Living out of home

A little while ago, my friend approached me and asked me if I wanted to share a house with him and his partner, and after a little bit of thought I agreed to this. It’s always been my ambition to get a job and then move out of home as soon as financially viable, and having gotten said job I figured it was time to leave the nest. Initially I wanted to live on my own so that I could spread out, see what sort of person I was, what routines I formed, what sort of habits I started, what housework I struggled with and so forth. But I realised that living with housemates is even better for helping me see what sort of person I am; it has all those same challenges (except perhaps I have less control over what sort of furniture I use) but with the extra benefit of learning to live with other people and accept their ways of being. Not that living with I and B is difficult mind you, quite the opposite. I get along uproariously well with both of them, and I love them both dearly.

I’ve never spent much time at home, to be honest. Before I moved out, I often felt guilty that I wasn’t spending any time with my Mum apart from a few minutes in the morning before I left for work and an hour or two before I left for training. My schedule, on top of full-time work, included three nights of training a week, and spending Frinight-Sunnight at Bethwyn’s house. In practice, this meant I would only really get Tuesevenings at home, which I would spend catching up on emails and organising things and maybe gaming for an hour or two per week. In a way, I guess this gave Mum a chance to slowly come to terms with the idea of me moving out and spending even less time at home. This has always been my schedule, and with the importance I’ve placed on sleep, I’ve struggled to fit in enough time to pursue my other interests (like blogging, which I’m demonstrating right now). In truth, I barely spend any time at home because training is so important to me. And that little time I do have is desperately valuable.

I am finding it, then, quite an adjustment to living with two friends. I’m not sure if you can relate, but I find it very hard to focus on anything else when I am with people. When I am out with a friend, I stop checking my phone until I’m alone. I find it hard to read a book with a conversation going on nearby (not that I do much reading), and I feel rude walking away from conversations so that I can, say, make my bed and get ready for work in the morning. (By the by, what a bed I have: a Japanese futon!). My carefully balanced time-management has started falling to pieces and I’m finding it very difficult to get ready for work or go to bed at a reasonable hour because my housemates have invited me to watch a movie or spend time with them. And I love them, and I want to cherish the time I spend with them, but I can’t help but be slightly annoyed that the two hours of gaming time I might have between 8:30 and 10:30 is more likely to be an hour because I get caught chatting while I’m doing the dishes, or whatever.

Clearly I have control issues. But with time as precious as it is, I can’t help but feel frustrated that I don’t seem to be able to use it to do many things. I think, living alone, my need for control would spiral out to ridiculous proportions and I would probably start micromanaging my time into 15 minute blocks again, and so it’s good to have my housemates challenge me in this way. I just need to accept it more, to be okay with doing less if it means spending time with my loved ones. Or if I am not enjoying spending time with my loved ones, to have the strength to establish boundaries and say “I love talking to you, and please don’t think me rude, but I would like to sleep soon.” (I would like to especially avoid cutting someone off mid-sentence to stand up and leave the room, but I find it so hard to be assertive and tell them that I’d like to go before it reaches boiling point and I’m late for work, or whatever.)

It’s also taken me a little while to see the house as somewhere restful and restorative. As I may have alluded to already, being around people takes energy and time and attention for me. I can find it exhausting, and I am most restored in my own company (or perhaps with Beth if we’re doing something gentle together). I have found it difficult to create my islands of peace and restoration in the new house without feeling rude and closing my bedroom door. Not that my room has much by way of entertainment – the most enjoyable and restorative thing I do is gaming, and without the internet at my house, this means console gaming. Given that we only have one TV, I find it awkward sharing it; when I’m using it and my housemates come in to watch me play, I feel like perhaps I’m selfishly hogging the set. And when they are using it, I can’t bring myself to ask them to stop so that I can play. Solution? Two TV’s so we can both use them. But I still feel kind of bad about it. (I should probably just talk to them and negotiate TV time like an adult, rather than offloading onto my blog.) Ultimately, I feel a little pressured not to use the TV unless no one’s home and it leaves me with very few ways to do my own thing in my own space. I wonder if it is rude to just close the door to my room when I don’t feel like talking to people. I think it kind of is.

How about you guys? Have you found it easy to live with people? Have you encountered similar issues to me? I’m sure I’m not the first person to struggle with these adaptations.

All my love,

Xin

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Busyness

It is perhaps a tad foolish to be blogging at 10:45 in the evening, when my new resolution for a bedtime is between 10 and 10:30. Since starting my new job, sleep has become priceless to me, and I find that without eight and a half hours of it I become drunken with exhaustion or nauseous with fatigue. Yet write this blog I must in stolen hours just such as these, or else it will never be written.

