My phone’s screen had been broken since December. Not shattered, but there were black lines flashing horizontally across all the time. Sometimes it would go black. I’d excitedly show someone a picture on my phone. But they’d furrow their brow, hand it back to me, and say with extreme judgment, “Something wrong with your phone?” I also couldn’t hang up on phone calls.
While on the New Jersey Turnpike, the screen started going black and pixelated colors every time I hit a bump. There are lots of bumps. I wondered if I’d make it or have to drive around to stores and gas stations until I could find a map. Or have to ask for directions, and remember what it was like to look for street signs. And Jersey drivers are not happy when you slow down while looking for parking, much less for a street sign. I drove the rest of the way delicately holding the phone and thankfully made it. But that night I had to call it quits, redo my budget, and plan my day around a morning Costco visit.
I splurged on a Samsung Galaxy S8. And while trying to log into Lastpass for one last time, the screen started turning black and while tapping it, I accidentally called someone I didn’t want to call, like really didn’t want to call, who was still in my favorites. And I couldn’t hang up. So awkward.
I gave it back to Costco (14-day no stocking fee return policy) when
- google maps kept crashing
- there were two homescreens and you couldn’t get rid of one
- I kept accidentally hitting the Bixby button, especially when trying to unlock the phone with my fingerprint
- I kept accidentally touching the edges of the screen
- iPhones couldn’t text me, even when I deactivated iMessage both on the old phone and through the website
- a million other things.
I was pretty disappointed. The only good thing about it was that you could search text messages (great for looking up wifi passwords!)
When I went to get a different phone, the salesman told me that he had just gotten three kittens. Well, they actually got him. He heard the runt of the pack cry and found the abandoned litter behind his house. He hypothesized that it had probably been crying for hours, if not all day, because the other kittens weren’t fussy or making any noise. I hypothesized that maybe the runt expended all of its energy crying, making it become the runt. But he said no, you could tell that it was much smaller than the rest.
This kitten, whether intentional or not, sacrificed itself for the rest of the litter. I’m sorry for telling you about a kitten who died, but that kitten was a hero. 3/4 was better than 0/4.
I often feel like a runt. I act like I’m the world police, constantly crying out loud for help, justice, and integrity. I’ve burdened myself with the suffering and troubles of others and the world, and while they did and will happen, most of them haven’t happened to me. It would probably help to limit my life scope, but that ain’t easy for a highly sensitive person.
Watching Lust for Life, a film about van Gogh starring Kirk Douglas, had me question what it means to suffer. Throughout the movie, relatives, friends, and random acquaintances support van Gogh’s insatiable thirst for painting and booze. They’re usually even-tempered people, considered more normal, and lack the emotional range of van Gogh. They admire, and in some ways, are jealous of van Gogh’s passion. They fund him because they know that van Gogh’s passion enables him to be creative in ways that they cannot. I’d argue how anyone could be as passionate as van Gogh, but maybe another time.
Van Gogh suffers throughout the movie. He suffers over unrequited love and frustration over many things. His drinks heavily and paints frantically. At one point, another character tells him to man the fuck up, but soon realizes that van Gogh can’t. Lead poisoning aside, it’s evident that from an early age, van Gogh’s brain was not the same as others’. It was probably a lot like a highly sensitive person’s brain, or less flatteringly, an MRI might show the brain of a manic depressive. His suffering was probably on the high end, but was more apparent because he did not, and arguably could not, contain it. I find the title of the film, Lust for Life, ironic because in the end he kills himself. Although historically, we don’t know who shot him. You could say that he had a love-hate relationship with life, but we’ll never know.
For reasons I have and have not explained before, and may explore more thoroughly a few hundred words from now, I have known nothing near the success of van Gogh. It hurts to passionately feel and to not express it, perhaps because I was told that any pursuit of art meant a poor, unhappy, and destitute life. And perhaps because I believed them and suppressed any artistic expression. Even after this discovery, I still can’t bring myself to paint; even the thought is absolutely terrifying.
