A therapist made me confess my lost inner motives to myself
And if you’re feeling lost with your life, maybe you should see one too.
At the end of highschool, I had to choose what to do with my life. Like most people this age, I had no idea what that meant, and I was not ready to answer this question. My experience with life so far was short, and very few things related to a potential future job happened..
To sum up my experiences at that point, I :
- spent most of my time playing videogames.
- played a bit of piano and classic guitar, because my parents wanted me to try instruments. I always loved music, like really loved it, but the “music school” environment was frustrating for me. Playing classical stuff was not my thing, and my teachers had little interest in teaching me some rock / pop stuff. Plus the “classical” music was not exactly “en vogue” in Paris suburbs, in the blowing years of hardcore french hip hop.
- made some hip-hop loops over which I rapped with some friends. I really loved it. Writing those texts, playing with samples and rapping over it. But the “ghetto” part of the french suburbs’ hip-hop we were doing was not entirely aligned with my philosophy (if I had any at that age). I felt like the “gansta pretending” was a bit restraining — and, oh my, it seems to be way worse today.
- tried a lot of different sports, and although I liked practicing sport, I was not particularly good at it or had a big thing for competitions. At table tennis, I was this guy who could sometimes beat the best guys of the club, but would never pass the first round during an official tournament, even when playing some really lame opponents — hell, it was even worse in that case, because I tried too hard to show them, before even being warm, resulting in a long series of fautls.
- drew a bit, and although I liked it, I wasn’t particularly good at it.
My father was not really into my “arty” stuff, and to be honest, all I did at the time was fooling around 3 hours a month, so him supporting me on that would have been quite surprising, if not stupid. I’m not even sure I ever showed him some of my stuff. I mean, Hip-Hop was not really his cup of tea, and I don’t think I ever told him I was rapping a bit.
My dad worked all his life as an executive for the same big company, so I was unconsciously feeling encouraged to follow the same path.
As I always was kind of bored at school, I was tempted to stop studying after highschool. Clever idea when you don’t know how to do anything. But I knew that, so I decided to go for short IT studies, as everybody was saying it was easy to have an IT job. And also because I loved playing video games on my PC all day — I would discover later that IT programming was not really the same as playing video games, especially if you’re making internal applications in big companies.
Studying IT was actually quite OK, and not too hard for me, as I always had the mind for logical and methodical stuff, even if I was really shitty at abstract maths. I ended up working for a bank after 5 years of quite successful public college studies, then relocated in a smaller city — could not stand life in Paris’ suburbs anymore — , Toulouse and found a job quite easily.
I felt lost in my job after 4–5 years, had a bit of what would now be called a burnout, and quit to go make a world trip and “find myself again” — how cliché. But a solid job offer for the flight company I indirectly worked for before quitting motivated me to put those feelings aside for a bit, given the fact that this new position would offer me the opportunity to travel a lot anyway (which I did and loved).
I am now an expert in this flight company since 7 years. I have a comfortable situation, I don’t consider myself rich, but the city I live in is not the most expensive and I am not in any form of material need. Two years ago I had another troubled time, and wanted some change. I had an opportunity to apply for a big job in a quite big company in San Francisco, thanks to a friend of mine. The job was a considerably higher position than the one I had (like two hierarchical steps above) and I did not have the profile for it, but gave it a try anyway. I happened to almost land the job — but did not for internal political reasons — , which was both very suprising and shomehow rewarding. Even more considering I never lived abroad but managed to deal with the 10 interviews in english. The boss liked me so much he offered me two other very good positions ( still considerably bigger than mine ), but many factors, including the company entering a recession, prevented me to make this move. Being honest, I was more attracted by the “change of life” — I always was excited about big changes — and “living in San Francisco” than by the jobs themselves. They were incredibly good jobs, but deep down I wasn’t thrilled at all at the idea of obtaining them.
