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Nashville, Anxiety, & 16-Hour Work Days

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I’m exhausted. Not really physically (although I could certainly use some more sleep) but more mentally than anything. I feel like I’ve been on a psychological roller coaster for the past week. As an introvert I’ve had to be “on” for 8 days straight now, with only one break day before that in the last two weeks. I need my introverted Kaitlyn time!

It was a combination of 16-hour workdays, limited breaks, and general workplace craziness as less than 30 staff put on a conference for over 6,000 people. How did I handle it? Surprisingly well for the situation I think. I suffered from a bit of anxiety midweek as the conference actually started and all my bad memories from when I did this two years ago (I had apparently blocked them out) resurfaced with a vengeance. And after the conference, I’m feeling anxious because I’ve been gone for a week and now I have a lot of things on my plate that I have to get back to dealing with ASAP. It’s not like I get a day or week off to recuperate and put the puzzle that is my life back together. Instead, just like always, I’m driving full-speed down the highway towards an unknown destination while hanging out the window of my car trying to salvage what I can of my life that seems to be endlessly spilling from the engine. It’s a futile task. And I’m having to remember to breathe.

You’d think that going to a pretty cool place like Nashville, TN would afford me at least a little bit of pleasure and leisure time. And I did get one evening where I went to the Grand Ole Opry to see some amazing musicians perform (including Blake Shelton!) I’m so glad I got to do something at least a little bit fun one night amid the madness. I still haven’t gone swimming in the Gaylord Opryland’s fancy pool(s). But then, maybe one pool isn’t all that much greater than the next. (Unless it has a waterfall, and to my knowledge this one didn’t so…)

Mostly I just want to get back to some semblance of normal life, but I’m anxious that it won’t happen. There are a lot of potential changes coming up for me (ones I’ve been working hard to secure, but that doesn’t stop me from second-guessing myself.) I can’t really have a “normal” life, can I? It wouldn’t be life if it wasn’t a wild and dangerous ride into the pitch black unknown, would it?

I guess, this is all to say that I could really use some prayers this week and in the coming few as I transition back to normal life or start another wild ride. I’m uncertain of which way it will go. Either way has its benefits, but that doesn’t stop me from worrying about the future!

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The Me Who I Think I Was Supposed to Be

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Last week I wrote about “The Me I Want to Be” and “The Me I Think I Am” and the disconnect between those two versions of myself. But in discussing my blog post with a friend, he made me realize there is actually a third version of myself I hadn’t addressed. He pointed out that he thought there is a “Me who I Think I Was Supposed to Be” floating around in his head too. A version that might be even more detrimental than the first two because it’s like all one’s self-doubt bundled together. So let’s recap these different versions of the self:

My Imagined Self

Rock star filmmaker and content creator, emotionally and psychologically thriving, more socially outgoing than my high school and college self.

My Perceived Self

Professionally and personally stagnant, emotionally and psychologically struggling to keep even barely stable, socially isolated 75% of the time.

And then I get to the harsher reality version of myself where I wonder if all my yearnings and desires have been misguided:

My Supposed-To-Be Self

College for my “Mrs.” Degree, someone’s emotional punching bag, a job that pays the bills not a fulfilling career, socially-adept family hostess/wife/mother.

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I feel like these versions of myself are on a sliding scale.   Or perhaps, better yet, a near vertical cliff side. Where “My Imagined Self” is on top of the cliff, “My Perceived” self is a ledge somewhere about halfway up, and “My Supposed-to-be Self” sits at the base. And I’m having to rock climb up this monster with little training. It would be easier to just repel down to the base and say, “I give up!” and accept my life for a mediocre and personally unfulfilling existence.

I am in reality probably a few feet above “My Perceived Self” ledge.   I’m exhausted, beaten, and bruised, and the cliff overhang seems miles away. I could just repel back down to the ledge and stay there. But it’s small, barely big enough for me to kneel. How can I expect to spend the rest of my life in this cramped and precarious place? But the journey to the top seems impossible…

I’m not near the base of the cliff anymore. I’m sure it might seem crazy for you to imagine me there, living out that particular life. And it might actually be impossible for me to really repel down the cliff from where I am now and live that life at the base. I feel like I would make it down only to find a post-apocalyptic wasteland without any way back up. But I do spend a lot of time questioning whether or not I ever should have even started on my rock-climbing journey up the cliff side. I wonder if my aspirations were wrong. If my dreams were too big. If I made a mistake.

More than anything, I worry that I’ve made a mistake. This isn’t Groundhog Day. I don’t get do-overs. I worry I’m working myself into a pit that I’ll never be able to come out of. I worry that my belief in my “Special Unicorn” self has caused me to ruin what little happiness in existence I could have had.

