Not Human

Most days it makes me feel better to pretend I’m not a human being. I don’t feel like one most of the time. I’m just some strange type of yet-to-be-documented animal. When I think about life through this lens, it makes it a little easier to get through the day. I feel like I don’t have to be so hard on myself for not being what I’m “supposed” to be. In fact, it makes me feel pretty proud of myself that I’m able to blend in so well, given I’m a totally different, alien species.

When I start to feel depressed and inadequate for not having some kind of grand inner direction or drive toward a specific personal goal, I ask myself, what is my dog’s “goal in life”? Does my cat have some secret grand ambitions she works towards tirelessly every day? Well… to be honest she actually might, at least in the summer when she can go outside and try to catch the birds around my neighbor’s feeder. Even so, that’s at best, a short-term goal. She’s not trying to start a bird catcher company or achieve world-wide recognition for her hunting skills.

The human world makes it seem so obvious and natural to have some kind of “mission” in life. For as long as I can remember people have been asking me what I want to do or what my goals are. As if it’s just a given that I have these external desires to aim for. I’ve always felt like there was something wrong with me for not wanting anything like that. I’ve never been a very ambitious person. I just want to be happy and enjoy what I have, like my precious pup as she snoozes most of the day away as usual. I spend most of the energy I could perhaps use to inspire me to do something just trying to blend in with the “normal” people all around me. I don’t have the mental capacity to also be contriving some business or magnum opus.

It feels inherently shameful to be idle as a human. It’s like something is forever being expected of me. But being a random creature, such as myself, I don’t have to be weighed down by societies expectations. However I exist in the world by default is perfectly correct and enough. It doesn’t make me bad to not “achieve” anything in life. In fact, it’s bizarre that was ever the standard set by humans. Human beings have always been the weird, unnatural outliers of the animal kingdom. It’s not that I don’t fit in, I just fit in better with the majority of mammals more than people.

It’s hard work to be part chameleon and pretend to be so different than who I am every day. And it’s perfectly understandable that it takes up all of my excess energy. Sometimes others will say, just don’t pretend then, be yourself! As if this would make life easier. They don’t understand that, unfortunately, for me “being myself” would literally not allow me to survive. “Being myself” would be not pretending to be polite and make small talk with people. It would be not going to work and just vibing all day. It would be my complete and utter demise. I would be broke and completely isolated from everyone else. It’s a lot of work to pretend, but I’ve got to do it. However, as long as I remember that I am just pretending and I don’t have to live up to the world’s idea of a person inside my own inner mind and soul, then it isn’t so bad.

When I think of life in this way, it’s a lot more fun to be me. I get to feel sneaky and silly for how well I’m able to trick the humans into thinking I’m one of them. I get to just exist in my free time without pressuring myself to do more without a looming sense of guilt. I don’t have to feel bad for being incapable of understanding the vast majority of the population and their motivations/interests. I can just marvel at the insanity and take my little notes so I can try to keep assimilating better. It’s quite exciting and enjoyable to be whatever I am in a society of strange things called humans. I highly recommend it for anyone else that feels like they’ll never be able to live up to what they’re “supposed” to be.

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Lifestyle Vloggers

One of my favorite things to watch online are lifestyle vloggers. But it can be hard to find a good pool of content, given I am only interested in the vegan ones. Even so, I never get tired of watching them. There is just something so immensely soothing about watching the picture perfect life of someone else. It feels inspiring and motivational, but also comforting, as if I’m spending time with a close friend.

There homes are always so bright and beautiful. There plants are all huge and healthy. White linen, candles, big open windows, picnics, fresh healthy food, and tender moments between partners. It all just makes me want to sigh and keep watching forever. To lose myself in this postcard existence of another. Until… it starts to become overwhelming.

