Pressure

I have a difficult time knowing when I cross the line between self-discipline and being overly tough on myself. I was raised to believe that anything is possible when you try hard enough, and I derive genuine happiness from feeling “productive”—a dangerous recipe for stress, impatience, sleep deprivation, and a frustrating inability to relax. Sylvia Plath’s proverbial fig tree speaks volumes to my perpetually anxious self. So much to do and learn; not nearly enough hours in a day, or days in a lifetime.

Years ago, I wanted a senior position at a start-up company whose imminent IPO would make me a millionaire. On the side, I wanted to be a writer, data scientist, programmer, electronic music producer/DJ, singer-songwriter, celebrity gamer, poker player, photographer, weight lifter, and marathon runner. Preferably all at the same time, with a bustling social life to boot. I also liked cooking and cleaning my apartment frequently. Every day after work, I stood at a crossroads with an overwhelming number of to-do items and only a handful of hours for tackling a single one. I knew it was crazy, but I needed to do everything and embody this overachieving ideal built up in my mind. If other people could juggle multiple major endeavors, so could I.

Last year, I decided to focus on writing. I have still been pursuing other hobbies and interests, but to a lesser degree. I enrolled in a twelve-week writing workshop at the local county college, rebooting the creativity engine. At the beginning of 2017, I vowed to post an essay or short story here each week. Much more reasonable, right? But now I have missed three or four weeks, and I am beating myself up pretty hard for it. Things have been ramping up at work. I have been spending more quality time with my boyfriend and his family. I have been traveling, attending talks, visiting museums, reading, and watching films—all experiences from which I seek storytelling inspiration. Are these positive signs of a more balanced life, or pathetic excuses for slacking off from a simple goal? My answer fluctuates with the time of day and my mood.

I think I am finally ready to start working on a novel, but is that merely another excuse for not writing any more weekly essays? The weekly essays have been a challenging yet satisfying exercise. I would love to keep them up for the rest of the year, and a big part of me feels like a failure for stopping them a third of the way through. However, I am excited about this novel idea and I want to give it an earnest shot. Maybe once I finish it, I can finally ease some pressure off myself.

Regardless of what happens, hopefully you’ll hear from me again soon enough.

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I Set Sail with Theseus

another suburbia scrolled past me at thirty-five miles per hour

and I thought about another life that could have been,
neither better nor worse.

a different view from my bedroom
a veranda, windowsill flora

a rearranged daily routine, dietary habits, wardrobe,
sketchbooks, tree types, traffic patterns, color spectra,
a transfigured cityscape silhouette at dusk

rewritten histories: school, ambition, degree, career,
friends, community, new family additions,
chain-linked decisions, wings and hurricanes,
our accumulated choices leading us here, now,
a path that self-effaces yet still holds
the potential to split off, branch out, blossom
like colonies of blood vessels sprawling out toward unseen ends

whether these would have been enough
to change even this skeletal framework, this face,
these rhythms hormonal, circadian, cyclothymic

and if you transplanted all of these,
everything physical and immaterial
transient and permanent,
one or some or all at a time,
would a new individual
be
built?