This blog has been a long time in coming, in large part because it turns out that I’m really quite good at ignoring my feelings, which came as quite a surprise. I’ve always considered myself to be very emotionally healthy; in touch with and comfortable expressing my softer side. Well it turns out that just because you’ve made peace with some of your more difficult emotions, it does not mean you’ve come to terms with the lot of them.
My friend and Pastor Bryan has been encouraging us to take the Gallup® CliftonStrenths™ test, formerly the StrengthFinder™ test.
I know that not everyone puts much stock into personality tests, and that’s okay. I think the Strength Finder is worth the cost – its very in-depth and what’s more, people I respect feel the same.
Katie and I ended up sharing two of our Top 5 Strengths: Empathy (My #1, Her #3) and Input (Her #1, My #3), basically absorbing information. As for the other three, my remaining strengths are Adaptability, Development, and Harmony. Basically, I’m exceptionally good at making sure everyone is happy and everything is running smoothly. Katie, on the other hand, scored highest in Intellection, Individualization, and Futuristic.
It turns out this last one has been an issue for me. For us, I suppose.
The unique combination of Katie’s strengths make her constantly think about and talk about and plan for the future, and a big part of that for her is the desire to live in new and exciting and progressive places. Just so we’re clear – there is nothing wrong with that. It’s a good dream. A part of me wants it too.
But in this one, weird, specific part of my life, I’m a pragmatist. Maybe even a cynic.
It turns out that nothing makes me more of an anxious wreck than thinking about my future.
I had been living the past year or more with a quiet dread that I couldn’t place, and wasn’t even really aware of other than shutting down at seemingly random times. It took a lot of encouragement in being more vocal about my feelings in these moments to start putting the pieces together. A little less than a week ago now, Katie and I were finally able to work out some of the specifics – she’s really good at asking questions that get to the heart of matters.
I, of course, took my sweet time in actually writing this down.
In talking this out, we were able to identify several major pieces to this anxiety.
1. Job Anxiety
I have what should be considered a decent job for my level of education and field of choice. It pays alright for the field, I get built-in overtime with the option to pick up quite a bit more, and I have fairly generous benefits, especially where PTO is concerned. The problem is…I don’t think this is what I want to do with my life. After five years of working with young adults who don’t actually want my help, I’m pretty burned out on the whole residential “counselor” thing. I don’t provide much in the way of counsel, after all. I’m babysitting. Some days I think I really would like to be a Licensed Counselor. I’ve looked into Life Coaching as well. Or maybe I should be doing something entirely different – I think I would make a really good bartender, honestly – but I tend to romanticize those sorts of jobs. All of these thoughts lead into two other sources of anxiety.
2. & 3. Education and Money Anxiety
I couldn’t really separate these two. Right now, Katie and I manage. We’re constantly trying to get a better hold on our finances, but it’s a slow process. We have a lot of expenses, most of them student loan payments. We can keep at it, where we’re at, and eventually pay those off – but that’s years down the road, and years wasted where we could have been ideally working on other projects. A graduate degree for me could change that – while adding to the debt we have and likely reducing my ability to work for the duration, sinking us further into debt. Katie and I have thought about relocating, specifically to Canada due to their reduced graduate school costs, but that wraps into my last major source of stress.
4. Moving Anxiety
I’ve always been a homebody, despite my love of travel. I like having a place I know and am familiar with to return to. My family home has been just that for over 50 years, and has been home to 3 generations of my family. My parents live in the main house – Katie and I in the back. Along with their presence comes a safety net of overt and more subtle benefits – a very reasonable rent; a washer and dryer we get to use; but also their constant presence, which has become more and more important to me. I love my parents dearly and aren’t used to not having them nearby. Even during my last two years of college, when I technically lived just off campus, I was home every weekend. They, in turn, appreciate having me around, and if I’m being honest are fairly socially isolated people otherwise. My father, especially, misses my brother, who lives in L.A., quite a lot, and has his own anxieties about him being so far from home. He also depends on me for some of that income, to pay the mortgage and help take care of things here and at his business.
Having that conversation with Katie was tough, but I really did need to wrestle with all these anxieties of mine. Harder still was going and talking with my father about these things, and to ask him about what his thoughts and wants were. He talked frankly about these things…but he also told me, ” Sometimes, you have to be selfish.” That really struck me, hearing him say that.
I may not have gotten any answers…but at least I have some peace.
Thank you all for reading – Sorry about the length.