There is a certain point I always reach, where I just start comparing my life to theirs’ and feeling bad about myself. Strangely enough, it usually isn’t because of the aesthetic differences. I’ve never cared much for having money or an extravagantly decorated home. My crumbly little cave is quite good enough for me. (Although, I do wish I had the time and energy to keep it spotless like them.) No, what really starts to make me feel down is their seemingly superior ability to maintain a productive work schedule, to work for themselves, edit and upload videos, and make progress towards their career goals.

One of the most frustrating parts for me is the confusion. Why can’t I do that too? It’s not like I am unable to keep routines or stick to a schedule. My routines and schedules just happen to not be very useful or productive in the long run. All of my hobbies and habits are small and focused on the moment. It is unimaginable for me to set big, long-term goals for myself that I can work towards incrementally in those same hours I allot to more frivolous pursuits consistently.

It’s partly about not knowing where to even begin setting up something like that, but it’s also my fear of commitment to any one interest. If I do something that can be completed in an hour or two, I have a reasonable expectation that I’ll be able to maintain interest. However, if I begin a project that will take a month, or a year, I am second guessing myself the whole time. Is this really worthwhile to me? Will I be able to make it to the end result? What if I lose my drive and I’ve ended up wasting a huge chunk of my life on something that was never even finished? With me, losing that initial motivation and interest just seems inevitable. It feels pointless to even begin.

The more I learn about myself and my mental health, the more I think this has less to do with personal failures and more to do with ADHD. Still, that doesn’t make me feel much better or less frustrated. Am I really just incapable of completing big projects and reaching more lofty goals? It sure feels like that’s the case. Maybe if I keep trying and allow myself to fail, I’ll learn more about myself and be able to find a way that works for me eventually.

Until then, I’m just going to keep gaining that feeling of fulfillment and contentment vicariously through watching others live their best lives. Sometimes it feels like that’s all I’ll ever be able to do. But either way, I’m grateful for their content and the warm, fuzzy, inspired feelings they give me.

The Search for Novelty

In my endless, possibly misguided quest, to diagnose my own mental ailments, I’ve now stumbled into the realm of ADHD Pinterest. Although it’s difficult to distinguish between autism and ADHD symptoms because many are so similar and often these two overlap or co-occur. As it stands right now, I honestly think I have both. If I could afford it or even had access to a mental evaluation I’d love to have one done. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with internet memes to diagnose myself with for the time being.

Anyway, my newfound knowledge about ADHD has helped me realize my brain’s need for novelty. I can be completely engrossed in a new hobby or interest at first. I could spent every hour of every day learning about it or practicing it, but then without fail, I lose all interest after the initial magic of the “shiny new toy” wears off. This used to cause me a considerable amount of distress. I felt like a failure, unable to stick with anything for any significant amount of time. I would avoid committing to things even if I was obsessed because I knew that feeling would inevitably wear off and I would abandon whatever project or goal I had set. Then I would spent months feeling anxious and guilty about quitting.

Now that I know doing new things, or doing old things in a new and interesting way is what keeps me focused, I have a better chance of keeping myself happy and engaged in the tasks I want to perform or the goals I set for myself. It’s no easy feat to come up with ways to keep changing up my routine though. My autistic traits make me crave consistency, which is at odds with the need for novelty. I get very anxious at the idea of changing up a habit, even once it has become tedious and unpleasant. It takes a lot of mental effort to think of how I can alter my routines in a way that is small enough so it doesn’t overwhelm me with anxiety, but big enough to help me maintain interest.

So far, I’ve only seemed to make progress with this in the realm of my physical fitness. After over a decade of working out, I can get really frustrated and bored doing the same things every day, even if they are always a somewhat different HIIT workout. The one thing that I’ve found to help me stay motivated and excited to workout is having a clear goal in mind. Now before this, while my workouts would change periodically, my goal was always the same: lose weight and/or build muscle. These goals were far too vague and also, for me personally, deeply frustrating and unsatisfying as no matter how hard I try, I can never seem to do either of them to any noticeable degree.

