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You know when you have to have a serious conversation with someone? And you know that it could go poorly depending on their reaction, so you try to be ready for the worst? So you run the conversation in your head and think of what could go wrong, just so you have an idea of what to expect. You get prepared, and then go for that tough talk.

Now imagine if when you started going over scenarios, your thoughts just started going on wild tangents related to the original idea. You think about the conversation, but of course it goes poorly, so after that you sit in the car, very upset, but you’re not sure where you’re going so you think you should call someone to tell them how upset you are about this failed conversation so then you picture yourself sitting in the car, tears streaming downyour face, and how now peoplearegoing to laugh at you every timetheytalk to Bob becauseyou’re stupid, you’reso fucking stupid, OFCOURSE IT FAILED, YOUALWAYS FAIL WHODOYOUTHINKYOUARE?

You think, “who the fuck is this guy? I didn’t invite him to the party.” But it doesn’t really matter, because you’re not sure how to kick him out. Eventually, he’s been there so long you just listen to him. All the other guests left anyway. Maybe it’s because this guy is so loud, or maybe it’s just because you’re so damn boring and worthless. Or maybe that’s little velvet suit shrimp guy talking. It gets hard to tell.

One thing I do know is that I can’t listen to that cocky little lounge act. He’s a guy in the audience heckling the comic, and he’ll get right under my skin. The thing about hecklers is that they’re not telling the truth. They’re finding a little crack in the defense, and magnifying it to look like the Grand Canyon. Anxiety is going to do just that. Find any cracks and take a pick axe to them.

It’s okay. You’re not wrong for how you feel. You just need to know that anxiety is not real fear, even though it certainly feels that way. It’s just your mind running wild, and 99% of the time, there’s nothing to actually worry about. So take the time you need to calm down. Give yourself some breathing room, and remind yourself that once you take the first steps, the reality will be far less terrifying than your expectation.

Sometimes I feel like I’ll be searching for purpose until I die. It’s like every 10 years, I reinvent myself and choose a new direction. At 10 it was drawing comic books. At 20 it was tattooing. At 30 it was running a business. At 40…well 40 isn’t quite here yet. I know there’s change coming. I still feel dissent and uneasiness in myself, and it’s what drives me to distance myself from the man I have been in favor of some newer, better version.

Is this necessary? Is this what growth is supposed to be about? Or is this just the meanderings of depression and anxiety, yearning to break free from routine in hopes to find some semblance of peace and order? That wasn’t even a thought in my head 10 years ago, because I saw the next goal as being the source of happiness. The more I achieve, the more I see that happiness is not a destination.

The problem is, even with valid reasons for depression, I can’t escape it. I’ve worked hard to change my life. I got sober, got my business in order, removed debt, and I bought that elusive home. The journey has opened my eyes to the nature of how my brain functions, and it’s simultaneously amazing and disheartening. Even so, it still gives me hope for the future. It lets me know that it’s not my fault, and I can’t always dictate how I feel or how it affects me.

I’ve said before that I think everyone should work a 12 step program. The issues that addicts are facing and attempting to reconcile through 12 steps are the same issues everyone faces. The nature of a 12 step program is acceptance of how life is, a whole lot of introspection and honest self evaluation, and making effort to correct what you can. It’s a process to gain more self awareness and to stop trying to control everything.

So I’ll go ahead and redefine myself, and redefine my goals. The challenges and obstacles that depression and anxiety bring me are not stops on the path, they’re just roadblocks. Fallen trees. We learn how to navigate past them. We go around, or over, or under, and we continue. There’s no need to stop and scream and cry about the branches, because the path goes on beyond them.

What are you doing with YOUR life? Have you followed the trails that bring you joy and contentment? Or are you stuck in one of those terrifying valleys? It’s up to us as individuals to create the map we follow. Don’t wander through life lost. Make the conscious decision to clear the obstacles in your path, and move forward to a more satisfying life.

I was recently working on one of my innumerable pet projects I take on when I suddenly ground to a screeching halt. In my head, there were plans, process, and method to bring me to my end goal. I looked at the painting I was working on and hated it. The first one went perfectly, every line and splatter in proper place with minimal effort. That second painting, that son of a bitch, was just hot garbage.

These days, I’ve still decided to throw in the towel. The difference is, it’s not quite quitting, it’s more setting it down. You see, I have a priority list for my projects. Usually I’ll have one or two main goals, and then 3 or 4 art projects. If I am stuck on one, I work on the next. If I’m stuck on the next, I have a backup list of projects.

If this is something completely foreign to you, I suggest starting with something small. We all have basic morning routines, right? We get up, brush our teeth, have coffee, whatever it is you do. Pick something simple that helps you move toward something you want. For me, I make sure to set aside a little time for drawing. A lot of my goals are related to art and merchandise, so I have to consistently work on that.

So what is it that you want to accomplish? What goal have you not been pursuing? I can’t stress the importance of writing down your goals, and breaking it down into the individual steps it will take to achieve them. When you look at a big goal (and you should be aiming big) it can look intimidating. That’s only because you haven’t sat down and figured out the smallest step. Journey of a thousand miles and all that jazz.