Since March of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic really took off on a global scale, a lot has changed in my life: I met the woman I’m going to spend the rest of my life with on a Zoom call, I moved to Florida to be with her, I’ve consciously ended a couple of important friendships and, I decided that I don’t want to hustle anymore.
When I first got sober in 2016, I jumped in head first with the gusto of a person discovering themself for the first time. Every experience I had felt brand new. Without the ability to numb my feelings, I had to feel them. Along the way, with the help of a sobriety program that aimed to teach folks how to live life without alcohol, I was able to collect a variety of tools and coping mechanisms. The more I learned, the more I shared and the more I shared, the more people told me I was helping them.
Pretty soon, without any conscious shift on my part, I began trying to find the “lesson” in every experience I was having so I could write it up in a photo caption. After all, the people needed me, right?
With every person who told me I should write a book or that what I was talking about helped them to realize something about their own life, I plunged deeper and deeper into the idea that what I had to say was special; that my ability to connect with people and explain things were my gifts to the world and no matter what the cost, I had to continue. I was convinced that if I didn’t expend my emotional labor to help people, I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my purpose and I’d be left drifting along with the current, directionless.
I went from writing lists about how sobriety helped me to expounding upon how fucked up drinking culture is to loudly trying to be “on the right side” of anti racism work to talking and writing almost exclusively about discovering sexual identity to trying to monetize the work I had been doing for free on Instagram.
None of these causes are wrong, in fact, every single thing I was loud about then is still something that I am truly invested in now. The problem was that I was looking to other people to model for me the way that I should be acting.
Every instance in my life where I’ve followed someone else’s lead instead of carving my own path has led me to feeling misaligned with my integrity. And every time, as I try to conform, this misalignment leads to mental, emotional and physical consequences.
In late 2019 / early 2020, I finally figured out what I was “meant” to do with my life. I decided that I had done enough unpaid labor with folks and that I should be financially compensated for the guidance I was providing on a daily basis. I was going to start a business. Not just any business, I was finally going to take everything I had been doing for the past couple of years and formalize it, I was starting a sexual identity mentoring business.
I knew all of the steps I needed to take in order to make this business match my vision yet, somehow, I just…couldn’t.
I had a handful of clients I was meeting with regularly but, every time I sat down to work on a blog post or newsletter or website or anything, my brain went blank. No amount of “done is better than perfect” helped. If I couldn’t even get started, how was I supposed to get to done!?!?
Because the start of my entrepreneur career coincided with the COVID pandemic, it was easy to find outside reasons for my inability to even begin my “life’s purpose”:
- The uncertainty of a global pandemic
- Isolation, especially in the early months of the pandemic
- A new relationship
- Moving to a new state
- Taking care of my mental health
- An ADHD diagnosis
It was easy to look at the events listed above and tell myself that of course I’m at a stand still. Look at all of the changes I’ve had to make!
But, as I settled into these changes and they became my daily life, the block persisted. And, not only was there a block but, I was also noticing an anxiety and depression that would creep in whenever I tried to force myself to take action.
In late 2021 I knew something had to change, just like I knew I needed to stop drinking almost six years earlier. I didn’t feel any joy in what I was doing, only pressure, anxiety and dread that was also creeping into the non-hustle parts of my life. It was taking a toll, not only on me but also on my relationship. I decided to put all of my mentoring work on hold until the end of 2021, three-ish months.
During that three month break, my wife and I went on a trip to the mountains of northern Georgia for my birthday weekend. One of the ongoing conversations we had while we were hiking was about joy and contentment, and whether or not the things we were doing were cultivating those feelings or detracting from them. During that conversation I realized I have never just been me, sober. When I think about the first 5.75 years of my sobriety, I think about other people. I mean, sure, I took care of myself and did hard work but, I haven’t had the chance to simply exist and figure out who I am or what feels fulfilling for me.
The truth is, vying for likes, trying to say the next “big important” thing, monetizing hobbies – all of it – are based in capitalism. I can logically know that we don’t need to be productive in order to earn our self worth but, the level of hustle I had internalized meant I never felt worthy of anything unless I was working toward breaking out of the 9-5 life.
Except the 9-5 life isn’t so bad. I have a good job that I usually like and it pays me well. I know, I’m lucky. Why would I add extra work into my day, take away time with my family, just to work on a side hustle that is making me miserable?
I couldn’t come up with an acceptable answer to that question, so I stopped.
In order to actually be me, I need to end the hustle. I’m putting my mentoring on pause, at least through 2022 (but maybe forever) and I’m going to treat my social media like a place to share my life, not as a marketing tool.
Now I can spend my time doing things I love, without the added pressure of having to produce as well.
So I’m going to write this blog, not for likes or validation, just to put my thoughts out there and maybe someone will get something from them. And I’m going to keep learning about queerness, because I like it, not because I need to in order to help other people.
I’m going to realign myself with my integrity and just be me: sober me; joyful me; content me.
And I’m so excited for the possibilities.