It's Going to Get Worse

This time last year, I was in a brand new and exciting place in my life.

I had left my soul-sucking job at the publishing company I'd worked at for three years the previous summer.
I had just left what was dangerously close to becoming an equally destructive job by successfully transitioning it from an on-site 45 hour/week role into an off-site part-time role.
I was gearing up for my first marathon and was nervous, anxious, excited—all in a good way.
I was pitching editors left and right, giving this freelancing thing a whirl, and making plans for 2016 to be my best year yet.

It wasn't too long after that things started to fall apart piece by piece.

That contract position went from an agreed-upon 25 hours per week to me chasing people around to get invoice approval, and then less and less work came my way as the people in my corner left (or were removed from, I'm not sure) their positions, and ultimately, that working relationship dissolved completely. Some websites lost funding for the department I was writing in, or editors stopped responding, or the work wasn't worth the pay. For a multitude of reasons, the freelance life I'd only stumbled into by accident (and had never actually planned on until it wound up happening by default) became unbearable. So I turned my sights back onto finding a full-time job, and the most stressful summer of my life ensued.

I can realize now, looking back on this past year, that a depression started setting in back in the winter and has yet to fully release me. There is a blanket of stress and uncertainty over every single day as I count down the calendar pages on this current contract position and frantically resume my job search. My angst and stress has infiltrated my running experience and sapped so much joy from that which used to give me life. It's infiltrated my relationship with David, who surprises me every day with the number of panicked late-night rambles he's willing to put up with. It's infiltrated my ability to feel optimistic or excited about much at all, because this question mark still hangs over me, and it will until something changes that is out of my control.

I wish I could have warned myself about it all. And if last year I could have known this would happen, I would have done a lot of things differently.

Or would I have? I'm a big believer in the butterfly effect—if that's what it's actually called? At any rate, the idea that each action or decision has an impact on what follows, and if you change one piece of the process, you risk pulling out each and every thread. I've followed this thought process a few times as I've thought about things I wished were different.

For example, I wish I'd never started smoking back when I was a teenager. But, if I hadn't, I wouldn't have made friends with some people I still love dearly—and luckily, we've left the cigarettes in our past. If I hadn't smoked in college, I wouldn't have met my dear friend B, who introduced me to my first running buddy/"coach," without whom I wouldn't have quit smoking and become a runner, without which I wouldn't have done one of the things I am the most proud of: run a marathon.

And on and on we could go. And that's why not having a plan is important to me, because I don't want to say I will or won't definitely do anything. Who can say what amazing things await if I just take life one step, one decision, one change at a time? I certainly can't, and that's been the fun—and absolutely terrifying—part.

So would I have changed course last year? I mean, would I have stayed at that contract position or even accepted their full-time offer and suffered through a working environment that made me long for an escape hatch every single day, that stole sleep from me every single night as my body took up its typical response to stress, insomnia? I don't know. Because it's not exactly as if this summer had me sleeping soundly and marveling at how great my life had turned out alternatively.

Things got worse than I could have predicted. But what would be different now that I had done things differently? What would I have done differently?

I do think if I had the opportunity, though, I would let old me know that things were going to get worse. I remember (embarrassingly) chatting about bumbling into this "new adventure" of freelancing—I repeat, without ever having planned to do so, by which I also mean making absolutely zero preparations for—and thinking I would never turn back. And here I am now, begging someone to hire me and give me the stability I've been missing for a year. Hindsight is 20/20. At the very least, I wish I could prepare the old me for the struggles she was going to face, rather than give her a false sense of security and belief that things were finally working out in her favor. With this information, would I have stayed on, continued to job-search, and promised to use the sliver of remaining willpower I had to make the best of it for as long as I could? Probably, and there are many days now where I wish I had the opportunity to revisit some of the choices I made last year and weigh them again against what I now now would be the consequence of each of them.

But here's the thing: I don't think this is a negative post. I'm sorry, your head probably just spun because that was such a ridiculous thing to say. But I mean, whatever: So things got really, really bad for a while. And I'm not pretending they might not get bad again. (Hey, at least I'm prepared this time.) But isn't that how life goes? Isn't that exactly what's supposed to happen? Isn't that all part of the experience, and aren't I damned lucky that one of the most unrelentingly difficult periods of my life still saw me with a roof over my head and food on my plate every single day? Hell yes, I am.

To 2015 Alyssa, hear me: Things are going to get worse than you can even imagine. But the only way you're able to say this now is because, as always happens eventually, they got better. If only for three months, they got better eventually, because that, too, is how life goes.

This post is part of the Back to Blogging Non-challenge Challenge hosted by yours truly. Get the details and join in (it's never too late) here.

