For the most part, I have been a failure for the past seven months.
I say this because it is true. I say this because there was a time when failure terrified me. I say this because I need to.
I left my full-time job at Planned Parenthood at the end of August last year. It was the first job I had after college. Although I loved my co-workers and the work was rewarding, I was burnt out with youth work. I was becoming disillusioned with non-profit work. And more than anything, I was just ready to do something different. I graduated college planning to work for a production studio or arts non-profit. Never in a million years did I think I’d be saying the words anal intercourse or clitoris to a bunch of high school kids on a regular basis.
So when I decided to leave, my plan was to spend a year writing, performing, and seeking other artistic opportunities. I made all kinds of charts and lists. I prepared a proposal to present to my parents, outlining everything I planned to do , in case they went Super Negro Up-Bringers on me and tried to cuss me out for being so reckless. I reached out to friends who were self-employed/making it “twerk” as artists to get advice. I was excited.
And then I got scared. I got hella scared. When a colleague mentioned a part-time contract position doing more youth development and reproductive health work, I was apprehensive. I was leaving it behind for a reason. Why would I do the same thing? But then I thought, Maybe this will be different. I could work flexible hours. I would still have plenty of time to pursue other things. And plus, I’d have steady income as a safety net. I applied. I interviewed. I was offered the job and I accepted it.
I do not blame my current job for why I feel like I’ve been a failure for the past seven months. This current job has brought many new opportunities—to work with local government officials, to design and implement a youth program from scratch, and to plan two community-wide youth summits. It has allowed me to develop skills and flex grown-woman muscles I didn’t know I had. It also allowed me to pay for a two-week trip to Europe and save up for a new car. (I definitely ain’t mad at that!)
But the safety net made it possible for me to feel comfortable.This year, it dawned on me that I’m a creature of comfort. And I think comfort is probably the worst thing for an artist. Because the process of creating art is not comfortable. All of this has made me wonder, Am I really an artist? Do I really have what it takes to create for a living? I’m still figuring out my answer.
I’ve learned a lot of other shit about myself this year too. Working from home allows a lot of time for self-reflection (and/or self-pitying, depending on the week). In the past seven months, I have learned the following:
- I am not as brave as I told myself I am.
- I have a lot of self-work and healing to do, especially when it comes to self-esteem, body image, and taking care of myself.
- I am a pretty selfish person.
- I spend way too much time on social media and watching Netflix.
- I think way too damn much.
All of this being said, my regrets are minimal. Angry? Yes, but only with myself. And I’m disappointed in how easily I get distracted and discouraged. But I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason… even if that reason is to teach you not to do something ever again.
My contract for my current job ends on June 30th. Two weeks later, I will turn 25. (It doesn’t escape me that all of this angst is probably my quarterlife crisis.)
There are roughly three months left for me to figure out my next steps. I have no intention of becoming a quarter-century old in the midst of a Girls-esque meltdown. It’s bad enough that I’m pretty much in the same place decision-wise, as I was last year. And I think that’s the real kicker: I haven’t changed much at all in damn near a year. This is the first time life has happened to other people and I was just a bystander. Friends are getting their graduate degrees this year. Two of my best friends are getting married. Another friend will be starring in a TV pilot. So many people have had children. And here I am, living at home… not doing what I set out to do… feeling sorry for myself.
I keep having fanciful, romantic thoughts about packing up and going off to New York or the Bay Area. Maybe Chicago or Washington, D.C. When I’m really dreamin’ and not giving two fucks about reality, I think about running away to Paris. My mother has been very kind, letting me live at home rent-free. But I am itching to be “out on my own”, even if “on my own” means hella broke and sharing a place with 3 roommates. These are all non-plan plans. It’s a way to pass the time and to not give up all hope of making something meaningful and interesting happen with my life.
But really, I don’t have much of a plan. For the first time, I’m “winging it”. How do these spontaneous, adventurous types live like this regularly? This shit is horrifying. It’s overwhelming. I spend a lot of time anxious and stressed out, which I did not anticipate being a side effect of this “year off to live my dreams”. I have exhausted my text-friends-about-your-existential-crisis privileges.
I have been wanting to write this post for a while: (a) because this blog gets no love; and (b) because I wanted to be honest with myself publicly. I spend a lot of time trying to convince other people I have my shit together. Or at least hiding from them, so they don’t catch on to how much I’m lying. But I am tired of lying. The truth is: My name is Michelle. I’m almost 25. I live at home with my momma. I work part-time at a job that has nothing to do with what I went to college for, or what I want to do long-term. And I have no idea what I’m doing most days.