Lifestyle

I'll probably be sad for the rest of my life. But besides that, I'm good.

Since Before the Blog

This blog, Regarding Frost, was previously a combined collection of journal entries, poems, letters, etc. I (weirdly) named them “The Howling Melancholy Chronicles.” Those collective writings can be found here, here, and here. They are incredibly personal.

While in college, as I transformed my “journal” into this blog, I decided to transcribe those collections. Partly because I find typing soothing (yes, I’m strange) and it was a way for me to read things I had written in years prior. Since then, this blog has largely served as a forum for me to share thoughts and feelings.

I have lived with depressive states for nearly as long as I can remember. My journal and later this blog, has been an outlet. Sharing my experience with dysthymia is one way I cope. But as I got older and more comfortable with myself I found it easier to be more open about my foibles.

And so here I am again. Having struggled to write anything more meaningful in recent weeks (like local politics, national elections, etc.), I thought it was necessarily time for me to write one of these posts again.

Cathartic Writing

For the last several weeks, I’ve been “down.” Struggling for focus, motivation, or energy to do much of anything. It’s been hard, to say the least, and it’s been quite a while since it’s been this bad.

When I write personal entries like this, I am often challenged to sit for any stretch. I’m easily restless and will get up from the desk to pace. Or smoke. Or both. And so it remains. I started this post several days ago and continue to find it difficult to put thoughts to form.

Like drawing poison from a wound, sometimes it’s just helpful for me to try to organize chaotic thoughts spewed onto the page. So that’s what I’m attempting to do here. Though even in this instance I am really struggling to sit and get it done. I’m hoping that once I’ve exorcised these thoughts and feelings out into the blogosphere I can begin to move more positively in my life.

Dysthymia is a Bitch

I don’t know how rare it is for dysthymia to devolve into full-blown depression, but throughout my life, it’s only happened once (maybe twice). It’s a terrible and terrifying experience. The last time I experienced it was toward the end of my time at college; I very nearly didn’t graduate.

Though dysthymia is a “persistent depressive disorder,” my experience with it has been relatively mild, I think. It’s always there, like a shadow on my brain but in recent years I’ve been able to function normally. Years of regular therapy was a huge help in making that possible. In my younger years, it was worse and definitely impacted my life, my ability to be productive, and relationships. I was almost never incapacitated, as one might be with depression, but I definitely think I was impaired. Somewhat emotionally crippled.

I haven’t really had thoughts of suicide since college; lots of therapy helped. Even now, I have no desire to end my life, but I also am struggling to find a point in any of it.

Where’s the Meaning?

People have different things that drive them. That makes them happy. For many of my friends and family, it’s the non-job-related things that give their lives meaning. Spouses and children. Or hobbies. For them, their job is simply the thing they do to pass time, provide for their families, or finance their hobbies or retirement.

For a few, their career gives them joy and meaning. Purpose. Those folks have been lucky to find the thing they love to do and managed to make a living at it. Hobbies turned careers.

For such a long time, it was the idea of being in love that I sought as a means to be happy. Being in a relationship. However, given my extreme awkwardness in relationships and dating, I long ago gave up on the prospect of marriage or a family; I will be a life-long bachelor. So that’s out.

Around the same time, I thought I found the thing that would give my life purpose (and joy): politics. With no children raise, I sought to leave my mark on the world in other ways. Politics can shape the world and have deep and meaningful impacts on people’s lives. For better or worse.

Where’s MY Meaning?

I made a transition to a life in government and politics more than a decade ago and for the most part, I’ve been satisfied with that choice. I’ve even done some good things in that time. For a time, I thought I had made the decision that would chart the course for the remainder of my life.

I worked for a State House Representative and two Governors. Then I left to embark on a new chapter as a consultant. I set up my own business and received my Master’s degree in Political Management from George Washington University.

Since then, things have been… a struggle. I’ve struggled for work and struggled to be financially secure. In both 2018 and 2019, I made less than half of what I had working in the Governor’s Office. This year hasn’t been much better and since graduating in 2018, I’ve worked fewer days than not. And I’ve racked up personal debt in the tens of thousands of dollars paying bills (mostly health insurance).

Now, in 2020, the steaming shit-pile dumpster fire of a year, I’ve started to question what the hell I’m doing. It’s pretty clear now I can’t cut it as a self-employed operative. Though I’ve potentially got a job lined up post-election, I can’t help but feel like it’s a step backward. Both professionally and financially.

