A few moments ago, I read this article about Existential depression in gifted individuals by James T. Webb. Ignore the gifted individuals wording: I do not self-identify as gifted, nor think it an appropriate description for myself.
Never before have I so clearly understood my thoughts. I did not know that this was a thing. Growing up, I wish I had known that I was not alone in feeling like this. But at least I know now. Recently, I started to recognize more and more that I keep myself busy wondering who I am, what I am supposed to do, and why I am here. When people ask me what I do as a hobby, I haven’t been able to answer anything besides: a lot of thinking, and a lot of Netflix. Lately, I have been doing more of the latter because I lost my job, and I’m trying to ignore the thinking. But when I go to bed, when it’s time to shut my brain off, my thoughts come back because they are no longer distracted by TV.
So I got artsy. I got notecards and wrote: Who I am, Why I do, What I do, and How I do it (one card for each). I drew my response, wrote where I lacked artistic talent, and found the same answer I always see: I want to help people. But as someone who wants to get a job, and wants to be done with their education for awhile (I’m about to finish my 18th year of school, with no breaks in between) I am losing the most essential part of my being.
I used to work two to three jobs, at any given time, because I like to keep busy. I’ll overwork myself, and leave no time for thinking if possible. But in December, the worst thing that has happened in my young life occurred: a job contract ended early. Logically, I recognize that I was the 6th or 7th person to be let go by that particular manager; I also recognize that the job was going to end in a few months anyways; I wasn’t happy in that job; and I also know that I did not want to stay on at Amazon, because their was a disconnected culture fit. But it upset my balance. I’m an extroverted thinker. I love people. I love helping people, being around people, and talking to people. So much so, that in elementary school, I was constantly being told to stop talking: even if I did know where the conversation was, or if I was helping someone else understand the teacher.
But back to where the existential depression comes in. When I was let go, I knew my reasons for not wanting to work there, but the manager gave me no reason for my ended contract (maybe she told my recruiter, but he didn’t tell me either). I know that I got lazy towards the end, and maybe that was it? But I was still caught up on my projects, no need to work 50 hours when you can work 40 and still get everything done. Maybe it was because I asked to work from home so that my hourly paycheck wouldn’t be negatively affected when I had to commute, by bus, after a doctor’s appointment: but I cancelled that appointment so I could work. Maybe I asked for too much, too soon; but I thought it was okay because I followed the example of those working around me. Those are logical reasons, but I still don’t know for sure, and it drives me insane.
Who am I? I’m not a busy bee – anymore – and so now I try to find hobbies I enjoy. I don’t want to draw, I don’t want to play video games, I don’t know what to do with myself because I feel like, since I’m not working, everything I do is a waste of time.
What do I do? I used to write. But maybe I’m not actually good at writing. Maybe it was something I told myself, and maybe I had a big ego and not an actual skill? I want to help people, but I don’t know what kind of job wants someone who just wants to help people. I could do customer service, but maybe all of my past experience is negligible, and I should pretend that I’ve only gone to school, and never had a job: even though I’m 24 and have been working for 10 years. Maybe everything I have done in the past doesn’t actually matter? But I’ll count my education because I’m doing pretty good there.
Do you see where this is all going? Yea, me too: nowhere. It is a useless conversation. Except, when I searched for “dealing with an existential crisis” at 4AM on a (technically) Tuesday, and found the article I mentioned in the first sentence.
So… why I am I typing all of this out for you to read? Well, because I like to share even when it’s not welcome. That’s also why this is in a blog I know next to no one actually reads. I get a weird sense of inclusion typing this where someone/anyone could find it. But all of this reared its head when I started applying for a job that I really, really want. It’s a Research job, where I get to read people’s opinions, and fix things based on those opinions, and other relevant research. That.sounds.awesome. That’s like, a dream job. I love reading constructive feedback, I love fixing things, and I love that the fixing makes other people happy/enjoy an experience more thoroughly. I want to work for the company because they treat their employees to a challenge everyday, but they also see them as people who have lives and families at home. The whole job starts with a rigorous interview process where you get to talk to people all day for like two days, and you get to nerd out on what you know and love to do. Then, if you get the job, you get to go nerd out with them everyday, and help people in the process. Research, man. Awesome.
But how do I say that to them? Do they actually care? And, what if I’m not the one? I have no control over it. Applications, resumes, cover letters; the whole process is completely luck of the draw. You can never really predict how one person’s day will lead to their reading your resume and cover letter. You can only control so much, but with the ambiguous design of cover letters, and the specific preferences of those reading them, you can never really control whether or not you are someone they even glance at. Even if you are open and honest, what if they just think you’re saying what they want to hear? So then, what is an honest person to do when they would never lie to an employer, because they only applied because ….
Self-doubt, and depression, don’t mix. So, this is how I’m dealing with it.
I obviously think this job is worth it. I wouldn’t worry so damn much if I didn’t care. I wouldn’t have already written about 5-6 (maybe 8) drafts of my cover letter if I didn’t think it was important. I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed at 4AM to write this long ass blog if I didn’t care about the job. It is scary, it is out of my control, and that is how I’m dealing with this depression. I am taking those negative emotions, interpreting them for fear of not having control, and I am realizing that that is the exact reason to apply. That is the exact reason this job matters. Maybe this doesn’t make any sense to some people, but I hope it makes sense to someone else; otherwise, I probably am just crazy. And if that’s the case, well, then nothing I do really matters: ha! Ironic discontent.
If you care enough to rewrite a letter in your head, if you spend so much mental energy trying to convince yourself you’re not worth it, the job is worth it. I never worked this hard to find a job anywhere else. The last time I worried this much about an application letter, I was applying to the only graduate school I wanted to get into: and I did it. It’s worth it, every time. Embrace the fear, get a good mentor to review your work because you will probably make grammatical errors as you word-vomit your final draft, and submit the damn application. You can do it. You deserve to do it. Follow you dreams! And get help for your self-doubt as soon as you can afford it, because no one deserves to feel worthless.