The truth is, working in a big company felt not right for me at that moment. I need to be at 100% every minute, or I go to 0% very quickly, and a company this size is not what you’d call very reactive. Plus, as I am a very quick learner, I get bored when nothing new is happening, and after 10 years, there is not a lot of completely new stuff arriving daily on my desk. I switched team and my specialty 2 years ago, was excited by the “I know nothing”-ness of it — like Jon — and got bored again six months later, when I realized I was now able to handle that. The only thing I found exciting in the last months was designing iOS flat icons from time to time, which was not even supposed to be my job.
Since I arrived in Toulouse 9 years ago, I had the chance to reconnect with my “arty” self more, even if I only kept doing what I considered amateurish stuff on the side of my job. I started to play electrical guitar more often (a college friend of mine put me back to guitar some years before), learned on my own how to use computers to record / mix stuff. Played in some small but nice bands, invested a bit of money in hardware and recorded many friends’ albums. I also continuously released solo electro-rockish songs, mostly for friends’ videos / films. I would say that even if I never had any particular success in the area — never tried to anyway — , I managed to build myself some valid experience.
I started taking pictures only two years ago. I had a digital camera in the past but never used it to do more than snapping some parties or holidays pictures. During a trip in NYC, afriend of mine showed me his camera and the pictures he took with it, and I was blown away by his work and the apparent quality of this little camera (a ricoh GRD IV for the curious ones). I bought myself one some months later, and often take it with me since. I started to discover at the same time that I was able to be touched by pictures, and started digging some photo artists.
Since my faux-départ to San Francisco and the end of my previous band, I started to feel more and more depressed and frustrated all the time. I didn’t feel like recording bands anymore because the “load all your hardware and wire it somewhere else each week-end” aspect of not having my own studio was killing most of the fun. I didn’t play in a new band for some time. I found myself having too much free time, and hated it, but also I was feeling less and less motivated to try and start new stuff. Worse, at work I was beginning to become the angry-bitchy-lazy-ass coworker I always promised myself I’d never be when I started my job.
Some months ago I met a girl from Barcelona on an online dating site. She was really cool, intelligent, cultured and motivated. She was working her ass off every day in a job she seemed to love a lot — many jobs, actually. When I first told her what I was doing for a living she was amazed, but I was not proud of it at all — I felt a kind of shame when describing my job since a long time. Not that I thought it was a shitty job — it’s definitely not, I work on very OK projects and people are globally quite nice— , but it was obvious to me (at least at a deep unconscious level) it was not what I was supposed to do with myself.
She was really able to understand me. My whole personality, even the stuff I was often hiding to my girlfriends — a reflex I developped after having faced total incomprehension when describing how my head works. This understanding happened very rarely in my life, especially from girls I was into. She understood even my shitty frustrated control freak aspects, without being particularly mad at it. I tried to feed myself from her energy, trying to renew my IT interest by working on some personal stuff on the side, thinking about moving abroad again, about even creating my own company. After some weeks, I was quickly confronted to a simple fact : I was not motivated by working in IT anymore, no matter how much energy I was willing to put into it. My relationship with this woman did not turn out very well in the end, mostly because I was a mess, throwing chaotic energy around and being sad that nothing extraordinary happened in return. I was somehow waiting for a miracle, something that would make all my expectations achieved all of a sudden. Despite that failure she had a big impact on me, making me realize a lot of my flaws, more importantly that I had a very obvious problem to solve in my life, even if I had no idea what it was. I was starting to go to bed very early again — something I did not do since 10 years, when I was sick of Paris — to make days pass faster, waiting for who knows what to just happen.
I can be very self-centered when I’m not OK, and I am definitely the kind of person who will always think about everything in advance and be very critical towards himself. But even so, I was unable to understand what the fuck I wanted. I felt big rushes of headless energy coming at me, and was left blank concerning what to do with it. I preferred to just let time pass, being more and more inactive. Progressively every choice became a burden, even the most simple ones. Particularly the simplest ones. And I was avoiding every constraint or obligation too. Everything seemed too complicated. My work started to become a nightmare of boredom and lazyness, and I wasn’t even happy to finish my day of work because I felt like I had nothing interesting to do at home either.
