Checking in On the Whole “Figure Out My Life” Thing

This post has ended up being longer than intended. There’s a lot of frustration. You’ve been warned.

I haven’t written much recently about my progress for a couple reasons. Part of it is that I’ve been pretty busy during Camp NaNoWriMo, working on a novel that I under outlined and had to improvise frantically with. So that was fun. I hit 50,001 words and stopped. I need to send it to my wife to see how awful she thinks it is. It’s gone into a lot of places I hadn’t intended or anticipated, and I don’t know how I feel about that.

The other part is that I’ve hit some stumbling blocks.

One setback has been problems obtaining the book I intended on reading, The Time Between Dreams. A friend had been kind enough to take pity on me and Paypal me money for the book. Since the money was in Paypal, I figured it would be easiest to just use the Paypal shopping cart at Centerpoint’s site. Easy, right?

And then I waited for two weeks with no sign of the book. I checked one last time as we headed out to the coast for some vacation, and then I sent them an email just to make sure they got the order. I’ve run an online store with a Paypal shopping cart. I know how sale notifications things can be hard to track sometimes, especially if you don’t get many orders. Later that day I got a shipment notification from Paypal with a note that said “Thanks for being so patient!”

I finally have the book and I’ve been chugging along through the Prologue. So far just a lot of broad philosophical stuff. I can also understand a bit better why they charge as much as they do: Color content on most of the pages. Sometimes it’s just a single alternate color, like a splash of orange. Sometimes it’s photos. I will refrain from making snarky commentary beyond, “It’s not the choice I would have made.”

Beyond that, the prologue has a note towards the end that says that the book doesn’t offer certain things. Included in that list was “uncovering your passion.” Which worried me, since the whole “Passion Search” thing was the main reason I came to Centerpoint in the first place. I remembered seeing “Passion Search” in the index, so I looked that up. It appears they do a “macro view” of the Passion Search in The Time Between Dreams, but a more thorough examination of the topic will be covered in the next book.

Note: There’s no next book yet. The sentence in this book is the first time I’ve heard there’s another book in the works.

So I’m feeling like the book is really going to be just a general overview of their philosophy. Which is fine, just not what I was hoping for. On the bright side, I’ve landed a free 45-minute consultation with the founder and several students as a training opportunity for the students. I’m not looking forward to being questioned by a panel of students, but free is free. It’s on August 17th. I’ll let you know how that works out.

The other problem has been that I’ve been trying to work on a “personal mission statement” as recommended by my adviser in HR using this site here:

As a general life philosophy, I hate things like “mission statements.” It goes with a bunch of corporate nomenclature that I just hate. I joke about it in my office, especially with all of the weird bureaucratic weirdness you get in government. But there’s a huge streak of “I laugh so I don’t cry.” I don’t like the notion of applying that sort of malarky to my own life. It’s a mode of thinking that hurts my soul. (Though I did get a juvenile laugh when someone offered to let me “leverage” her if I needed to. Hur-hur-hur.)

But I’m also at a point of desperation, so I’m willing to give it a whirl. And so far the whirl is leaving me depressed. First, I find some of the questions really hard to answer. And what I can answer feels it feels like it points to a pretty obvious direction that is not really feasible given my financial situation. Which isn’t fair, because really I’m supposed to create this totally vague statement and not a specific job. But depression isn’t rational.

Here’s what I got. For more robust explanations of the questions, check out the link above.

Step 1: Identify Past Successes. (Four or five examples.)

  • Wrote Kensei and published
  • Ran a successful Kickstarter for an anthology
  • Ran a successful Shadowrun game
  • Ran a successful Changeling game
  • Have run a quality (if not profitable) e-zine for over two years

Step 2: Identify Core Values.

This one sucked a lot because I just freeze up on these questions. It’s like the old, “Introduce yourself and tell us something interesting about yourself!” “Um, uh, I’m Jeremy. And I have five cats…?”

It took me a month to come up with these:

  • Creative
  • Reliable
  • Well-Intentioned
  • Compassionate
  • Storyteller
  • Social Equity

Then I need to narrow it down to five or six most important values. So far I only have six, so this one is meaningless.

Then I need to pick the Most Important of Them All! I haven’t figured out that one yet. In part because there are ones I feel it should be (like “Compassionate” and “Social Equity”) and then there’s the ones that seem like they resonate with me (“Creative” or “Storyteller”).

Step 3: Identify Contributions. How can I make a difference to assorted groups.

  • the world in general: I can promote diversity through fiction (mine and others). I can also help support other writers in their work.
  •  your family: Um… I can try to be a reasonable human being and support all my nieces and nephews.
  • your employer or future employers: I don’t even know.
  • your friends: Be a nice person who helps friends?
  • your community: No clue.

Step 4: Identify Goals.

This is where I really want to cry. It tries to be helpful and break it down into two categories.

Short-term (up to three years): I don’t have much beyond “find something that I’m actually happy to do, maybe publish some more books.”

Long-term (beyond three years): This is like looking into a yawning abyss.