If you’re someone like me who may have ADHD and/or someone who just has trouble staying interested in a regular workout routine, I would suggest picking a goal more fun and specific than losing weight. Something that you can measure without risking tipping over the edge into unhealthy body image and eating habits as I have in the past. Lately when I workout, I try to work towards gaining a new ability through my physical fitness journey. For instance, I want to be able to do a handstand one day in my yoga practice. There are a plethora of exercises I can incorporate into my workouts to build up the necessary strength and balance to achieve that. Doing a handstand is a goal that is fun and feels worthwhile for it’s own sake.

Another goal I’ve had since I found out about the exercise, is being able to do a pistol squat. Essentially this is lowering down into an extremely deep, low squat with only one leg, then raising yourself back up into a standing position. I really never thought I would be able to do that, but for a few months, I’ve added in a lot of pistol squat prep exercises into my weekly leg workout. Today, I am proud to say, I managed to do three sets of six reps of pistol squats on each leg! I was so overwhelmed with happiness. It’s the first time I’ve had that much fun in my morning workout for awhile. They may not have been perfect, but I can’t wait to get better and better at them.

At least as far as physical fitness goes, this strategy seems able to provide an endless supply of novelty. I can keep building on my physical ability more and more over time. Once I’m able to hold a handstand with a wall behind me in case I fall, I’ll work on doing it without a wall, then I’ll work on lifting up into a handstand, then handstand pushups, then handstand to crow pose, etc. I can’t wait to see what this body of mine may be capable of one day. Now if I can only find a way to implement this same principle of finding consistent novelty into my other passions and pursuits. Let me know if you have any ideas or suggests or if you struggle with this quest for novelty as well.

Fixation to Exhaustion

Swooning sensation
of new aspirations
is quickly stamped out
by self doubt slowly rising
from subconscious to surface

All energy is exhausted
in efforts to extinguish
the inward agony of
not being worthy enough
for your own endeavors

The thought itself becomes tainted
with terrible ties to negative self-talk
until all you can do is turn away
from once cherished dreams
all together

The heaviness of this heartache
is enough to halt everything
even the hopes inside your own head
that you've harbored
to help you hold on   

Great Expectations

There is a sense of safety in youth
the assurance that we still have time
a comforting concept that assuages
all fear in the slow crawl forward

As the years pile up, we watch
that comfortable cushion evaporate
and wonder if we've been wasteful
with our share of great potential

Our failures sting more sharply
and stagnation stifles minds
once lauded as brilliant and unique
grasping backwards for lost luster

The first half of life is spent in ascent
I was not prepared for the plateau
peering ahead with hesitant eyes
anxious anticipation for the inevitable fall

Without regular praise from superiors
small stores of artificial self-esteem
shrivel in the severity of the sun
it's time to learn to water ourselves

There is no time limit on success
nothing is wasted in our thwarted attempts
this season of life is not yet over
seeds can still be sown 

Bored Without Work

I don’t know what to say to people that proclaim they would be “bored” if they didn’t have to work every day. I have to believe that I am just misunderstanding them somehow. They couldn’t possibly genuinely be saying that they are that empty, boring, and directionless as human beings. What do you MEAN you would be bored? I don’t think they grasp what that statement insinuates.

To me, when someone says they’d be bored if they never had to work again, it breaks my heart. Do they realize that means they have no personal motivation or interests to pursue? They really believe their heads are so empty that without someone else beating their back with a whip, they wouldn’t know how to move forward? They have no goals other than the ones set for them? I can’t imagine a sadder existence than that.

Also, have these people never been bored at work? I’m bored at work nearly 90% of the time anyway. Our system is set up illogically. We are forced to sit in offices for a certain amount of time regardless of how long it actually takes to complete the tasks we have for the day, leading us to actually be less productive as other (better) countries have demonstrated through shortened work days/weeks for their employees.

