Help me write an anti-bucket-list
June 8, 2012 3:58 PM Subscribe
How do people learn to want more for themselves? My baseline standards for 'not failing at life' are way off.
I’ll be starting therapy (mostly CBT) in a couple of months, and asking about this problem, but I’d really appreciate other people’s insights before I start.
Trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault/abuse/sex work.
My problem: after the first flush of enthusiasm fades I just leave my jobs- even if I have no financial provision for the next period of time. Over the past two years (I’m 24, female) I’ve been able to improve my diet and exercise habits significantly, but working harder hasn’t stuck. I’ve read many of the procrastination/self-discipline/ADD/being-an-adult threads here, and compiled a monster list from them of specific strategies for getting myself to function. This has helped a lot on a day-to-day basis, but hasn’t prevented me continuing my usual pattern. After a while I just start to feel hopeless and detach, even if the job is going okay, and leave.
In my eyes, I’ve always been able to just scrape through. So I haven’t summoned up the will to go any further with my jobs. I’ve spent periods of time being homeless, struggling to cover food costs, and working as a prostitute (note: this question isn't anonymous for building-personal-integrity reasons, I won't be your personal hooker). Plenty of people would categorise my choices and experiences as ‘failure’ rather than ‘just skating through/managing’. So I’d like to learn to do that, as I think it would be motivating.
Probably relevant background: at university I was raped, and since then I’ve had trouble dealing with that, and it also caused me to start thinking about and dealing with some child sexual abuse. Over about five years I’ve gone from expecting myself to excel academically and get into the best university in my country (which I did), and hoping for an academic career, to being proud of myself for getting up the courage to go out to johns’ houses, or for going running sometimes. I’m sure that dealing with some underlying feelings about the past would help me, but that’s not my focus in this question. Work problems are what is immediately keeping me from a stable life and I’d like to address them directly and quickly if possible. Also, I realise this question is pretty self-centred, sorry, but I’ve found that while focusing on other people definitely helps my mood and is good in itself, it hasn’t helped me organise my own affairs any better.
I don’t think my life needs to be like this. I have a smattering of skills in different disciplines, and a good (though humanities) degree from a top-tier university. I’m becoming more concerned for the future: it’s probable that my ability to skate by will diminish as the short-term positions on my CV pile up, and the number of good references I can give dwindles. I’m also scared by the apparent consensus that if people don’t get their shit together in their early/mid-twenties, their negative behavioural patterns can entrench themselves for decades/life.
Many people ‘hit rock bottom’ at some point and then stop their self-defeating behaviours. I’ve hit several rock bottoms and all it’s done is make me realise that I can survive down there. I don’t know how to persuade myself that my standards for myself should be higher. I don’t like my life when it’s not going well, but as yet it hasn’t been a strong enough motivator to make me change. I’d like to build a collection of reasons why I should try harder to hold onto work and not let myself slip.
So, or tl;dr:
1) Given any option to avoid them, which life choices do you see as ‘failures’ which are simply impermissible? I’m not asking what you judge other people for, but rather what standards you hold yourself to.
2) Why is it better to hold onto stable work and not be scrabbling all the time?
3) If you’ve raised your expectations for yourself, how did you do that?