Step Five: Mission Statement

Using steps 1-4, I’m supposed to come up with a mission statement. The one they offer as a sample is:

“To live life completely, honestly, and compassionately, with a healthy dose of realism mixed with the imagination and dreams that all things are possible if one sets their mind to finding an answer.”

That is so suitably vague that it could be mine. On the one hand I can interpret my answers to be so specific that they point me to a non-viable career. Or I can have something super vague.

There are some links at the bottom that I clicked on to try and better understand what to do with this info. So I clicked on a link to an article called “Using a Personal Mission Statement to Chart Your Career Course.”

Even broader strokes than the first one, but had this quote that hit me right in the feels:

First Things First is actually about time management, but Covey and his co-authors use the personal mission statement as an important principle. The idea is that if you live by a statement of what’s really important to you, you can make better time-management decisions. The authors ask, “Why worry about saving minutes when you might be wasting years?”

And then from here I found an article called “Are You Living on Purpose? Personal Mission Statement Exercises.”

I found msyelf even more overwhelmed by this bit:

A personal mission statement addresses three questions:
1) What is my life about?
2) What do I stand for?
3) What action am I taking to live what my life is about and what I stand for?

So, yeah. I don’t know what the fuck my life is about. I don’t believe any claptrap about there being some mystic meaning behind my existence. As far as I’m concerned, I’m just animated meat stumbling around for an average of 70-80 years until entropy causes all my systems to fall apart. So looking at all this stuff I just feel myself going through this sort of circular moping:

  • I’m spending half of my waking hours (including commute time) going to a job that leaves me feeling like I’m just wasting my life.
  • Anything I decide on as a purpose in life is just something I’ve chosen to believe in that kind of resonates with me. It’s an artificial construct.
  • What good does it do me to find something I’m passionate about if it’s not feasible for me to quit my day job to do it?
  • But do I really want to spend the rest of my days grinding away at a job that is so draining?

So that’s where I’m kinda orbiting without any success right now.

4 thoughts on “Checking in On the Whole “Figure Out My Life” Thing

  1. Andi

    First off, I commend you for going through the rough process of life evaluation. It’s not easy, it’s a bitch, and I feel we all go through it at least at some point. Or again as soon as the latest crisis shows up at our door.

    That said, Is there something to be said that your life goal is to reach an understanding of why you feel the way you do about this? I know this is awfully Aquarian of me, but the journey could be the goal. Figuring out what it is you’re searching for, and why these questions hurt, and figuring out a way to make it better — that’s a pretty noble goal in my opinion.

    Anyways. I hope this journey finds you some joy as well as the sorrow you’re going through. I’m thinking of you on your trip.

  2. Sol

    Hugs, man.

    For what it’s worth, from this long distance away it seems to me like you are doing a pretty good job at making some cool stuff. My thought would be to keep it up…

  3. Jeremy Zimmerman Post author

    Sol: Thanks!

    Andi: I think the general answer is probably as banal as “I get bored easily.” I’ve been wrestling with this for several years now. Really most of the time I’ve been at the County. And when I was at Fred Meyer before that. I think lately I’m just feeling an increased sense of my mortality with 40 looming on the horizon. More and more my day job is feeling like I’m just wasting my life.

  4. MT Fierce

    When I started doing Barnes’ 101 Days program (which, by the way, I do recommend) I got stymied on day one ( where he asks us to build a goal. Not just any goal, but “Choose a goal of mastering a simple task of great emotional significance.” What the heck was that going to be?

    I stopped doing the 101 days then. I wasn’t going to commit until I could come up with a goal. What did I want to do? Okay, too broad. What did I want?

    It took me two more months and talking to a lot of people I admire to figure it out. (Asking what others’ processes were helped.) The first answer turned out to be surprisingly simple. I wanted more energy. There’s instructions for that all over! That gave me a handle on the next part. Why did I want more energy? I wanted more energy to do things I enjoyed. More energy to write, to game, to love, to dance when no one was watchingto have some time for myself.

    (One of my internal measures for determining if I’m having a good mental health day is to ask, “What do I enjoy?” If I can’t answer that, that’s a sign that what I need to do is fix that first.)

    A lot of inspirational points say, “Follow your dreams! No matter what the cost!” and they’re utter nonsense. There is a cost in jumping, and sometimes you need that safety net. I think the real question is not judging the cost, but understanding the motivation. Your job is boring? Fine. Most jobs are… but is it boring because it’s sucking away your energy and is a greater cost than benefit, or is it boring because it doesn’t have any goals, or is it boring because there are interesting things on the horizon and you’re trying to get there and darn it this work is in the way? That answer right there says a lot for what you should do…

    (And I know this post was months and months ago and I read your others, but your blog is still blocked by my work for its evil occult references, apparently, and I just had a few minutes this evening and said, “I should visit!” And I apologize for the seeming randomness of this – I keep getting interrupted so I’m just going to post now and hope something in it is useful… but also, I’d be happy to talk more with you.)

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