I half-thought about seeing a psychologist at some points in my life, but never managed to find the energy to do so. I come from a very “doctor-free” family. We mostly deal with our shit silently and on our own. So going to see a therapist seemed really lame to me, even if I had no doubt it could have some benefits. The barcelonian girl told me that I could really benefit from it, and as she seemed like a very balanced person to me, even if she was thinking a lot too. It was the final push.
I had my first session some months ago. I tried some therapists randomly and found one I felt comfortable to talk to, even if the exercise was quite troubling. It was particularly strange considering my randomness brought me to someone who seemed to be specialized in children therapy. Adults in the waiting room were only parents waiting for their young ones. And the mini table, chairs and blackboard in the office gave our appointments a bit of a grotesque touch — even if we seated in real adult chairs. But I had a good feeling with her, and was confident she might be able to help me.
We talked about everything, starting at my childhood — how cliché, again — , and she quickly helped me understand why I was the way I was in many aspects. It didn’t help first though. My everyday life was still the same, even if I often felt relieved after our sessions. She then told me she thought I might have been an undiagnosed gifted child. I didn’t really know how to react to that. A mix between some strange pride, a bit of acceptation, and mostly the fact that it didn’t change anything to my current situation, apart from explaining it partially. One thing was certain : that fact plus the trauma related to death I’ve been through when young could certainly explain why I get bored easily when I’m not learning new stuff, and why I feel so compelled to always make the best use of my time, even when it means not sleeping or never having any real rest in days — I can be quite obsessional.
I was still completely lost. I knew I was not into the IT stuff I was doing in my company anymore, but I had no idea what else I could do. I told her I had a lot of different hobbies and passion, but could not imagine myself in a precise job, even less a job that could pay my bills. She told me in a conversational tone “I know someone who was like you. And he did find a solution to that. He invented his own job. For sure, as it’s a job, he has days when he doesn’t feel like doing it, but in general he made sure all the stuff he dislikes the most is done by someone else.”. I found that interesting, even if I still couldn’t figure out how to adapt that to my situation, especially if I was hoping to “make a living”.
Some months later, I had something that was close to a breakthrough. My therapist was listening to me bitching about my work — which was becoming to be an habit in the last months — , and made a very interesting point: “How come you always seem half dead when you speak about every aspect of your work but every discussion we had that was positive was about what you do related to art ?”. “Did you ever consider the fact that you seem to be more inclined to do something more creative or related to art than your actual work ? That you might be an artist ?”.
Clearly, I never thought that I could be an artist, whatever it means. First because for me this word is very presomptuous. But if you put the word aside, I realized I never thought that art could be more than a hobby to me, because it’s kind of how I was raised. And don’t get me wrong there, I don’t blame anyone of having stolen my life by giving me a wrong vision of myself. Nobody even ever told me “shut up man, you’re not an artist”. That was just programmed in me. Usually when someone would tell me “you’re quite an artist”, I would laugh nervously about it, considering I was gently made fun of.
Hearing this remark from my therapist’s mouth unlocked something in me. I almost burst into tears without really controlling it, which is not something that happens to me often, and it never happened before in therapy sessions. As I was explaining to her why I never thought about myself like that, I was shaking with emotions, not really knowing why. Like this denial was exactly the source of all this frustration I accumulated during the years, while my faith in “being a big company IT worker” was getting slimmer.
If I’m being honest, until recently I wasn’t focused enough on my arty interests to consider them as legit. And when I decided to work in IT I didn’t even do anything arty at all in my life. Working as an IT guy had some good times from time to time in the first years, so it was quite natural for me to go with the flow. And this job offered me an opportunity to have enough money to try other stuff in the first place.