Maybe it’s more about the social stigma attached to not working. Perhaps these people have an image in their head that it’s either work 40+ hours a week, or literally sit on your couch 24/7 and watch TV. Capitalism has seeped so deeply into their psyches that they cannot fathom what it would mean to live for themselves. Maybe saying you’d be bored without work is a strange form of virtue signaling. I could never stop working. I have too much self-respect and am a motivated, productive person. I enjoy contributing to society. There is always the subtle insinuation that those who don’t work a 9-5 job do not contribute, which is obviously not true.

I personally think many peoples’ talents are wasted by the way our society is set up. I think I would be able to offer society much more value if I were able to spend my time as I pleased, working towards my own interests instead of struggling and exhausting myself in a structure set up by other people in which I simply do not fit. If everyone wasn’t constantly expending all of their energy stressing about money and working for other people, who knows what amazing contributions individuals would be able to make? Even if you already work in a creative field or are self-employed, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to take into consideration what other people want or what would make the most money? You’d be able to be more true to your own interests and creative ideas. You’d have so much more freedom.

It also saddens me to imagine most people seem to be unable to even conceive of activities other than work that would be fulfilling. Even if you enjoy the work you’re doing, like I do, I would still prefer to not have to do it. That’s not to say you’d have to stop either. It would just mean you weren’t dependent on it in order to feed yourself. Just that small change would inherently make the work itself more enjoyable. There have been studies that show even when you like an activity, if you’re paid for it, it becomes less pleasurable. Your mind begins to rationalize that you are doing it, not for the enjoyment, but for the money, which is less fun.

If you are someone who believes you’d be bored without the need to toil for our capitalist overlords, here are just a few of the myriad of options you could devote your time and energy to:

  1. Volunteer work
  2. Activism
  3. Learn a new skill/hobby
  4. Learn an instrument
  5. Study a different language
  6. Go back to school to learn about a subject you enjoy
  7. Make art
  8. Spend more time in nature
  9. Travel
  10. Spend more time with family and loved ones
  11. Workout
  12. Practice yoga/meditation
  13. Invent something
  14. Clean
  15. Home improvement projects
  16. Write
  17. Read
  18. Draw

I could go on, but you get the point. There are a limitless amount of things that you could do besides work! You really wouldn’t find any of these alternative activities adequate to keep you from boredom? Or are you just considering some of these things as work? If you don’t have to do it for a paycheck, it’s not work. I don’t mean literally any amount of physical or mental exertion when I say work. I mean traditional employment. There is a big difference between doing something because you want to and doing something because you have to, even when it’s something you love.

Motivation

Most days I feel like I’m dragging myself through life. Very rarely is there anything I feel myself wanting to do. I manage to get a lot done, but it’s more out of a sense of obligation (usually to myself/my OCD) than motivation. I’ve met so many people in life that seem to happily buzz around getting so many little projects done every day, with little to no mental effort. In fact it seems to refuel them rather than drain them. What gives? Why can’t I do that? I’m left endlessly wondering.

I have a few theories. One is that I commit myself to so many “have to’s” every day that I have hardly any energy left to feel motivated to do more. Perhaps not allowing myself any significant amount of true rest time, leaves me perpetually too burnt out to experience that sense of internal drive I so long for. But what if it’s just how my brain works? Maybe I’m just someone who is lazy and disinterested by nature. I think this last theory is really what keeps me from further investigating the first one. If I stop the momentum from years of diligent daily tasks, what if I never feel like picking them back up again? Then I’ll just end up doing nothing! That fear keeps me filling up each and every empty moment with something whether it’s ultimately in my best interest or just gives me the illusion of being productive in some way.

Part of the problem is being paralyzed with too many options. There are millions of things, big and small, that I’d like to accomplish one day. When the time comes to actually choose one to work on, I get distracted by all the others and start doubting myself. Which is most important? Which should I do first? Which matters most to me? Which would I enjoy more? Would I really enjoy any of them? What’s even the point? Then I usually default to an autopilot task just to find relief from thinking about it anymore and spiraling into an existential crisis.

