As August began, I found myself wondering where this year had gone. It still felt as if it was only just starting! How were we already almost ⅔ of the way through?! And then I brushed that thought away because there were like a gazillion memes to back up my disbelief. We’re all wondering the same thing.
But then, last night, I came across a picture from January on my phone. My mind exploded a little bit, because it hit me just how long ago January actually was. My brain had a hard time taking stock of all that has happened so far this year- I’ve left jobs, started jobs, and then left more jobs, changed my hair, gained weight, lost weight, started this project, bounced from state to state…. so how could my consciousness have rejected all that passing of time that has been going on? How has it held fast to this idea of… new beginnings? Of fresh opportunity? That I had plenty of time to do right by 2018?
Because that, my loves, is how we approach our lives.
We don’t act because we think we have so much time- not just left in this year, but left on this earth.
So we don’t take chances. We don’t start before we feel like we’re totally ready. We don’t approach life with a sense of hunger and urgency.
The way I was viewing the New Year, and every New Year that has come before it, has been a little blind. And that’s okay! I know I’m not alone in this false sense of security that we don’t have to take action right away. Because taking action is not only daunting but also, yeah, really tough. It takes time and effort and energy.
So what is it that keeps us dreaming of a better future and hoping for these goals of ours to become a reality?
Dissatisfaction. We feel it, we want to change it, but then we don’t take the final step and allow it to motivate us.
When I first moved to Nashville, I haaated my job. But then I found a little morsel of advice in a book called 101 Secrets for Your Twenties. Paul Angone said that dissatisfaction isn’t always such a bad thing. In my own loose and condensed interpretation, it urged me to harness the pent-up, frustrated energy of dissatisfaction at my job and turn it into positive action. It also highlighted the dangers of complacency– settling for less because it’s just comfortable enough. I really held tight to that idea for a long time. Cause if you really ain’t happy, you’re gonna try real hard to change that, aren’t you?!
Then I changed jobs- and things got better! I liked my job and work environment way more. WAY more. Almost… too much more. You know where I’m going with this?
Once I got dissatisfied at that job, because the schedule was grueling, I forgot how to let that dissatisfaction motivate me. I let it get the best of me.
So then I changed jobs again… to an even more comfortable situation. Not the job itself, I didn’t like that at all! But the lifestyle… that was another story.
The rhythm of waking up at a reasonable time, getting a peaceful morning routine down, wearing cute office clothes, a ridiculously quick commute to work, meeting tons of new girl friends my age- I felt like such a normal human! I was settling into a routine. And I was getting NOTHING done. All of my personal projects and goals were falling by the wayside. And on the other hand, the job itself was eating away at me. My personality did not fit in the company culture, the tasks weren’t anything I found stimulating, and the goals of the company weren’t in line with my interests or values. This career change was a confusing amalgamation of comfort and discomfort. That’s when I realized this wasn’t the type of job “dissatisfaction” that was going to be motivating- it was just dragging me back.
So I quit to just go barback at a brewery.
The key to harnessing the power of dissatisfaction is that you have to find the balance. Of course there’s a threshold for how much you can take. If you’re morally compromised, if your work environment is abusive, if you feel like it’s changing you as a person, that is not the kind of discomfort in the workplace that I’m talking about. Rather, it’s about recognizing that you want more than your current situation. It’s not about getting so beaten down that you can’t muster the energy to keep fighting. I think a lot of us in our twenties have been told by the older generations that we should put our noses to the grindstone and simply pay our dues, that that is the key to career success. But in modern corporate culture, that tactic doesn’t work anymore- we have to carve a new path.
Then, on the other hand, we have our lofty millennial ideals of finding a job that perfectly matches our goals and passions- and it can be so disheartening to realize that’s not something we can just dream into existence. We have to find a way to work towards it and, sometimes, create it out of thin air for ourselves.
And that, my loves, is where dissatisfaction comes in as your survival tool. While you work in the background to make your goals a reality, don’t let the grind get you down. Let it motivate you. Let it empower you.
When I first starting thinking about dissatisfaction in a new way, two years ago, I would sometimes stop myself mid-task at work and deliberately re-route my inner dialogue. Instead of letting that little voice complaining inside my head ruin my day, I would shake my head and smile to myself, thinking I’ve got some work to do when I get home then, huh?
It made the work day bearable. It gave me a better attitude towards coworkers and clients, which in turn gave me a kinder, happier mental space to spend the workday.
So how will I use that now?
I won’t have weekends off anymore, I’ll be working some pretty late nights, I’ll have a different schedule than all of my friends. I don’t even know if I’ll be making enough money yet.
What I DO know, however, is that I’ve gotten more work done for myself in these past two weeks than I have in the past two months. I am just uncomfortable enough to have a fire lit under my ass but not uncomfortable with my identity within the company culture.
In the year since I had been away from that first job in Nashville, I had forgotten what it felt like to fight for the things I really wanted. And you know what? I TOTALLY could have found a way to get my work done at those other jobs, too. I acknowledge that. I know that I’m not physically or mentally healthy enough right now, though, to exercise the kind of self discipline that would require. In some ways, I’m forcing my own hand a little bit here to prioritize what I want to do with my free time.
When I first got back from vacation, I had a big ol’ moment of panic. Was I completely nuts for shaking everything up once again? And for what? A blog that people don’t even read?
And that week, I had two people tell me that my words had made a difference for them.
That’s all I need. If I can make even just one of you feel understood, or accompanied on your own journey- or even if I managed, somehow, to inspire. Well, then, I did my job.
To top it all off, I found a little excerpt from the notes I would jot down in my phone for myself when I first got to this crazy city. I needed to write them down. They reminded me why I make the choices that I do:
“Here’s the thing. If I feel satisfied, that also means that I’m feeling somewhat complacent. And if I feel complacent, I won’t absolutely feel like I’ve got to get my ass in gear to make changes that WILL make me happy. “Why mess with a good thing”, isn’t that the saying? So, in the end, dissatisfaction is a blessing in disguise.
Dissatisfaction serves as a reminder that I am still passionate about things, even if those things are not what I am currently doing for the majority of my day. I am still engaged in labors of love. There is still positive and inspiring work for me to do. It reminds me that it would be a damn privilege to get to call what I love to do “work”, so I had better go the extra mile in order to get there.
Dissatisfaction reminds me that I still have the desire for and belief that a better life is attainable. Dissatisfaction tells me that I have not given in to grief and depression. Dissatisfaction is proof that I haven’t given up.”