I have never understood people who claim to be bored. Certainly I have experienced moments where there were things I would rather be doing, but I have never been at a loss for things to do. All of my life I have found things of interest, books to read, games to play, topics to research and so forth which have piled higher and higher beyond my capacity to complete them. Once in high school, fearing the long hours of the break between terms, I wrote a list of things I might like to do on that holiday some 15 items long. I did precisely none of them, so preoccupied was I with the general course of living.

My point is that I have always had many things that I wanted to do, and not very much time to do them in. It was particularly fiendish in high school as I balanced my piano lessons, chorale practice, vocal ensemble rehearsals, school sports, debating, classes and homework with socialising, gaming and my other interests. I had so many obligations that I often scheduled my days into fifteen minute segments, so tightly was I wound.

I find myself in a similar position at the moment. Since the onset of full-time work I am struggling somewhat with managing the rest of my life. I continue to train about three nights a week in karate and taiji, leaving me Tuesnights free for catching up on emails and taking care of online obligations and interests (such as for the Youth Brains Trust alumni that I am part of). Friday I go to Bethwyn’s house for the weekend, where I spend Saturday either working or training, and remnants of Sunday in her esteemed company.

I am certainly not the only one to find myself running short on time. (In fact, I wrote a rather amateur poem about it once.) My counsellor once told me that she works 6.5 days a week, often coming home at 8pm and doing laundry overnight, and that she loved her life. My esteemed friend and teacher seems to spend hours every day researching and sharing articles on politics and martial arts, as well as having a full-time job, two kids and classes to teach. Another good friend of mine works part-time, studies part-time, has a newborn child and a full-time job as a martial artist (involving training twice a day whilst helping to run the dojo). It boggles my mind how such people can fit so many obligations into their lives and still enjoy it. For me, I make daily choices not to wash my hair, release tension in my body or read a book I borrowed months ago. These are all things that I love and are very dear to me. And when I do make the choice to do such things it cuts into my sleeping time, which as I have said is tremendously valuable to me. Do my friends just thrive off coffee and adrenaline? I cannot do the same.

The only conclusion I can reach is that for me to be enjoy the things that I do, I have to do less. Maybe this means training less frequently – I can certainly think of several friends who train once a week. That would afford me an incredible luxury of free evenings. I would like to enjoy baking bread, and writing blogs, and watching Good Game. And the only way I can think of enjoying these things is not to cram more into my too-full days, but to empty my days a little, taking out things I love to replace them with other things that I love or need to nourish myself. It seems a shitty trade-off.

I am too tired to re-read this blog post and see if it makes any kind of sense. I’ve still got a few things to do before I sleep tonight. Alas.

PS: I recall reading this article a few days ago which address this issue, but I’m too tired to read it again now. I think it’s relevant. http://zenhabits.net/pushing/

My journey to my first “real” social work job

So in recent blog post, I alluded to getting a new job. I have to say, it’s been a huge relief to me to find employment as a social worker. I’ve been there for six weeks now (has it been so long?) and it was surprisingly easy to acclimatise; after a few days there I felt like a duck that had taken to water.

Since my placement ended at the end of 2013, my employment status has been an issue of great shame for me. I expected myself to get a job with the hospital straight away, but the earliest advertised position was a few weeks into January 2014. Due to a foolish, foolish oversight, I didn’t check the closing date of the position and I missed it by two days. My placement had been a little rocky anyway, and while I had learned a huge amount about being part of a workplace and getting along with colleagues, for the most part I wasn’t happy there. It was both relieving and deeply shameful for me to know I missed the job.

Still, it opened me up to a whole field of employment opportunities. I made a few applications for social work positions in employment (oh the irony), working with young people (even though I really didn’t want to after my experiences at PICYS) and even at the other hospital I worked at (which was a worse experience by far). In the end though, I was scared of putting in real effort to apply for reasons that I still don’t understand. I guess putting myself on the line and getting rejected, or not hearing anything at all, was terrifying to me. This was contrasted to the shame of not having a social work job, despite the fact I had a degree. I was pretty complacent, enjoying my day (and by jove did I enjoy each and every one of them), working casually at Petbarn and earning a few hundred dollars a week to sustain myself and save a little.

Eventually I started looking at professional development courses that were running because I wanted to get back into the social work mindset. I paid $55 to go to a half-day course on making real connection with people (in the context of building strong rapport), and I met someone who volunteered with the Hearing Voices Network (HVN) to run a support group. After the training, she introduced me to the head of the HVN where I gushed about the great work she was doing and how I wanted to help if I could. Later that week I found myself at a group as a co-facilitator, and I began helping out weekly.

