I often say that I’m only happy when I’m stressed. Which is funny since an overabundance of stress kinda broke me once. But when it comes to my own projects and self-imposed deadlines, I am at my best when I am overscheduled. At least that’s what I tell myself.
The other day, though, I realized that it’s more than that. While I do like to keep reasonably busy with my projects and sometimes I do overschedule myself because in moments of productive optimism I forget myself, I think I also end up doing so many projects at once to justify my existence.
Allow me to elaborate.
I have -both by accident and by design- foregone a traditional adult life. I never wanted one and eventually finagled myself out of it. As such, I haven’t worked a full-time job since 2011 (I hated that gig). Even when I was working three jobs, I was still technically only working part-time. I have come to realize that I am very much like my Great-Uncle Junior: I am a working fiend when I work, but I don’t want to work anymore than I have to.
Which is fine. But that capitalistic narrative that’s been instilled in me since childhood that I was supposed to graduate high school, go to college, get a “good” job, get married, have kids, hit my mid-life crisis, get divorced, get re-married, and have my second family is still pretty ingrained despite all of my work at deprogramming myself. I feel compelled to prove that I’m not a waste of DNA and to justify my continued existence by throwing myself into my other work.
I worked full-time until I went to college the third time. I was between jobs when I started that last go ’round and when I finally got a new job, I only worked part-time because I was going to school. When I failed to go back because all I had left was math and science and I needed to bone up on my algebra before I took the placement test and I was going to take a semester off to prepare for that and I didn’t prepare for that and therefore, didn’t go back, I kept working part-time. I was returning to writing in earnest, I said. And I did. And when I inevitably walked out of that gig and got myself blacklisted from every being hired at Wal-Mart again (when I burn a bridge…), I was still committed to writing, even though I wasn’t really making any money off of it.
Fifteen years later, and I’m still playing that same song. Yes, I’m only working at the library part-time, but I’ve got multiple Patreon projects, podcasting projects, and writing projects going on, too. I’m not some lazy layabout. I’m working, I just don’t get paid for a lot of it. (Yet. One day.) It doesn’t help working with people who seem baffled that I could have anything else going on in my life considering I only work part-time and I’m not married and I don’t have kids. What do you mean you’re busy?
Believe me, I am very pressed.
The thing is that on a very conscious level, I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation for how I’ve constructed my life. It’s my business how I live and as long as I’m fine with it and it’s legal and (somewhat) moral, then you should be fine with that, too.
But on another level, I cannot escape the perceived judgment of society glaring at me like Sauron’s eye. It’s a guilt that I shouldn’t have, but that I still struggle to escape.
Maybe one day I’ll chuck it all into Mt. Doom.