I guess one of the few things I do feel motivated by is coming up with plans. I LOVE to make new schedules for myself, to-do lists, goals, ideas. All of that stuff is so much fun to think about and fills me with a seemingly endless supply of energy directed toward completing all my lists. However, when I find myself facing putting my plans into action in the moment, I lose all of that drive in an instant. It’s much more fun to plan to change your life than to actually change it. The idea of becoming a master piano player is way more exciting than practicing the scales for hours on end.

So here I am again, at this familiar impasse. My internal stand-off. I want to feel more motivated, but I’m not motivated enough to uncover and take the necessary steps to get there. Pretty ironic, isn’t it? Let me know if you have this same struggle or if you’re someone more like the people I mentioned earlier who don’t seem to have an issue getting into new projects with passion and enthusiasm. If you happen to have any tips or tricks from either perspective, I’d love to know!

Alternate Ambitions

The internet is great at giving us a false perception of the way other people live and conduct themselves from day to day. Despite this flawless image YouTubers and other influencers give off, one thing still seems real to me: their ability to focus their talents and efforts and present them in a consistent format to their followers. They find their content niche and stick to it diligently until they manage to build up a following.

This is an impressive feat in my opinion. My creative interests are so scattered and fluctuating. It’s pretty apparent if you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time. I can never seem to pick a theme or pursuit and stick to it. I have far too many things I’d like to work on. I realize that I can’t do them all. If I want to monetize these creative outlets for myself or create cohesive finished products for a personal brand, I have to focus my energy on one thing at a time. Focusing on one thing, feels like abandoning all of my other interests though. I tend to lose momentum and start feeling stuffy and stagnant when I work in one arena for any amount of time.

I should consider myself lucky. Maybe these influencers really only have a small set of interests or talents, and that’s what makes it easy for them to narrow down their creative range to catch a consistent audience. I’m truly blessed to have so many passions and creative gifts that I could turn into a personal or career path. My biggest obstacle is wrangling my attention and fixing it on a single endeavor to complete a bigger, well thought-out project. Maybe on some level I’m just afraid that if I devote too much time and energy to one creative medium and don’t receive a return on that investment, I’ll feel like a fool or a failure.

Just for context, here is a list of all of the things I’ve been swirling around in my head that I’d like to work on:

  • Podcasting (no idea what of the thousand topics I’d be able to settle on)
  • YouTube (same issue)
  • Online/Livestream Yoga
  • Private Yoga lessons
  • Vegan mentorship
  • Art (selling prints, commissions)
  • Writing (Poetry, short-stories, fiction, non-fiction)
  • Positive Affirmation Coloring Book (publishing and marketing it)

Obviously I can’t expect myself to actualize all of these possibilities. The vague idea of each and every one of them fills me with excitement, inspiration, and motivation. When I get down to the details and the physical steps I’d need to take to turn these ideas into something concrete, I become paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. I may have a lot of creative energy and valuable talents, but I have no idea how to market them or myself in any meaningful way. The idea of creating a mediocre finished product leaves me feeling awful. There is also a fear that by turning any one of these ideas into a business would rob me of the joy I have just doing them for fun.

If I had any money at all, I would likely go out and find myself a manager or someone to help me stay on track and advertise one of these skills. However, anxiety over money is the only reason I’ve been so eager to find a way to profit off of these ideas in the first place. For now, I’m planning on finishing the steps of publishing my positive affirmation coloring book. I’ve already got 30 drawings to compile for it and a good idea of who I would be able to market it to in my community as well as online. I’m just stuck in the limbo of trying to navigate self publishing and perfecting the tiny details about compiling them into a presentable book.

When I find myself struggling with these practical steps, I can’t help but feel pulled to abandon the idea all together and chase a different goal. Logically, I know I’ll eventually face the same problems with anything I try to produce. At the end of the day, I think lacking self-confidence is what’s holding me back. As I continue to try to move forward towards securing a self-determined future for myself, I’m going to try to imagine what I would do if I were confident. A confident person doesn’t get bogged down with the little details and agonize over making everything utterly perfect. I have great ideas. I’m extremely intelligent and talented. And I am going to make something incredible to contribute to the world. That’s the kind of energy that’s going to carry me forward into the next phase of my life.

