When I was sixteen months old, according to my mom, I still wasn’t walking. I’d pull myself up on furniture and crawl around, but I wasn’t using my feet for anything–which, considering how many tiny shoes I’ve seen in my boxes of baby stuff, was probably pretty vexing.
Concerned, Mom took me to the doctor. After a short period of observation, she says that the pediatrician turned to her and said, “She’s perfectly capable of walking. She’s just not going to do it until she can do it perfectly. She’ll probably be like that her entire life.”
So yeah, I guess you could call me a perfectionist.
I graduated from high school summa cum laude–and never got so much as a detention. I got accepted to my first-choice college with a full ride. I passed all my classes, did several internships, graduated cum laude in four years, and secured a job two months before leaving school.
Well, I thought I secured a job. Turns out, due to circumstances I won’t go into here, not so much.
I didn’t write all that to imply that the world owes me a job, although the idea that everyone deserves the means by which to procure food and shelter is not a new one (and, in fact, is one gaining traction in Switzerland as we speak). I just mean that, well, this is kind of the first time my life has gone off script–and I don’t like it.
I’m glad you’re calm, George, because your life gives me anxiety.
I like having a plan. I’m boggled by the idea that George R. R. Martin doesn’t outline his epic novels before writing them, describing himself as a “gardener” rather than an “architect”. Even if the job I had wasn’t necessarily my dream job, it was still something to build on. Now I’ve got nothing, and I’m not happy about it.
Some people, like George, like to let things happen naturally. I say if that had been cavemen’s philosophy, we never would have invented the wheel. Sometimes, you gotta take what nature gave you and make a circle out of it so your oxen can pull you to market. Or something.
Even though I know I’ll probably end up getting another job (and not, say, living in a van by the river), it’s hard not to feel shaken by this first of many hiccups. Relationships, cooking, public speaking–I’ve felt insecure about my abilities in all those areas before, but never about anything that had to do with my mind or my work ethic. So what’s a girl to do?
Well, I started by coming back here. Sometime in the past year (wow, sorry, it’s been a while, folks) I reverted back to perfectionism and forgot how to be okay with just… okay. Here’s the best way I know how to get back there from “sucky”.
What is not sucking? In the world of recovery from personal or professional Sudden Onset Suckishness (or SOS), not sucking is defined as getting back to business, full stop, no conditions. You can do it kicking and screaming, but you have to do it.
1. Don’t fear rock bottom. When I got home from my last day of work, I told my roommate I was out of a job and proceeded to cry so hard for so long that I choked on my own snot. That was my low point this time. My other Rock Bottom Greatest Hits have included:
- the time I stayed up all night watching Parks and Recreation and drinking an entire bottle of rosé after a bad breakup
- falling out of bed after a different bad breakup and staying on the floor, in my blanket burrito, for three hours
- skipping class and driving out of state for a day to avoid a difficult conversation with a friend (we’re good now–sorry, Ira)
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Rock bottom is awful, but sometimes you have to live there for a little while. Think of yourself like an air hockey puck: you have to hit a wall before you can go in a new direction.
2. Make an “eff you” playlist. Mine is here. Fill yours with songs whose lyrics, genre or style fill you with enough spite to live another day.
3. Be careful how you vent. You don’t want to go on social media and diss your ex-lover/friend/employer to the whole world. Even if you’re in the right, airing your dirty laundry can make you look whiny rather than righteous. I’m a big proponent of complaining–recent studies have shown that talking about your problems can improve your mental health–but if you’re looking to have a job, a friend or a date ever again, you may want to avoid publicly ranting about how you’ve been wronged.
Some of the above advice goes out the window in certain cases. If you’ve been victimized, wrongfully terminated or discriminated against, get a lawyer and go after those other buckets. However, still tread carefully when it comes to public denouncements. Depending on laws in your state, discussing details of your case could jeopardize your chances of winning.
4. Analyze. This is my favorite part. What, if anything, did you do to contribute to the situation that you’re in? What, if anything, did others do to contribute to the situation that you’re in? (The answer could be nothing, but make sure to approach it from all angles.) What can you do differently next time, and where can you go from here? Don’t spend too much time on this, because take it from me, you’ll lose your mind, but try and get some rudimentary answers before you move on.
5. Gather cheerleaders. Call your friends, call your mom, call your dog (not on the phone,
Fifi is so excited for you! Photo credit: G.W. Little.
by their name. Does your dog have a phone?!) and get them on your team. Let them know that you’re going to need support. The ones who really love you will give it to you.
6. Take baby steps. (See what I did there?) Let yourself be proud of the things you accomplish, no matter how insignificant they may seem from the outside. Big tasks, like getting a job or getting over your ex, only seem daunting when you look at them as one thing. Try thinking of them as lots of things you can do over time. If you want to share your little wins with me, come talk to me on Twitter. We can be okay together.
You’re always okay by me, you guys. If you want to gush about office supplies, rant about pockets in women’s clothing or complain about… well, just about anything, hit me up on Twitter. Make sure to like this page on Facebook, too!