I gave this strange session some second toughts. I still didn’t think I will be able to make a living out of my arty interests, but at least now I had enough conviction in what I do to give it a try, one way or another. Deep down I took my decision of resigning from my current work at the second I heard myself accepting that working in a big company as an IT guy was not my thing. At least not anymore.
The following days I kept seeing all those inspirational quotes you see everywhere on the web : “Do what you love, and success will come to you naturally”, “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life (which I knew was stupid, because whatever you do, work always feels like work at some point) and my favorite “If you’re not scared, you’re doing something wrong”. I knew it was the usual motivational hippie BS, but it still resonated in me. Everything is a sign when you’re looking for one. I also read some very good articles even in here, some encouraging people to take the big step, some others about how those mottos could really fuck things up for fragile and truth-seeking people, and I knew all this was part of the truth.
I happen to have some money on the side, enough to live a year or two without working ( which is longer than I will give myself to kind of succeed anyway). I don’t own my flat which means I have to pay the rent, but I also don’t have a fixed mortgage to pay. I don’t have a family. I live in a great city where I know a lot of inspiring people working in a lot of fields I like. I decided that maybe I should take my chance now. If things go wrong, I still have a very valid experience in IT, and I’m not bad at job interviews, so I think I’ll be able to explain my situation and still find a decent job. I can even do some short and easy freelance IT missions (without a boss or the flaws of a giant elephant of a company) to pay the bills while trying some other stuff the rest of the time.
I decided to call / mail my family and some friends to talk about it and most of them were really encouraging. My brother told me I was the artist of the family. I half-laughed with embarassment — old habit — but he was being honest. My sister who practically raised me for some time when I was a real shithead, told me she never worried about me since I was 20, that I will always figure something out. She told me some very moving stuff we don’t usually say to each other. I was less direct with my father — old habit too — and he seemed not precisely joyful about the idea of me leaving a good job to do god knows what. And I get that too. He is my father, he cares about me, and I’m telling him I’m leaving a secured and well-paid job to do nothing specific ? I might be frightened too in this situation …
But I realized I seeked all of those exchanges more to cheer me up and take some positive energy — and it served this purpose wonderfully — than to make up my mind. It was already made up.
The day after, I talked to my bosses. They were incredibly comprehensive and encouraging, even if they will have some shitty days / weeks because of my decision — but the company will definitely survive for sure, at least regarding my absence. One of them told me “I read a statistic one day. It’s X times more likely to die in this company than to quit it.” Well, I guess I chose my side. Unless I die in the three next months.
The coworker with whom I share my office told me he was sad to lose me, because I was a nice guy and also a good swiss knife in the team and in the company. And that’s exactly what I am. A swiss knife. I learn things really fast and am always happy to do something else the next week. And I should embrace that, and let myself do a lot of different stuff for a living, if I manage to, because I’m not meant to do the exact same thing everyday, with the same people, and it’s pointless to force myself to do so.
The boss of a video / web production company I love mailed me the same day to tell me he might have a little freelance IT job for me. It’s not sealed yet. And it’s only a couple-of-days potential paycheck. But it gave me a little more hope. Some signs are more consistent than inspirational quotes on the Internet.
I will not lie to you, I am scared to death. My back hurts a lot because of the stress I can’t keep down. My brain is on fire since four days — I mean more on fire than usual at least. But I feel more alive than I felt for the last two years. Maybe I’ll be homeless in 24 months. That’s one of the possibilities. But I don’t think it’s the most probable one. Maybe I’ll be back in being a regular IT salary guy, and I’ll probably be disappointed in myself, but I would have tried. This one is quite likely, if I want to be honest.
But who knows ? For the first time in years, I don’t know where I’ll be in 24 months. And I am happy I put that train out of tracks.
My breakthrough therapy session was monday, my next session is still in a week. Guess my therapist and I will have a lot to talk about …