Never gonna run around and desert you…
No one likes to let people down; but what happens when you really need to for your own sake?
Have you ever noticed that there are people in your life who don’t like saying no to anything? My mum is one of them and unfortunately so am I (she could have given me her tanned skin, but no it had to be this). And while it’s great to be the person that everyone turns to, the go-to guy and the one person that everyone can rely on, there are times when I need to learn to say no. Having a full-time job can already lead to full-time stress, but what happens when you have other commitments on top of that? It’s times like these that I’m extremely thankful that I’m not still studying; I don’t know how I would be able to handle all this with uni on top.
This year I started helping out a local group of web developers as one of the organisers. I was having a tough time at the start of the year, and being able to take time out for events or catch-ups was a lifesaver when I needed it the most. The time commitment is hard when trying to organise events (and then frustrating when the turnout to them is low, I never realised how annoying that was), being able to take time away from everything else was also a lifesaver. But it’s hard to find a balance between pulling your weight but knowing your limits. The irony of the situation though is at the moment I’m stressed about organising our upcoming events for Geek Mental Help Week. Yes, my mental health is being negatively impacted because of a week promoting mental health. I can definitely say that being involved in a group like that is amazing though, 10/10 would recommend.
So three and a half years ago, I decided that I wanted to run my own web development business. I’ve never done much advertising but they say word of mouth is the best way to get things out there (any my mum likes to tell people what I do so is responsible for pretty much all of my business). I’ve been really lucky that because all my clients know me personally, they know my situation and are flexible with timelines. But I spend a lot of time feeling like I’m letting them down because I can’t get things done on schedule. I recently launched a site that I’d started in January (and intended on launching by February at the latest) and was so determined to just get it finished that I was up until 3 am getting it live. I also committed to redoing my website for the May 1 reboot, which was a good idea (sometimes you need a deadline to motivate), unfortunately, I forgot that I was doing it until a week beforehand. And had been planning on using Craft CMS. Which I had never touched before and didn’t know how to use it. And I hadn’t done the design. As it was I managed to get it completed on time, but it’s still just one parallax page and doesn’t have a portfolio yet. This is something I want to move to, this is what I want to do with my life, but it’s hard finding the balance to make the required commitments without wearing myself out too much (or staying up all hours finishing stuff off).
Work. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I love developing and making things with code and even better I love the people that I work with. I’m currently working longer hours for less money than I was this time last year, but my job satisfaction is much higher. The team is close and friendly, and fun; I’ve found myself in a workplace where I can laugh and joke and be myself around my colleagues to the point where I look forward to going to work each day (although staying in bed is often a close second). But although I’ve been there almost 8 months, I still feel a lot of stress with all the new things I’m learning. Then we’ve had the other developer on leave for a month, so I’m handling all the work (which is fun but also terrifying). Tomorrow we also have our lead developer going on leave for 2 months, so I’ve been trying to work out any questions I have before he goes and making sure that anything he’s working on will get picked up. To top it all off, we’ve finally gotten rid of our super dodgy project management software (seriously no one liked using it, not the developers, not the designers and especially not the clients) but that has resulted in overhauling our entire project and support system and processes. I was already working 10+ hour days and now I need to find the time to learn our new processes and transfer everything into the new system. I still consider myself new and am desperately trying hard to prove that I’m good at my job but at times I just want to curl up in a ball and cry (but I’m so busy, I need to multitask and have my emotional breakdowns when I go to the bathroom). I’m all for mental health days, but it’s hard to take one (which I definitely need) when we’re already down staff because everyone is on holiday.
It’s times like these that you need friends, but not just any friends, the really good kind. One of my friends (she’s one of my “no bullshit” friends, they’re good to have), and I start every phone call with either “this is just a social call” or “so I need to bitch”. We both know that the problem doesn’t need to be solved, but emotion needed to be vented. While it’s great to have someone you can turn to for advice or someone who can help you when you need to solve a problem; but sometimes you also just need an outlet. I’ve also started going rock-climbing once a week with a friend from engineering, and even after a long week when all I want to do is curl up in bed I’ve found it’s exactly what I need. But even when you have friends to help take your mind off of things, sometimes it’s hard to actually bring it up when things get really tough. Do I really want to pile that onto someone else? Although I’m starting to be able to talk to people about how things are (my New Years Resolution was to always truthfully answer when someone asks “Are you ok?”), it’s completely different to be open when you’re not coping at all.
I’ve never been the kind of person that can switch off easily, and am often very stressed. And once I get stressed about something, it’s hard for me to calm down. So far in my lifetime, only 2 people have ever been able to actually help me to switch that part off, to not let stress get to me (and that’s probably one of the reasons I fell in love with them). But both of them are gone now and it’s hard for me to switch off by myself. Between work, networking events, freelance work and social catch-ups my calendar is busier than ever and although it’s stressful at times (I’ve started to cherish the few nights I have off) it’s nice to have things to keep busy.
I wish I could say that I had the answer to this (and I don’t like letting people down), this is still something that I’m working on. But one thing I can guarantee always works is people. Whether that’s friends, family, colleagues or a community group, having people in your life make a huge difference. Even in the areas of my life that cause me stress, the people are what make all the difference.