Fear and the Couch Potato

Have you ever played an unfortunate game with your friends or significant other called “what do you want to do?” In this game, you go back and forth saying “I dunno” because you a) really don’t care, b) want the other person to choose because it’s easier, c) are afraid of voicing your weird choice or d) (some reason that I have not thought about yet). The game ends when someone gets exasperated and makes a choice or you both end up staying home.

I mention this game as an example of how difficult it can sometimes be to know what you want to do. It should be a simple question with a simple answer, but it gets complicated. Emotions get in the way. Old beliefs get in the way.

Since I have learned to be more aware of fear (thank you, life coach Noe Khalfa), I have been able to see how it can obscure what I want to do. First, I get scared – this morning I didn’t do the dishes because I was irrationally afraid that this would somehow make me a housewife. Then, I can’t figure out what I want to do – which scares me further. I envision myself becoming a couch potato because I can’t figure out what I want to do.

It’s a cycle.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to break it.

Yesterday I had some success with a simple fear. I am afraid of riding my bike by myself. With others, I am a fearless biker and happy to lead the pack. But I don’t like riding on city streets (even in Seattle) without someone else to watch my back. Instead of staying home (and inching closer to couch potato status), I went for a bike ride anyway. My whole day was improved by going on that bike ride.

Yesterday was like vacation. I felt pretty good!

Today I feel like I need to get to work .That is a bit silly, since I have only had a four day weekend so far (not a long vacation by any standard). But I think that is what is making it difficult for me to figure out what I want to do. My wants are clouded by my belief that productivity is essential to every day. I have a hard time when my boyfriend asks what I did that day and the answer is ‘nothing’. I need to have a list of accomplishments. But I want to be able to relax and follow my heart. My belief in productivity makes this difficult.

The irony is that I’m so scared of not being productive that it makes me a couch potato (but a stressed one). I am so scared of not being productive, that when I ask myself what I want to do, the answer becomes “nothing.” So I do nothing, but I’m stressed about it.

Either way, it seems I need to overcome my obsession with productivity in order to follow my new direction (doing what I truly want).

Changing Direction (again)

Once again, knkelley.com is changing in parallel with the changes in my life. A few months ago, I tried to write about projects that I was trying to do outside of work in order to find my true calling. Work unexpectedly took over my life and I was forced to abandon my projects. Now I have abandoned work (i.e. I quit) and I am prepared to be totally consumed by projects! This is where I plan to document my adventures, projects and discoveries about myself.

One reason I’m doing this is because I love to write. It’s a compulsion that I have been trying to squelch for too long (in favor of a practical and financially stable engineering career).

Another reason is to show potential employers that I did more than lie on the couch, watch Netflix and send out resumes.

But the main reason is to keep me honest. I have one major goal during my time of unemployment. It is to pursue what I want to do. This notion means a lot to me because I have spent my life until now pursing what I could do. Planes and spaceships are cool; I could be an aerospace engineer. I could be practical and financially sound for the rest of my life if I get a degree in engineering. These are my past thoughts. Oddly enough, I never asked myself what I wanted to do. I never thought about what work would be so interesting that I would want to do it for the rest of my life. Now I’ve decided to think about it and doggedly pursue what I want.

The thing is… I’m not sure what that is yet.

Rationally, I’ve tried to piece together what job would “check all my boxes” (as my dad likes to say). My boxes, or requirements, would be flexible workdays, travel, some sort of writing involved etc. I have come up with some ideas, but I’m not pursing them doggedly. Why? Because they are ideas for jobs that I could do. My mind has a hard time thinking past what qualifications do I have? Is it in the right city? The ideas that my mind comes up with are limited by these restrictions. Plus, I don’t feel excited about the ideas that I come up with.

For example, I have thought that technical writing would be amazing. I have a background in engineering. I can write. I may be able to telecommute. I could travel. I like defining processes. But no matter how hard my head works to sell this, my heart isn’t in it. I like it; I could do it, but I don’t want it. I don’t want to be a technical writer badly enough to succeed at becoming one.

So I’m taking the (rather extreme – for me -) step of letting my desires guide me. Do I want to spend all day in the library? If the answer is yes, I will. If I end up wandering down the fashion section and finding it fascinating, I’ll read it. While I’m not sure what the destination will be, this method makes the direction clear.

Let me explain – in this exact moment, I can tell you what I want to do. I want to finish this blog post and go for a walk. It’s simple and clear. Do I know what I’ll do after the walk? No, I have no clue. The destination is a mystery. This method is in sharp contract to the way I’ve lived my life to this point – which is, find the destination (the analytically perfect job) and stubbornly stick to the course despite all obstacles. The issue is, if I pick the wrong destination, I’m screwed. This is what I’m realizing now (after four years of college & three years of working). It makes selecting the “right” job stressful and does not allow for changing life conditions. It all hinges on making one analytical choice correctly, which leads to a lot of spinning in my head. Was this right? Is there a better choice? Should I change my boxes?

It’s a lot simpler to just trust that I can follow my desires to an appropriate end destination. It’s not necessarily easier for me. I have to trust my gut as much as my head. I have to live without the compulsive planning that I typically do. It’s not easy…so that’s the main reason that I’m keeping this blog – to hold myself accountable to following my heart instead of my head.

I hope that some readers will enjoy taking this journey with me.

Kaitlyn