It affirmed for me that mental health is something I’m passionate about, which surprised me. I remember at uni hearing a guest speaker give a detailed account of her son’s experience of schizophrenia, and it seemed nightmarish to me. I was terrified of the (false) idea of being permanently sick in a world of delusion and fear and never having an escape. From that point on, I specifically asked not to be involved in student placements at mental health sites. But when I finally looked at what was really scaring me, I was able to work very hard on my own mental health and it changed my life for the better.

Since then, I made plenty of applications to spread my passion for supporting people when they were not in the best place mentally. It took a few months, and I had two unsuccessful interviews as a “peer support worker” (meaning not a professional, but as a human being with lived experience of mental illness who can relate to people who are mentally ill) and finally one for a “recovery support worker” (a mostly-professional role) with an outreach team. This last one yielded a full-time job for me, and there are no words for the gratitude I have for receiving the opportunity.

I still have days of anxiety, sometimes many in a row, where I constantly question whether I’m suited for the role. But then again, I also constantly question whether being a parrot would be any easier (in the sense that I constantly look for alternative jobs and then stress out because I wouldn’t enjoy being a baker, or whatever). For the most part, I really love driving to people’s houses and engaging with them in a way that, I hope, improves their lives. It really is everything I was hoping for from a mental health job, and the drives between people’s houses gives me a safe time and space to ground, unwind, relax and check in with myself throughout the day. I seem to be doing pretty well at the moment (plus, I get a work car and free petrol!), and I hope my colleagues think likewise. I am learning so much about myself and growing each and every day into a more competent and capable person.

I’d better stop there, but another quick announcement on the back of this one…

Got a house with two friends. Picking up the keys today. Holy shit right?

A letter to my high school self

I think that there’s some kind of meme going around for giving advice to your high school self. I’ve written letters to future versions of myself, and but it’s been a long time since I’ve considered retrospective advice. So to my high school self, specifically my Year 8 self, I say this.


Man, high school can be a really hard place to be. You’re forced to spend time with people who don’t understand you, who you might not connect with, and who certainly don’t appreciate your attempts at poetry. (To be frank, your poetry is clumsy, but your heart is in the right place. If you practice who knows what will happen?) You’re more mature than most of the people around you, and they tease you because you’re different. It’s hard, I know, I’ve been there.

But by jove it gets better. People who are massive jerks to you right now will one day get down on one knee and ask for your forgiveness. They will grow up to be brave, mature young men who love their families and work hard at their jobs. Some of them will be assholes as long as you know them (or at least, as long as I’ve known them, 8 years down the track).

On that note, make more friends. It’s worth it. Share your life with people, go out of your way to spend time with them. Ask people how they are and for God’s sake care about the answer. I know it’s hard for you to connect with people, but it doesn’t mean you can’t try, and you’ll be so surprised as the results. There are so many good men in your life that are worth knowing and loving. But also don’t be too bummed if you drift away from some of them, because you end up having a lot of good friends and companions anyway.

Speaking of friends, spend a little less time around Raiden and a little more time with everyone else. I know his approval means a lot to you, but loving and approving yourself will be much more valuable in the long run. In fact, I really encourage you to start writing affirmations and getting some positive inner-dialogue happening as early as you can. It will really make a difference to how you see yourself, and what you feel you’re capable of.

When things are super tough, and pay close attention to this one, remember that you are not alone. It may feel like no one can understand the tortured anguish of your soul, but people seriously do. In fact, there are people who are kind of paid to understand what you’re going through, and it’s so so healthy to talk to them and share your experiences. Seriously. I cannot stress enough how easy it is to reach out to someone and make your life easier.

Well little dude, that’s all the advice I have for you right now. But if you only remember one thing from my letter, let it be this: the greatest gift you can give others is to be yourself, your true self. You’ll light up people’s lives, and you’ll know happiness like you’ve never dreamed. Oh and be grateful for as much as you can as often as you can, that’s like super important. Peace out.

-X

Walking a different path

Even though my heart is pounding, and my thoughts keep being drawn towards a scary and difficult imagined future, and I find it hard to care about anything other than how I feel… Today I am going to be kind to people, to make an effort to shine love and energy from my heart to theirs. I am going to take a stand in time and say to my anxiety, “Thank you for letting me know you’re there, but I am going to walk a different path today.” It might feel impossibly hard at times, but it’s so, so worth it.