I have no personal life. No love life. I’ve always taken some comfort in the thought that at least I had a professional life, but now it feels like I’ve failed at that too.

So… I’m really struggling to find meaning in… anything. I wake up. I go through the motions of daily life. And I find little joy in much of any of it.

Hoping for Light Around the Corner

Over the course of my adult life, I’ve learned to be more attuned my emotional and mental states. I don’t have “cycles” per se, but have “episodes” that can last from a couple of days to weeks.

One of the ways I’ve learned to cope is to regularly remind myself that there’s always an end. I come out the other side feeling better, normal. But this bout has lasted far longer than average. To some extent, it can be attributed to COVID jail, but I don’t think all of it.

I’ve also learned that the best way to keep quiet the dark voices in my brain is to keep busy. Feel productive. Since August that has been incredibly challenging.

I keep waiting, hoping that I’ll wake up in the morning having turned the corner. Until that happens, though, each day is just a bit harder to get through than the last. With no purposeful activity and no motivation to seek it out, I’m struggling to find meaning in anything I do.

Maybe the light around the corner tomorrow. Here’s hoping. I truly hate feeling like this.

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I’ve been an introvert, avoiding crowds and mingling with new people, since I was young. For a long time, I though my shyness a hinderance, something that needed fixing. Like so many things about me.

As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve learned to accept, to a certain extent, the way I am, rather than trying to “fix” myself. This isn’t to say self-improvement isn’t a good thing, but within realistic expectations. I will never be an extrovert. I’ll never be completely comfortable in crowds or with new people. But over the years with help and practice, I’ve gotten to the point where I can overcome these character traits in limited bursts.

And I think I’m fairly good at it. I know how to be polite, personable, and how to talk to relatively large groups of people without freaking out. But it comes at a cost. One I didn’t completely understand until I went to Washington D.C. to complete my Masters Degree capstone project.

D.C. Was a Tiring Blast

I had a great time in D.C. I, for the first time during the two-year program, had the opportunity to meet some of my fellow classmates. Because the program is entirely online, we took classes together, but resided all across the country: Virginia, New York, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, and more. With different backgrounds, career paths, and political ideologies, we were quite the hodge-podge of folks.

While I enjoyed the days spent together with these fine people, being “on” as it were, for eight to 10 hours a day was exhausting for me. Yes, there was moving around, getting up early, and having to be mentally sharp during the day, but it was really the social interaction that took the biggest toll on me each day.

Constant Reminder

Though I learned better my limits during the D.C. Residency, I was nonetheless reminded about those limits just a week ago.

It was Opening Day of the Hawaii State Legislature. A day for pomp and food and talk-story. And glad-handing and lobbying.

In the past when I’ve attended the Opening Day festivities, I’ve usually done so with friends and long-time colleagues. Though socializing is involved, it has always been easy because I’m around people I know fairly well. But this year, as I branch out doing some consulting on my own, I travelled the halls of the Capitol with a new client.

It was fun, to a point, and I think we made some good contacts. When I decided it was time to return home to do some other work, I said goodbye to my client and made my way home. I had every intention of doing work. But once I got home, changed clothes and sat down for a minute, I was hit with a wave of exhaustion. Despite knowing my socializing limits and the toll it takes on me, I was surprised at how tired I as all of a sudden.

A nap was required.

A Measured Approach

Most people I know who are involved in political activism are extroverts. They enjoy the work in all the ways which I force myself to be good at. In all the ways it energizes them, it knocks me out. And though this is something I know about myself, I also think it’s something of which I’m going to have to be regularly reminded. Long days of socializing, meetings, engaging at the Legislature and Council, etc. likely won’t end with me back at the home office doing more work. They’ll likely end with me laid out, mentally and physically exhausted.

Knowing this and trying to adjust for it might mean limiting how much time I spend each day, or week, being “on.” And it might mean late afternoon naps followed by late night sessions at my desk. In any case, Opening Day was a reminder about knowing my limits and doing a better job accounting for them.

I accept these aspects of my personality, though sometimes I wish it was a bit easier. A bit less work. Maybe as I get older and continue to “practice” it’ll become easier. But I’m not counting on it.

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https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/resolution.png

As a general rule, I reject the notion of new year resolutions. Sure, I get why people make them; the start of a new year seems like a natural occasion to make new changes in one’s life. But I’m not sure I have ever met anyone who has successfully kept true to their new year resolutions.