The friend that pointed out to me the “Supposed-to-be Self” wonders if he was supposed to a farmer or a logger or some kind of work-with-your-hands-down-in-the-backwoods type of guy. He studied computer science in college and works doing things I don’t even try to understand with software development (or something like that). I can’t imagine him as his “Supposed-to-be Self.” He’s far too smart and creative and passionate about life to do that.   That would be settling for him. And I think in the same way, being “My Supposed-to-be Self” would be settling for me. Would it have made our lives easier? Maybe. Maybe not. There’s no way for us to tell. We can’t go back and change the past. We can only keep climbing that cliff towards our “Imagined Selves” no matter how grueling of a process it is.

I just hope we make it there.

I had so many people say they felt the same way after last week’s post which I really wasn’t expecting! But it heartened me to know I’m not alone. It also inspired me to write this blog post on that third tier of the self. So again, I wonder, do you have a “Supposed-to-be Self” that you fear you deserved to be (but maybe don’t want to be) like me? Let me know! This whole “examining yourself” thing is so fascinating to me!

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Being the Person You Want to Be vs. Being the Person You Feel You Are

Imagined Self 1

I have a daily struggle between the “Me I Imagine” and the “Me That I Feel I Am.”   I have all these hopes and aspirations for the “Me I Imagine.” I really want to be successful. I really want to help people. I really want to explore my full potential as a skilled and creative human being. But I tend to run into a brick wall almost every day because my imagination and self-esteem very rarely line up. As much as I can imagine myself as all the great things that I want to be, I have a hard time convincing myself that I can be those awesome things. Or that I am even worthy to attempt to be those things. And recently, I’ve been hit with one setback after another, making me feel even more useless and worthless. This is the kind of situation where I just start feeling like I have nothing left but to go lie down and die somewhere.

I know this is bad thinking. I know this is “letting the depression” win. But I can’t help but wonder if perhaps I have a false sense of self. If I’m not actually as awesome or worthy of success as I think I am. Maybe I’ve just been sheltered my entire life and what I think is great isn’t actually that great in the grand scheme of the world. I don’t want that to be true. But I also recognize that I’m a “Special Unicorn Millennial,” and so I don’t really trust my judgment when it comes to what “success” and “failure” looks like. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I suggest you read this great post here.

But when I give up—when I accept the helplessness that all these unfortunate setbacks seem to be telling me to do—I don’t feel like me. I feel like a hollowed out version of myself. Like a fake, a fraud, a straw-filled, ill-made doll. Essentially, I feel worse than before! It’s like there is no right answer to this problem! It’s like no matter which way I turn there’s always a “Dead End” sign waiting for me. It’s like my “Imagined Self” and “Perceived (Low Self-Esteem) Self” are both nowhere near who I am.

And it leaves me with the question, “Who am I?” At 25, that’s a bit disconcerting of a question to be asking oneself. I thought I had at least a little bit of an idea. I thought I had a direction. But it seems quite the opposite. Life is taking me on a journey I never intended and though certainly not the worst journey I could be enduring, it’s not the most pleasant for someone dealing with depression.

What I wonder is if other people feel this way too? If finding a rift between your “Imagined Self” and your “Perceived Self” is common?   If there’s a known way to remedy it before you’ve screwed up your future royally? Or if I’m alone in my suffering and I’m meant to drift aimlessly through the fog of meaningless adulthood for decades until it really is too late to do anything of worth in the world.

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Haters Gonna Hate

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The Internet is a scary place. It’s filled with trolls and jerks and unhappy people looking to spread their unhappiness by commenting cruel things anonymously on other people’s work. I don’t think I’m popular enough on the Internet to feel the true brute force of the troll community, but I do get my fair share of mean people on my YouTube channel.

It’s a funny thing too because the point of my channel is to be a place of positivity and support for people trying to accept themselves as they are. So to seek me out and then say such nasty things seems rather contradictory, don’t you think? One series of comments hit me hard recently because I was already in a not-so-happy place. As you can see below, two separate people decided to publicly tell me that I basically needed to die. Thanks guys!

Haters 6I posted the screenshot on my personal facebook page and I received an outpouring of love and support from friends. Which despite what it might have seemed, wasn’t the reason I posted it. I wasn’t searching for reassurance or attention. I wasn’t trying to drum up pity from friends or get more views on my videos. It’s just hard for me to read those things alone in my room and move on from them. I want more of the world to be witness to the cruelty that people dole out. And if anyone ever thinks about posting a nasty comment on someone else’s video or blog or online contribution to think twice.

