Why I Like Being “Simple”

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Photo by Khai Sze Ong on Unsplash

It’s been over a month since I’ve last written and I just want to thank you all for giving me that time! My last post went up three days before I started my new job and then it was a whirlwind of travel and learning and bonding and total, absolute exhaustion. But I am happy to report I feel like I am settling in nicely and I am so excited to be challenging myself in new and interesting ways.

A younger version of me would have pushed myself to maintain the blog, the poetry, the novel, the social media presence all at once, even while trying to learn a new job. This time around I said no to overwhelming myself. I said no to setting unrealistic expectations for myself. I said no to torturing myself about “not being enough”. I wrote when I could, I slept when I needed to, and I took a break from obsessing about every little thing. I focused on my new work, I got to know my team instead of hiding away in my room to write (they made that easy) and I am so happy I did.

Maybe it’s because I am older and I’m finally learning a thing or two about life, or maybe I’ve changed for another reason, but I can tell you this: allowing myself to be simple kept me happy, healthy and sane these past six weeks.

I’ve never wanted to be simple. Simple was a sin in my book. If I wasn’t multi-talented, multi-tasking, multi-stressed out, then I was failing. A typical day would have been an intense weight workout, a full day of work, writing all night, responding to piled up texts, walking the dog, cleaning the apartment and then passing out totally exhausted. I got sick a lot. I wasn’t productive. My writing was… well… shitty.

Simple felt wrong, simple felt too easy, simple felt like I wasn’t doing my best.

What I’ve found is that SIMPLE allows me to excel. What I’ve come to realize is that my other talents, my other interests, and loves? They’ll still be there. This blog is still here. My poetry is still waiting for me to edit it and share it with the world. I’ve found other simpler workouts that don’t require me to travel to the gym every day. It’s all there and I will get to it. (When I can!) When I focus my attention to one or two things, I kill it. I sleep. I am not sick all the time. When I am simple I am a better, calmer, version of myself. It took a million and one tries, but I finally saw the pattern.

Now that the travel is done for a bit, now that I am finding my rhythm at work… now is when I can pick up the pen again. Write this blog post for you. Take some new photos for the IG. Make special plans with my friends. And when I do all of these things I will be more engaged because I won’t be tired, or worried, or thinking about the next task. I can simply be present.

I know there will be days when I want to go back to the way I was. When I want to pressure myself and push myself and overwhelm myself. And maybe I’ll need the extra encouragement. But knowing that it’s ok to take a step back and breathe is going to make all the difference. I mean, how often do you let yourself be simple?

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My Problem with Entitlement

Poets & Writers always taps into what I need to hear when I need to hear it. Each time an issue makes its way to mailbox #10H, I find that it takes on all of the same questions I’ve been toiling over for quite some time. While I wish it would always give me the answers to my many questions it does give me help to explore them in a better way. Steve Almond’s “The Problem with Entitlement” in P&W’s September/October issue is a look at his MFA students who shun and even mock traditional publications and successful writers out of their fear of failure. This something I’ve addressed on Cheap Courage before.

For years I avoided calling myself a writer, joining writer’s groups, and meeting like-minded folk because I feared they would be more accomplished or better read than I am. And as painful a it is to admit here (and now), it made me kind of a snob. Or the less eloquent, a dick. In Almond’s words, I felt overmatched and assumed a posture of superiority. I was becoming a mean girl.

I was headed to an even darker place where one day I, too, would find The Best American Short Stories an atrocious collection. (I suggest picking up a copy and reading Almond’s piece. He really did come across this.) It saddened me to find that I was not alone. Usually I find joy in camaraderie of any sort but this is a group I do not want to be a apart of. I’m disappointed that I even pointed a toe in that direction but it is a problem, as Almond points out, exacerbated in recent times by the Internet.

“The Internet has… been a great aggregator of anxiety and an enabler of our worst tendencies. It has allowed us to trumpet our own opinions, to win attention by broadcasting our laziest and cruelest judgements, to grind axes in public. It has made us feel, in some perverse sense, that we are entitled to do so,” Almond writes. Even though I found a way to stop my compulsion to write off the accomplishments of others, I like to think I’ve grown up since college, Almond points out that my online habits can be contributing to the problem and in fact, making it harder for me to pull away from my less-than fabulous traits.

I’ve tried to step away from negativity and obscenely opinionated postings on my social media pages but I think I need to go one step further and cut the umbilical cord of getting excited about likes, shares, and re-posts. Even on this very blog. I get caught up in the immediate satisfaction of someone saying, “Oh, that was really good,” and moving on to the next post. Not that this is bad in itself but my goal is not to have a wildly successful blog, it’s to become a PUBLISHED essayist with a landing page for folks to find me, learn about me, and grow with me. I want other young writers to find these posts and not feel so alone or ashamed for feeling not so great thoughts. Those are my goals and Facebook likes aren’t going to get me closer to them.

“You don’t grow as a writer by writing off other people’s efforts. You grow as a writer by respecting the process.” – Steve Almond

Until next time… If you need me I’ll be busy writing essays. Something I have a lot to learn about.