Through the Eyes of Another

I don’t concern myself much with what other people think about me. I can never really know what they think, or have any control over it. For me, it’s always seemed like people think better of me than I think of myself anyway. It often feels like everyone around me believes in me more than I believe in myself. If anything, considering what other people think about me makes me feel guilty, as if I’ve been deceiving them. They don’t know how incompetent and weak I truly am. I’ve somehow given them the impression that I’m worthy of respect and admiration.

There are very few people in my life whose opinion I genuinely value. When it comes to most people, I assume they are just not smart enough to realize how worthless I really am. Recently I’ve started to spend more time considering the high regard those closest to me still maintain. Surely I don’t think they are too stupid, or don’t know me enough. Some of them might even know me better or in a different way than I know myself. So what am I to make of their perception of me?

I may not have much confidence in myself, but realizing that people that mean a lot to me do have confidence in me, has been transformative. I’ve been trying to think of myself from this outside perspective whenever I begin doubting or getting down on myself. When I’m faced with something that I don’t think I’m capable of, I think of how a loved one might see things differently. For instance, my friend at work, whom I deeply respect and admire, has complete and utter confidence that I’ll be able to do what he does and interview the kids we see. He seems so sure that I’ll be a great interviewer one day and be just as important in the lives of our clients as he has been over the years. When I begin to feel crushed under the weight of my own disbelief and self-doubt, I think of him reassuring me.

I may not have faith in my own abilities, but when I remember that those I have complete faith in do, I feel so much better. If you’ve never tested out this fun thought experiment for yourself, I would highly recommend it. The next time you are facing an intimidating goal or task, try to imagine someone you love and admire knowing that you can do it. Their confidence will surely be a great support. If nothing else, thoughts like these inspire me to do my very best and exceed my own expectations just to make the people who believe in me proud. It gives me the courage to try despite the intense fear of failure that would normally hold me back.

Narrowing Focus to Broaden Success

There are many reasons that I’ve had a hard time picking a specific career to pursue. One of which, is the fact that there isn’t really one singular thing that I was ever able to imagine making me feel fulfilled and happy for the rest of my life. I’m grateful for all the many talents, interests, passions, and abilities that I have. The problem has always been that there isn’t enough time in a day to devote myself to all of them the way I’d like to.

Even this blog stands as an example of my difficulty sticking with one theme or niche and really remaining faithful to it. The name of this blog is Protect the Innocent because when I started it, my goal was to make a blog with vegan commentary and to give advice to new/rural vegans. I wanted this blog to be my little attempt at activism. However, despite my deep concern and interest in this important topic, it quickly becomes oppressive to me when I feel unable to write about anything else.

It seems like I always end up either doing nothing at all when I can’t decide where to put my focus and energy or I just do a little bit of everything. The problem with the latter is that then I am unable to really delve deep into any of the things I want to do. I’m not able to master anything or do any really big time consuming projects. My energy is always being scattered and worn thin trying to pursue all of my many interests at once.

I get anxious when I think about narrowing my efforts. It feels like I am sacrificing so many things when I center myself on just one. I know it doesn’t have to mean I never pick up my other hobbies again, but it’s still hard to reassure myself in that regard. I’d really like to try to structure my time more effectively. Perhaps I can focus on just one thing certain days of the week or set an entire month aside to really delve deep into a certain project or skill set.

I think setting up a more diverse, yet focused schedule for myself would be an excellent way for me to make more meaningful progress towards my various goals. I also believe this could solve my issues with burnout and lack of inspiration. This way I’d be able to give myself a break from one thing, while still feeling as though I’m doing something meaningful in the meantime. The most important step is going to be the first one. I need to set aside time to work out this schedule for myself so that I can move forward with a clear intention and reserve my mental energy for the task at hand.