You know what they say; today is the first day of the rest of your life. It seems to me if you are really interested in making a change, why wait for a national holiday to do it? Despite my apathy for new year resolutions, I expect 2018 to be a pivotal year in my life. In lots of different ways and for lots of different reasons.

40 in 2018

Though I haven’t thought much about it (partly because I don’t want to), 2018 will mark my 40th birthday. In recent years, my birthdays have generally come and gone with little fanfare and I don’t know that I expect much different next year.

But for me, passing 40 years of age is a milestone I am not looking forward to. In my mind, I should be much further along in my life. And though I’ve made trade-offs over the last 15 years, because I love this place I live, I feel fairly unaccomplished.

I own no property. No savings and minimal retirement investments. I remain single and haven’t been in a committed relationship since moving to Hawaii; I have no family of my own. And perhaps most frustrating is the feeling I am still struggling to make a career in my chosen profession.

I imagine most people when they reach 40, feel like “an adult”. I often don’t as I feel like I’m still trying to find my place, my purpose.

A Catalyst for Professional Changes

Despite the looming milestone (and potential mid-life crisis), 2018 could prove to be the most pivotal year of my life after 2002, when I moved to Hawaii.

One way or another, I suspect I will see my current employment come to an end.

Governor David Ige, for whom I work, is facing a tough reelection this year. And while I believe he can stave off his primary election challenger, there is certainly no guarantee. As an appointee, I work at the pleasure of the Governor and would have to be rehired by his successor in the event of his loss.

I’ve been in this situation before; four years ago when Ige beat the sitting Governor, Neil Abercrombie, in the Democratic Primary. I was incredibly fortunate to be kept on for the current administration. I seriously doubt I will have that kind of luck twice.

While this situation creates a level of uncertainty in my job, I don’t completely mind it. Without significant changes to my role and responsibilities in the office, I am not inclined to stay to the end of a second term. I’ve gotten about all I can out of my current position and am ready to move on.

This was the case two years ago, which is why I decided to go back to school.

In July, I will complete my Masters in Political Management from George Washington University. I started the program with the goal of learning some new skills, as well as validating with an advanced degree the skills I’ve cultivated as a volunteer activist over the last decade.

Once I decided to do it, I never looked back. Despite knowing the financial expense and that I’d likely be paying for it for the rest of my life. I wanted to move up and out of my current position and the degree was the best way I saw to do it.

And though I am struggling to figure out what comes next professionally, I’m excited (and worried) about what opportunities may present themselves with this specialized degree under my belt.

A Year for Real Change

When I think about what this year has to offer, I am most excited about the progressive political activism that has been building since Bernie Sanders announced his bid for the Presidency. In the more then ten years I’ve been involved in Hawaii politics, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Progressive-minded people are running professional campaigns for elective office across the state in greater numbers than I can recall seeing before. We are organizing, collaborating, breaking down silos across issues. Progressives are coming together for a common purpose and a common agenda: make Hawaii a better place for everyone.

HAPA’s Kuleana Academy has churned out dozens of individuals ready to be solid candidates and activists that can serve as real and useful support to those candidates. I am a graduate of their second cohort.

And the organization I co-founded in early 2017, Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI), is poised to make a marked impact on the 2018 legislative session, as well as the 2018 elections. For the first time, maybe ever, I really feel like I personally will be able to make real tangible change.

A Life in Balance – Personal Goals

Maybe for my whole life, I’ve struggled for balance and for mental and physical wellness. 2018 won’t be any different.

It seems I always have a list of things I want to accomplish, skills I want to improve. I’ve never been great at self-motivation, though there are obviously exceptions.

My parents often point out that I should spend more time focusing on my hobbies, more time relaxing, and more time enjoying the special things Hawaii has to offer. They’re right. Between my day job and the work I am passionate about, there seems little time to take a break for other interests. In what time I do have, I struggle to find the energy to do anything other than being at home on my couch.

Maybe most importantly, I need to be more healthy. Though I continue to struggle with some level of depression, it’s in check. I’ve learned over many years how to cope with its ebbs and flows. But I also need to address my slowly rising weight and general lethargy. There’s no doubt I’d feel better over-all if my physical health were better, but I nonetheless battle to find the motivation.

Aside from politics, I enjoy writing, photography, and music. I will try to continue to develop my skills as a photographer. I will take more time to explore new music to appreciate the artists and albums I already love. At the top of this list: continue to write regularly on this blog about the things in my life.

 

I’m excited and nervous for what 2018 has in store. Here’s hoping it’s mostly great stuff.

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