Sometimes I feel that half the people I know online I’ve met through Men with Pens, which considering how awesome they are, is a good thing. 😉 I met Allison through the Pen Men’s Escaping Reality writing/gaming site. Allison is wonderfully supportive of everything and everyone and she’s a joy to talk to (plus her food blogs make me drool).
Who: Allison Day of Fridgg.com and Sushi Day
Allison is a food blogger who works for herself, developing websites and programming software that she hopes will someday benefit the communities that she participates in.
Name one moment in your life when you threw a pity party for yourself and the reasons why you felt you weren’t able to achieve your goals. Were you feeling stuck? Had you felt you failed? What wasn’t working in your life?
First a little history. I began learning the programming languages I use two years ago. I’ve never taken any sort of computer class, and I’m entirely self-taught as a programmer. On the other hand, Son (my boyfriend and also my business partner) has a Master’s degree in Information and Computer Science, works for a very well-known internet company, and has been programming for over ten years. Obviously he has a ton more experience than I do, but at the same time he expects me to be just as good, if not better than he is.
Because of the gap between our levels of experience there are things that may not come as naturally for me as they do him, because I learned on a need-to-know basis rather than being required to learn good coding practices and theory as course requirements. So every now and then, he (understandably) gets frustrated with me because I make amateur mistakes that would be very stupid if I had his experience.
And then comes the pity party. Generally I get very frustrated and overwhelmed by the enormity of the project, and how much there is left for me to learn. Though I don’t get a feeling of failure, I do become very intimidated by the problem that happens to be holding me up at the time, and I have a huge fear of what will happen if the project I’m working on doesn’t become successful. The what-ifs really get to me, and then without outside intervention I will procrastinate like heck to avoid having to face the problem (which usually ends up not being all that bad after all.)
Even our lowest moments fulfill a need in us or express our desires. When you threw yourself that pity party, what did you hope to gain? What need did you fulfill?
Although there is nothing I consciously look for when I throw a pity party, I think unconsciously I’m looking for reassurance that I am good enough. Being able to code for myself and work on the projects that I want to work on, I’m pretty much living my dream. So there’s always that terrible fear that I won’t be able to create applications that people will want to use or pay for, and I’ll have to go get an office job. Unfortunately, this fear often paralyzes me, so I do need to be reminded sometimes that I can do it, and that I’m good enough to succeed on my own.
Tell us what you did to break up the pity party. What actions did you decide to take? Did someone help you buoy your spirits? Push you along?
Thank goodness for Son. As well as being my biggest critic, he is also the person who believes in me most as a programmer. Whenever I get to the point where I throw a pity party and freeze up, he knows how to calm me down, lift my spirits, and give me enough of a push in the right direction to get past that pity party.
Luckily, there are several things I can do on my own to avoid the pity parties. My problems usually involves not knowing how to code something or use some new database or API, and I get overwhelmed and become paralyzed. Instead, I’ve learned to break down the big problems into teeny-tiny, extremely manageable steps. Thus I avoid the pity parties, avoid the procrastination, and keep from getting needlessly overwhelmed.
Can you look back on that moment and tell us how you felt when you did decide to take action? What results came about from your decision to take charge and move on?
Relief. There’s always relief when I get past my hold-ups, and sometimes even a sense of silliness when I realize that the big monstrous problem that was scaring the bejeebers out of me really was more of a tiny kitten – the claws can still scratch me a little, but it’s actually kind of small and cuddly and not going to eat me alive in one bite. In every case the solution has been much easier than I expected, and I get an enormous sense of accomplishment when I end up whizzing past the problem and getting a ton of work done.
Everyone has a Someday problem hiding deep inside, even little ones. What variety of the Someday Syndrome do you currently harbor? What would you like to achieve but haven’t yet?
My preferred flavor of the Someday Syndrome is definitely “I’ll Get Around To It Someday”. All my life I’ve been a huge procrastinator, and though I’d love to say I’ve grown out of it, that’s definitely not the case. There are a lot of things I’d love to do someday – learn Japanese and Vietnamese, travel, become healthier, start a family. While for some things I believe it makes sense to wait until someday, when such-and-such happens (for example, someday when I get married and can settle down, I’ll start a family), for others I’m just plain procrastinating (there’s no reason why I can’t get healthier right now, or learn a new language.)
Of course on a smaller scale there’s always the, “yeah… I should do that. But this distraction or other thing I need to do over here is so much more interesting…” and I procrastinate on everyday things. Like responding to these interview questions when I actually should be working or doing laundry. Oops…
Examining your Someday Syndrome problem, what are you currently doing to resolve it and eliminate it from your life?
Just like with my pity parties, it’s the baby steps that really help. For example, ever since I was young I dreamt of being a professional ballet dancer. Unfortunately, after a bad car accident and subsequent changes in goals during my college years, this lifelong dream got relegated to a “someday” dream. This is where the baby steps came into play – first I started getting back into dance by just doing mini work-outs at home, then I started taking actual ballet classes at a studio near me, but at a level lower than I used to dance. This way there’s not the pressure to immediately be at the level I was before my accident, and I can work my way back up to it without stressing and worrying about not being good enough. Now, I’m rehearsing for an upcoming show with my old dance school, where I get to have lead roles in a couple of mini-ballets, and do one of my all-time favorite pieces of choreography. While this may not be the professional dancing I had dreamed of, I still get a huge sense of achievement from working my way up from near nothing to making a modified version of my big “someday” dream into a “now” dream.
Many people suffer the same problems you do. You’re not alone, and neither are they. What would you tell people in your situation right now to help them avoid what you’re going through?
I know everybody says this, but break things down into steps. With both my pity parties and my “Someday” dreams, I always, always procrastinate more when it’s a huge intimidating problem. And in every case, I’ve been able to overcome my procrastination when I broke the problem down into super easy, itsy-bitsy steps. Sure it takes some time to figure out how to break things down into such small steps, but it really is worth it.
If you could ask for one thing, right now, to help you overcome your Someday Syndrome, what type of help would you ask for?
In all seriousness, more hours in the day. There are never enough hours in the day for everything I want to do. If I had more time, I could take time to pursue the dancing dream further, and take more significant steps to accomplish other “someday” dreams that I have, without taking time away from the potentially profitable projects that I currently spend most of my time working on.