Discover more from Katie Pryal: Life of the Mind Interrupted
It feels good to be good at something, right?
But too often, things stand in our way. (Plus 2 books on big-time sale.)
Before I forget.
THE FREELANCE ACADEMIC (apropos of today’s letter) is on sale for 99 cents on ALL ebook platforms. Get it here.
HOW TO STAY: A Hollywood Lights Novella (about 120 pages), is FREE on ebook (Amazon only). It centers mental health (specifically bipolar disorder), and I’m a bipolar-autistic author, so it’s close to my heart. It is the prequel to FALLOUT GIRL: A Hollywood Lights Novel.
As always: If you’ve read either of these books already, or any of my books, please (please) leave a review on Amazon. You don’t have to have bought the book there to do so. Just scroll down to where the reviews are, and there’s a button. Just 1 sentence—1 word—makes a huge difference to an author.
Let’s talk about things that stand in our way of being awesome.
In order to be awesome at what you do, you have to have the freedom to be awesome. That freedom is called “agency.”
When you don’t have agency, you don’t have the power to ignore the unimportant work that wastes your time. This work can be at a job or it can be work at home. For example, you might have to spend your time on unimportant things that other people make you do (think TPS reports from the movie Office Space). If you see the movie, you might recall that things don’t end well.
They don’t end well because the workers do not have agency.
When you don’t have agency, when you finally get to the things that you want to do, you either have run out of time or you are just too tired. In short, when you don’t have agency, you don’t have control over your life or how you spend your time.
Having agency doesn’t mean you avoiding a 9-to-5 job. Most of us don’t have that luxury.
You can have a 9-to-5 and have plenty of agency. The best jobs give their workers agency, and those workers tend to be happy. They get to be creative, and come up with neat ideas, and execute those ideas.
Whereas jobs where workers do not have agency have workers who burn out.
If you don’t have agency, you do not get to make choices about the work that you do. Worse, you likely have lots of people making unreasonable demands on your time, so you feel a sense of urgency all the time, rushing around doing pointless work until you fall down one day and realize you don’t want to get up again.
That is not good.
If you’re stuck in a job (whether in the home or without) and can’t figure out why you feel overwhelmed or hopeless, I hope this small bit of wisdom helps diagnose what you are feeling.
(I did not invent it, by the way, I stole it from a colleague, who stole it from her dad, and from there…who knows. If you know, email me.)
You might be feeling a lack of agency. The inability to make choices. A perpetual wearing down that leaves little room for yourself. You do not have the space to be awesome. And you definitely need that space.
So what do you do?
Let me reassure you: you do not have to start by making drastic changes.
Instead, you can start by scaling back a little. At home, for example, let things slide a bit. Do what you need to do to feel good for yourself, and let the rest go. I had to learn to do this, and IT WAS HARD. HARD, I SAY.
I'm not telling you "just stop worrying about it." Telling someone “don’t worry,” or “just relax,” or anything of that nature just doesn’t work. So instead, I'm telling you to tell yourself that, in whatever way works for you. What's the difference? The way that worked for me comes from the great book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by the Nagoski sisters. They taught me about “Human Giver Syndrome"; when I learned about being a human giver, I saw myself. I gave too much of myself, too much of the time, to things that didn't matter very much, because I felt guilty if I didn't.
And once I had a diagnosis as a Giver, I was able to cure the problem. (I highly recommend the book!)
In short, if you can stop giving too much of yourself to those who don’t give a crap about you (or the laundry, which also doesn't give a crap about you), you can use the energy you’ve saved to make space for yourself.
In that space, you can make something for yourself—you can find your agency. Slowly, that space will get bigger and bigger. It just will, I promise. Like a field of dandelions let loose. Dandelions are not weeds. They’re sunny yellow energy balls that turn into creativity bombs that grow more energy balls, and on and on. Let loose, friends.