Around 18 months after graduating from college, I realized that my life wasn’t going nearly as well as I had planned.
Working at a purely commission-based artist management firm, success seemed to always be just around the corner, we just never quite attained the traction necessary to reach it. It was the type of job where just because something was 90% complete didn’t mean that we collected 90% of the payment. It was all or nothing. I knew that I had to get my professional life in order because it was taking an enormous toll on my finances. On one of those rare nights when my problems refused to let me hide from them, I finally was forced to face the reality of my situation and do something about it.
I vowed to wake up at 6 AM every weekday morning until my life was back in order.
Those were the exact words that I scribbled into a yellow notebook that I would go on to fill with notes and insights about where I was going wrong and how to solve my problems. Looking back on it, the exact wording was very misleading, as it implied that there did exist a point in which my life had been in perfect order. That was never the case and it still hasn’t materialized. Since graduating college, I had about two weeks of stability before I started to fall behind on the payment that I was told I would be receiving at work. I got inventive and resourceful and made financial moves to get me by in the short-term, all the while hoping that we would eventually get that big pay off. Those maneuvers are still following me around today in the form of credit card debt, but I did survive when really I was in way over my head.
Waking up at 6 AM was as much an act of punishing myself as it was a way to find more hours in the day (and boy was it punishment!), but I did start off using the time wisely. I sat down and listed my problems in the yellow notebook. I wrote down big scary questions without answers:
How the hell are you going to survive the next two months?
How will you get beyond scraping by and start to clean up the mess you’ve made since graduation?
Then, I moved on to:
How will I continue to pursue my long-term goals and dreams while fixing my short-term problems?
How will I prevent this company from continuing to pursue myopic endeavors?
How much does this company have to gross in order to fully employ me?
At what point do I look for a second job?
I started laying out my life in the form of a to do list. Then, I started tackling each item on the list one by one. In this way, I came up with a plan on how to get my finances back in order, how to stabilize things at work, how to be a better human being. Things were still a huge mess for me, but at least I was finding a way out and clawing my way towards it.
Eventually, I fell into a pattern of using the extra hours to get a head start on work responsibilities. I started to feel like my life was out of balance as I lost those hours that I had for myself. Though I strayed from my original purpose, using those extra hours for work fast-tracked a realization that I was hiding from for a long time: I needed to get out of that job. It wasn’t my best chance for success, and no matter how hard I tried, I could never make it what I needed it to be, so I started planning my escape.
After resigning from that job, I planned on continuing to wake up at 6 am everyday, but my motivation was taxed by the fact that I was working a part-time job to hold me over until I found what was next. It’s difficult to wake up at 6 am when you don’t have anywhere to be until 5 PM. I backslid to 7 AM and 8 AM and have been content with myself for a while.
It’s been over three months since I left my last job and I have been extremely creative and skillful in making excuses for not trying harder to pursue the next thing. It’s been a very confusing time for me, but I’m beginning to realize that the best way to clear my head is to wake up painfully early and think about stuff until it makes sense.
That’s why my alarm clock is set for 6 AM tomorrow morning. Hopefully the extra hours will put me on the fast track to figuring out just what the hell I’m supposed to be doing right now!
What drastic measures have you taken to center yourself, make difficult decisions, or craft a game plan and path forward?