You're Not A Loser. Promise.
For a long time, I struggled with telling myself I was a loser.
When I came home from being in Southeast Asia, I got a waitressing job. I had previously been a server...a lot, I was good at it, I liked it enough, I made good money, but I didn’t want to do it forever. I also had nowhere to start, so I fell into this lull period with an English degree I wanted to use, a Secondary Education degree I didn’t want to use, months of experience teaching and living abroad, and oh, sorry, would you like a refill? Of course, I’ll be right back.
Like the majority of people, I compare myself to other people too much. We see our friends killing it, we see people on social media killing, and we look at ourselves with disgust. I also worry way too much about what people think of me. Even when I left to have this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience spending seven months in Thailand, I was worried about who was judging me.
That spring when I got back, I waited tables for the summer and into the late fall, then quit. I was over it and knew I had to figure something out that was more substantial for me. Miraculously that winter, I found a freelance gig editing what would be my first published nonfiction book. Its title was super symbolic too: This Year Will Be Different. I mean...come on. There was also my yia yia (see my "Dementia Sucks" post), so I spent a lot of time with her, job hunting, and freelancing.
In my down time, I’d go to concerts. I’ve never been big into going out to bars, but shows were (and still are, just in way more moderation) another story. I’d much rather spend my play money on a ticket stub than a bar tab. Music plays an enormous role in my life. When times got really hard, I wouldn’t mind because I always had a show to look forward to as a release. Live music heals. *Enter arm waves here.*
But as much as I loved shows and needed them, they made me worry even more about what people thought. There she is, going to another show...so irresponsible, so selfish, so childish. When is she going to get a job? I wouldn’t worry about this while I was there, of course, just before and after, especially when it would come up in conversation. So, how many shows are you up to now?
In the early summer, I found another freelance gig writing for a very small local magazine. Literally, it was me, a graphic designer, and the owner working in a Panera Bread. Starbucks when we were feeling fancy. I was really hopeful about it, and even more hopeful that I’d prove people wrong, including myself. That I’d prove I wasn’t a loser. The problem was, I wasn’t making any money. I liked it, especially because I felt like it was giving me direction, writing articles, proofreading, composing event calendars, reading lists...music schedules...it was fun work. But it wasn’t paying. Loser, loser, loser.
The end of summer was approaching by this point, and my then-boyfriend and I had a trip out west planned. We started in Portland, then went to The Gorge to see Dave Matthews Band play for two nights (an adolescent dream of mine come true), then ended in Seattle. There she is, traveling, more music. So irresponsible, so selfish, so childish. Still a loser...
My plan was when I got home, it was game face time. I was about to turn 25 in a few weeks and I needed a legit full-time job. I’d find one. Somewhere.
I was leaving the EMP museum (now named something else apparently?) when my graphic designer friend I was working on the magazine with texted me. Her boyfriend was a Web Production Manager at a big fashion company in the area and needed a Copywriter. I told her I was flying home the next day and am free to come in for an interview ASAP. Needless to say, I got the job a week before my birthday. Just in the nick of time.
So you see, you have to start somewhere. The magazine soon faltered after we published three issues, but it was the connection and friendship I made with the graphic designer that led me to my next step. It’s all about connections, and maybe even a little luck. And good timing.
When you feel lost and not good enough, you have to have patience and understanding. You’ll figure it out and doors will open when the time is right. For me, it took several months, almost a year really. To give you perspective, I quit waiting tables in November of 2014 and wasn't employed full-time until September of 2015. My first book an an editor was published in February 2015 and since then, I’ve helped the author with all of her work, including two more books and other projects. I started working on the bi-monthly magazine in June 2015 and it was dead by winter, but I’d have three issues to show for. During all this time, I felt like a loser even though I was trying. I was also taking care of my yia yia as her dementia got worse, but I still felt inadequate.
What I didn’t understand at the time was sure, I didn’t have money to show for "success," but I had experience. I was building a portfolio, I was making connections, I was learning and growing, and that’s what matters. I was never a loser, so the fact I kept thinking I was or telling myself that's what everyone else thought was so backwards, so untrue, so unnecessary. So toxic.
Give yourself perspective and some credit. Don’t talk to yourself with such negativity because you’ll start to really believe it, hard, and that’s a dangerous path to go down. Everything is a very slow, meaningful progression. Whatever you want to do, you’ll get there; you just have to keep hustling. Build a portfolio if that’s applicable, a resume if not, a network if not that either, and keep moving forward. Keep meeting people. Keep looking. Keep trying. I promise it will all work out in the end as it should; how you want it.
And go see live music, or do whatever harmless hobbie you enjoy, damnit. Forget the haters.
Most importantly, stop comparing yourself to the people around you. It won’t do you any good, and we’re all doing our own things our own ways. There’s no one-size-fits-all process, and some of us don’t move at the same pace as others. Be happy for them instead of being envious or insecure. What they’re doing in their own lives isn’t about you, nor is it a reflection of you. As much as you worry about them, stop worrying about what they think of you too. Who. Cares. It’s unnecessary stress. I know that’s easier said than done, and I still struggle with this, but it doesn’t help you in any way, shape, or form. Remember that you are enough and as long as you’re doing the best you can, as long as you’re moving forward, you’re doing great. The rest is just background noise.
So I promise you, you’re definitely not a loser.