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Those haters are gonna hate, man.
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I got a lot of Taylor Swift-esque “haters gonna hate so shake it off” advice which I did do eventually. But the sting took a little longer to wear off this time. These comments were specifically reminiscent of the shooting that happened at WDBJ7 in my area only a few days prior. I was already upset about the entire situation and loss of life, especially of a young woman of 24—so close to my own age and aspirations—that the suggestion that I should die in a similar fashion (and because of the videos I make, at that!) was rather traumatizing.

Why do people write such horrific things?

I don’t know.

How could someone sleep at night knowing they’re possibly saying something that could give someone the final nudge off the edge toward ending their life?

I don’t think they realize the seriousness of what they’re doing.

When will the trolls stop?

Probably never. But we can at least all individually stop being trolls. There are always going to be unhappy people filling the world with unhappiness, but we don’t have to participate. I like to publicly post the hurtful things trolls say because it’s a form of healing for me. It takes away their power when I’m the one posting it and framing it in the ridiculous manner that it really should be viewed in and when the audience reading it knows that nothing in it is true because that audience knows me personally not just through the internet.

So don’t be trolls.

And help someone else “shake it off” if they are ever a victim of Internet trolling.

Because the haters are gonna hate. But we can fight back with positivity!

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This is me shaking it off like Taylor Swift.

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A Month of Vlogging Every Day (#SSSVEDA 2015)

VEDA

Have you ever tried doing something every day for a month? Were you successful? If you’re anything like me, you probably have started out with a bang and then after 5 to 10 days, your motivation peters out and you find yourself making excuses for “skipping a day” or “making it up tomorrow.” So on August 1st when I began my “VEDA” challenge (or Vlog Every Day in August), I worried that this would be another disastrous video decision that I wouldn’t be able to follow through on.

Thirty-one days is a long commitment. And I’m a busy person. I had been finding it tough to fit in making one video a week for the past few months, so how was I going to manage one video a day?! And what if I had a bad mental health day? How was I supposed to film and edit a happy or silly video? I also had plenty of plans with friends for the month from a road trip to a waterpark with some girlfriends to a three-day weekend in the mountains camping where I wouldn’t have any internet access. How was I going to make all of these varying circumstances work out?

Miraculously, I survived! And I loved nearly every minute of VEDA! I realized I was letting all the “what if’s” and fears get in the way of doing something I thought would be beneficial. It took a fellow YouTuber (The Josh Speaks) challenging and encouraging me to do VEDA for my own good (not necessarily for my viewers) for me to submit to it. In the end, I think it came out a success for both my personal life and my channel’s status. Yes, I ran into roadblocks. Especially towards the end of the month, when some tragic things happening in my hometown area set off a particular low period for my mental health, but I decided that being honest and making a video was better than not making a video at all or hiding my feelings and making a disingenuous video.

Doing something for a month isn’t going to be easy. There are too many variables that can come up and wreck your “flow.” But I can say with pride that this is the first month-long challenge I’ve undertaken that I actually accomplished on time. I worked around my mid-month camping trip by filming a video every day while in the mountains and then editing and uploading them all when I go back to civilization and an Internet connection. On days when I would be spending time away from home, I filmed whatever activity I was doing that day which in turn made me try to find the fun in whatever I was doing. I also found a better recording time for myself for future video-making—the morning is so much better than after work! I have a lot more energy! And my make-up’s usually on point!

Finally, I really felt like I connected with my audience in a way I hadn’t previously. I always ask for questions and love getting feedback from my viewers and I try to answer as many of their questions as I can. But when you’re making one video a week, if someone asks a question and you’ve gotten ahead and already have the next 3 weeks planned out, it makes me feel less influential in their lives because I can’t answer them as quickly. But with VEDA, I was able to receive questions directly from viewers and then answer their question as soon as the next day. I felt like I could do better banter in comments with viewers and really let them know that I do care! That I want to help them! I also felt like I could devote a day to more specific and possibly less popular topics—something I wouldn’t ordinarily do when each video needs to represent an entire week’s worth of views and “iIMAGINEblank content.” But if someone asked a really specific question like to talk about acne solutions or how to grieve a death, why not answer them here? I had 31 days to fill!

At the end of the month and my daily vlogging journey, I am a little sad. My immediate reaction on September 1st was relief. “Oh! I don’t have to wake up extra early to film a video or figure out how to fit in editing time throughout my day!” But not putting out a video, every day anymore does make my content seem less relevant and lose its immediacy. Now, I’m not suggesting I’m going to start daily vlogging! I might just die! But I feel like it’s worthwhile to recognize that while vlogging every day comes with its stressors and problems, it also has its share of positives—like feeling extremely relative and up to date and in the public eye. However, after a few days, I doubt I’ll have any problem reverting to my old ways of weekly vlogging. For now, I’ve just learned a powerful lesson in my own strength and resilience!

Interested in watching my VEDA Journey? Here’s a playlist to get you started!