As much as my drive to work can be a magical time to think and start unpacking my mind for the day, leading to epiphanies at 5 am, the drive home can be a miserable two-hour period where I end up ruminating on my life choices. It's then, stuck in traffic and moving along slower than the proverbial snail or tortoise, that I'm left with little more than myself for company and frustration to seep in. Keeping a positive mental train of thought can become a challenge.
You see, I've suffered from anxiety and depression since I was a teenager. My father was an abusive alcoholic and my mother frequently absent from the home while working or attending night classes. It's left me with the scars of a childhood that wasn't, the flares of anxiety fueled by dubious self-worth, and fits of melancholia befitting any stereotypical artist. I know this about myself and I am usually good about catching my down sliding moods and reminding myself that the thoughts are not good and likely not true.
Over the past six months, I've learned that one of the better ways to improve my spirits is to listen to something I enjoy. Music has long been a staple, but I've come to realize that hearing conversation, laughter, the enjoyment of something shared and passionate can be even better. To my repertoire of things to listen to on my long commutes I've added podcasts, YouTube clips, and come to enjoy catching up on Critical Role on Friday afternoons or just letting my cares drift away while The Waffle Crew narrowly escapes a TPK. It's definitely helped.
Where's this going?
Some of you may have noticed that I have not posted a Project Management blog entry in a couple weeks. It's not that ideas have dried up; I've kept a running list of things to post and still have half a dozen available. It's not that I've had the kind of writer's block where I sit down in front of my laptop and just can't think of what to type. Rather, it's been the realization that I'm in a slump and not wanting to go in the direction I had been traveling.
I opened MWStephens.com with the idea that I would become a freelance/consulting project manager in my spare time and supplement my income through the age-old side hustle. I enjoy being a project manager and I love the idea of sharing that joy with others, but I've allowed that joy to be hidden and buried.
Today, while driving home from work and listening to the fantastic Patrick Rothfus talk about his work, I finalized a decision I've been mulling over.
I don't want to just be a project manager. I do not want to sit in some corporate office helping some government or commercial entity achieve success over something I am not passionate about. I want to, instead, take a role in life that I enjoy and that brings real happiness to others. I want to be part of making others smile the way that those in the literature and gaming industry have made me smile; I want to facilitate laughter and good memories.
Not Giving In
All too often we humans set aside our dreams out of fear. Yes, others have succeeded, but surely, they had something we did not. Surely those heroes had something that allowed them a measure of success beyond any we would achieve on our own. They don't struggle with our problems; they don't come from the impoverished background that we do. Whatever the words, these are the excuses that we shackle ourselves with, dragging ourselves down rather than allowing our spirits to soar.
This is where I begin to love social media and the digital age. Now I can see that I'm not alone in these struggles. I can witness Matt Mercer's struggles with sciatica and know that my back pain won't keep me from succeeding or cause people to hate me. I can bear witness to Patrick Rothfus's tweets of insecurity and anxiety and know that these, too, need not be anchors for me. I can read Liam O'Brien's political outrage and know that even the famous can feel downtrodden. I can watch Marisha Ray be awkward, or Sam Riegel be nervous about GMing. I can even read about John Scalzi's adventures with pie, ice cream, cats, dogs, and college-age children and know that even those I look up to have similar mundane challenges in their lives.
My husband and I have discussed our desires to build games, to finish novels. Largely I've put aside those dreams to follow the path of responsibility. Watching the struggles of my heroes though has shown me that the two do not have to be divorced of one another. I can still seek to have what I love.
For all those role models that I've mentioned and more, thank you for being so open with your fans. Thank you for shining a light on your flaws and not just holding up your assets to the light. Thank you for giving me courage and hope to go after something that I can be proud of.
I'm not quitting my day job, in case you were curious. I have obligations and I won't fail to meet them. However, my husband and I are starting to work on some FATE supplements that we will be releasing to build our game design portfolio. I'm writing on a more regular basis with the desire to release my work and maybe one day have a book deal. Who knows?
Whatever comes, it will be about having fun and not just about the money that could be had. And even if I'm never on the best seller list... I'm ok knowing that my extra time has gone to produce a product that others enjoy and want, instead of adding someone else's stress to my life in exchange for some money.
Matt, Patrick, Liam, Marisha, John and all the others that have made my life better: I run a bi-weekly Chronicles of Darkness campaign via Discord and Roll20. There's always a chair open for you.