But while reading Radical Acceptance, I can see how my thoughts and feelings aren’t me. In fact, Buddhism is a lot about accepting my thoughts and feelings as they come and go by saying yes to them. Who would van Gogh be were he a Buddhist? Or exposed to Buddhism? I don’t know if he was ever exposed to Buddhism, and I sure as hell wasn’t until I read Radical Acceptance. I have no doubt that a commitment to Buddhist practices would result in neurological improvements, but not necessarily an end to suffering. Turns out, suffering is real, and often, it’s relative. Can I say yes to suffering?
Through high school to ARCBio, I savored and seized every opportunity to improve everything from the energy to the quality of work. Even those early days of wanting to contribute ended up being for nothing. For me at least. And once it segwayed into altruism, I didn’t get very far. And my circumstances only degraded once I recognized the altruism, and plummeted when I started to desire reciprocity with increasing financial insecurity.
With metrics that have evolved with tested assumptions about myself, I’ve discovered that if I do my one big thing, I have a good day. I’ve discovered that if I socialize and collaborate all day, I have a great day. And over the past six months, I’ve discovered that I am almost always in the depths of despair when I experience or am headed toward financial hardship.
I don’t know how or why, but I deluded myself into thinking that my skills were things people would pay for. Now, I consider myself pretty damn good at marketing, but I suck when it comes to marketing myself. And I can definitively say that I failed at marketing any of this. Sure, I made $500 here and there throughout the years, but it wasn’t sustainable income.
Just the other day, on a call meant for catching up, I gave away a half hour of free business consulting. When I had $6 in the bank. And when it was over, I hated myself. I hated that I knew so much more than her, and that she was doing well, and I wasn’t. I hated the internal battle between ugly, resentful person and contributor. I hated that the little voice in the back of my head said, “shut up and steer the conversation back to catching up,” and I didn’t listen. And I hate that during the call, she said that she probably needed to hire me for further consulting, but by the end, said it again the same way a Seattlite says they’ll see you again, but then they give you the Seattle Freeze. She hadn’t been able to find any of this information, and my best estimate is that she wouldn’t have ever gotten this information given her network and geography. Because I was an idiot, she got it in half an hour. I gave her all of the relevant industry information and insights, an action plan, and questions for a potential client. Now that I think about it, this is probably why she’s so successful. She didn’t have to spend a dime.
When you run a company or head a project, you’re supposed to surround yourself with people smarter than you. I’m that stupid smart person who’s helping you instead of helping myself. Why do I think these stupid thoughts or have to write this stupid post to get it out of my head?
I’m just desperately trying to improve my circumstance.
I think I finally figured out why no one’s paid me for this kind of help on a consulting basis – cause I keep giving it away for free! During these conversations, I feel the urgency in my bones that they need to be helped NOW. It can’t wait weeks until we’ve created an SOP and signed a partnership agreement. There’s no time to waste!
But maybe it isn’t wasted time. Maybe it’s investing in my needs.
I went to Hopkin’s Social Impact Bootcamp today. Make sure you sign up for next year.
It was amazing, but I kept feeling anxiety as my stack of business cards dwindled down to nothing. I did my best to stay present (meditation shout-out), but I kept drifting off to figuring out what I would charge nonprofits, worrying about how the speakers kept mentioning pro-bono work, jotting down a million new business ideas, questioning whether I deserved my seat, avoiding a cold from the guy sitting in front of me, writing and rewriting my “offer” post-its, wondering if anyone would even follow up with me, and other distractions.
I’ll post my notes soon, but here’s the good stuff:
- It was an even mix of aspiring social entrepreneurs, up-and-running social projects, programs, and nonprofits, resource organizations, and a sprinkle of funders.
- The synergy was outstanding. Not surprisingly, there were many partnership and collaboration opportunities in the room, in addition to several who were doing the same thing who could coalesce.
- The speakers and curriculum was just what I was looking for. I documented the local language of nonprofits, fundraising, community engagement and activism. They shared a few case studies of the work being done. Most of the Baltimore-based nonprofit resource organizations presented. A well-assembled panel directly answered thoughtful questions from the audience and moderator. Mini breakout sessions resulted in useful and inspiring discussion and sharing.
- I learned about the local social entrepreneurship scene, the current state of the community, community needs, and met people, which were my main goals.