YOU bringing to the team? 

But unlike when I was 25, I’ve now learned how to answer these Insecurity house calls with a swift, “PISS OFF!” Rooted deep in those mean voices is the truth that I’m simply a little insecure or doubtful about aspects of myself. There is this common misconception that there are only so many seats at the successful table. Social media makes us feel like if we haven’t been published in the New Yorker, named on a Forbes 30 list, or started a non-profit, we’re pretty much shit and should just give up now. The boat sailed, you weren’t on it, SORRY!

This feeling makes us unnecessary competitive, instead collaborative, and unintentionally makes us lock arms and defend our seats like a professional game of musical chairs.

But the truth is, if there was only a finite amount of success available, it would have run out a looooonnnnngggggg time ago. Far before any of us hit the scene.

So lets all stop pretending that when someone we love or admire does something amazing it means we can’t do something amazing as well. Yes, my coworker’s presentation reminded me of how much I have to learn, but walking away from that solely focused on myself would be doing her (and me) a disservice. It would be keeping things how they are for the sheer fact that I was selfishly nervous I couldn’t keep up with my team’s growing capabilities. Over the last eight months in my new role, my growth has been messy and hard and humbling. But it was worth it.

Now, being lucky enough to be surrounded by people who inspire me to grow, who are willing to sit down and answer my questions despite working long hours, that’s something I’m embracing with both hands.

So to all of you who receive house calls from your Insecurities, you’re not alone. Ask for help, talk to people who intimidate you. Chances are, they are simply trying to figure things out too. But most of all, remember that your peers are not you, you are not your peers, and at the end of the day we’re all just trying to get cat hair off our clothes.

You Don’t Need to Worry About That

^^ Dad’s birthday visit in February. ^^

The other weekend I was talking to my dad while he was driving home from North Hollywood when I mentioned I was starting to really worry about my final project for my Data Analytics course. The project is due March 20 and because I haven’t yet completed all the units, I have absolutely no idea what the project will entail.

Now, it should be noted, I’m a bit of a worrier and when overwhelmed, I’m a big stress-er. I think it goes hand-in-hand with being an ambitious dreamer. Every article or project I’ll excitedly map out in my head brings along a plus one (or plus two) of worry. Can I actually do this? What if this gets rejected everywhere? What if I’ve just gotten by on luck and people suddenly realize I don’t know what I’m doing?

While I was running through my typical, “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO! WHAT IF I FAIL THIS CLASS?! AM I REALLY LEARNING ANYTHING!” speech, my dad sweetly stated — in the way only a 65-year-old with lots of life experience who is stuck in traffic and just wants to get home to plant some flowers could say — “You don’t need to worry about that.”

Don’t need to worry about that! Maybe he didn’t hear me correctly, I thought. I probably responded with something snarky like, “Well thanks retired man whose biggest worry is where he’ll eat fried potatoes for breakfast!”

Fun fact: I’m kind of a snarky smart ass when I’m worried. Or just sometimes to my parents in general. Bless them, they still keep inviting me home — though they took my house keys and replaced the family room couch with two armchairs. There are three of us, you do the math.

After we hung up, I got to really thinking about my dad’s point. I do worry a lot about things I have no control over in the present moment or even just things that might happen. I realized how often I use the words “worry” and “stress” in my daily conversations — even at times when I’m not stressed but just have a lot of my mind.

I always joke that one of the things I love most about my friend Churro is — like my dad — his ability to put things in perspective for me. He dials back the seriousness I place on unnecessary moments with a simple, “Carly, that’s not a thing.” But I think it’s time I started doing a little more of that for myself.

At the end of last year, after burning myself out working two jobs AND trying to write hundreds of pitch letters, I took a step back to re-evaluate why I write. I would work myself into such a state, feeling an invisible, self-imposed pressure to be doing more, that I lost sight of the joy I find in writing. I believed I needed to stress myself out in order to get things done and while this worked for a while, in the end it wasn’t healthy for my brain or body. This year, I’m retraining myself to better understand that relaxation and joy are integral parts to being productive and ambitious. I don’t need to do everything today or this month or even this year.

So my challenge to myself moving forward is to decrease the use of “stress” and “worry” in my vocabulary. Will it change anything? I’m excited to find out and while it might not alter my brain chemistry, I do think it will change how I inspire myself to positively approach new projects, articles, and putting dreams into action.

Because for me, a life without big dreams, that’s just not a thing.

 

 

PS. Thank you to my mum and dad for your unwavering sweetness and perspective. I love you and that big owl pillow you bought me to read on in our family room.

 

Your “Single” Superpower

^^ When one family member is sick helping them feel better becomes a family affair. Taken at 11:30pm from the floor of my entry way. ^^

This weekend was spent in super cat mum mode after Hem and I found ourselves in Animal Urgent Care on Saturday night. She’s going to be absolutely fine but we’re still in the nerve wracking process of trying to figure out what’s going on/how to get this little nugget back on her feet (and jumping on top of doors).

Now, going to the vet with my cats I find to be a weird mental battle between calm nostalgia and stress. My first job at 16 was working at a local vet office and after three years there, I got a ton of experience working with sick and injured animals. But it’s always different when it’s your pet.

Especially when your pet is trying to scale the walls of the room and/or punch the vet in the face for looking at them the wrong way.

Sitting in the waiting room, I couldn’t help but notice everyone was in a couple except for me. Now, this happens a lot in New York City, especially during the winter cuffing season. Couples seem to sprout up out of nowhere and besides being in love, their singular mission seems to be blocking the sidewalk. I would be lying if I said I loved being single every minute of everyday. New York City is a hard city to live in and sometimes, all you want is to curl up inside of a hug from someone who loves you.

This week I’ve been reading “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson, a hilarious book about trying your best in the face of mental illness. In it, she reminds the reader of how easy it is to be our own worst critics. Since we know everything about ourselves — the mistakes, the missed deadlines, the fights, the fails — we sometimes focus only on what we don’t have over the great little things we are.

But sitting in that waiting room, I realized that over the last three years, my singleness has been my superpower. By being single, I’ve learned to tackle things — from caring for my cats to resealing my windows — all on my own. I’ve rented my own apartment, paid for trips around the world, and learned to make pottery! I’ve fought back against condescending questions from engineers, shrugged off ignorant, hurtful comments on my articles, and built a home 2300 miles away from where I grew up. And I did this all on my own.

Yes, someday it will be amazing to be in a partnership but it won’t be out of necessity. It won’t be because I don’t enjoy my own company or I’m afraid of being alone. I think I’m great! And one of many reasons I believe this is because I know whatever comes my way, I can handle it. 

Someday I’ll be sitting on my rocker, holding the hand of my partner, and think back fondly and proudly of my single self, that scrappy girl who moved across the country with her cats and made it work. So when it feels like you’re are messing everything up or — as Jenny Lawson writes — “your behind-the-scenes self doesn’t match the highlight reels of people around you,” know that you are enough.

Then take yourself out for a beer because this type of introspection deserves a celebration.