Comments

  1. You have great things coming, my friend. It's wonderful that you're able to recognize that some of the worst times will come but that things will get better. Lean on your support system (including me!) whenever you need; that's what friendships are all about, right?! xo

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  2. I absolutely think the way you do about the butterfly effect and how one small action can create a chain reaction in your life. I try not to dwell on the what if aspect of it all because it will drive you crazy. All you can do is just take it one day or step at a time. I know great things are in store for you, so you just hang in there and keep being awesome!

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  3. I was feeling quite introspective/'what if'/'if I'd never...'-y earlier this week, too. It's odd how it all works out, but I think that we know what we know for a reason and we don't know what we don't know for a reason. It's a complex puzzle- especially when we don't know the whole picture!

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  4. A long time ago I read a quote that went along the lines of "better comes after worse" and it's always stuck with me. I totally believe in the butterfly effect, which is also sort of scary because it means I'm constantly overthinking everything. I'm also a firm believer in 'everything happens for a reason' which I know a lot of people frown on but I think life is complicated and sometimes you need the universe to step in and give you the pieces you need to put it all together.

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  5. even during times that totally suck and are so hard, it always works out in the end and in many cases, there's always a silver lining to bad situations, even though sometimes they're hard to see. but the point is that you've survived through all of these things and will continue to survive. the silver lining here is that you're gaining experience and learned so much about yourself in this past year.

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  6. I love this so much. I also don't think it's negative at all, I think it's real. I felt/feel almost the same way. After 4 years I walked away from teaching/coaching this past June with this bright idea that I was going to waitress while going to grad school. I was going to be loving life & making just as much if not more than I did teaching. Things did not get better, like you said they got worse. But I still wouldn't trade it. If I hadn't left my job I would still be miserable. I wouldn't have realized that I actually do love being a teacher more than anything. I too believe in the butterfly effect & wouldn't change anything...but I also wish I would have realized there was a very big chance it wouldn't be all sunshine & rainbows.

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  7. This is how life goes. This is how life is supposed to happen. It's not negative, it's reality.

    I do believe in the butterfly effect (also not sure if that's what it's called but I feel like it is) - everything is connected, and changing just one thing would change it all. Sometimes we need to be at a low point for a while. I stand firm in my belief that the low point is where the learning happens.

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  8. I feel like looking back there will be all kinds of things you would have missed out on if it wasn't for the job situation - like all the people you've met at the yoga studio and a certain bald man (I don't remember how you met him, but yeah, butterfly effect). And, like you said, it would be silly to have regrets about it or go back and do things differently because you'd have to lose the good along with the bad (and staying at a miserable job would have been equally bad, if in a different way). I have plenty of things I wish I could change, but I know that wouldn't work because I was bound and determined to be stupid (when I was 19), so avoiding a mistake would just mean I'd do it later or in a different way.

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  9. Life sucks sometimes, and sometimes it REALLY sucks a lot, but that's life. If we were to go back and change everything, would it really be better? I don't think so. All we can do about our past is learn from it and use it as a stepping stone to move forward. Cheers to more lessons and even more triumphs in your future!

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  10. love this post. hindsight really is 20/20. but all the bad things in my life? all of them, every single one, i wouldn't change any of them. they all sucked and i wouldn't want to relive them, but they got me to where i am today. like you said, smoking was horrible and i hate that you did that but you wouldn't have made the choices you then made, met the people you met, become the person you are.. you know? i did some really stupid shit at 18 and 19 and i really cringe looking back, but it really made me who i am and the choices i make today are because of the stupid ones i made back then. and my motto has always been you can't learn from your mistakes if you don't make them. not that you made a mistake, but you know what i mean? low points suck, but how would we recognise and appreciate the highs without them?

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  11. Definitely not a negative post at all-- so much perspective. I think the story of my life is if I would have known what I know now I would have done ____ a long time ago, re: jobs & all career related things. I definitely agree with you that every decision- whether it turned out the way you had hoped or not- leads you to just the place you're supposed to be.

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  12. I know I've mentioned this to you a few times, but we are in a risk-assessing, job-changing time with the closing of our current shop at the end of the year. We are still analyzing and deciding what the future holds. It is scary. It is exciting. There's a possibility times are going to get worse, and there are possibilities that what the future holds will be a whole lot better. That unknown is a weird place to be but, currently, I'm embracing it.

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  13. Hindsight is a very interesting, and educating, experience. There are so many things that part of me is all "I'd change this..." but really, would I? Those experiences, good and bad, have shaped me. They're given me perspective. And I wouldn't trade that.

    I know it will get better for you.

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