A foot in the door still needs to climb eventually.

Screw the preamble. I was at my group mentorship meeting today and the general themes were limitations. What was holding us back from being where we wanted to be? Our “homework” was to watch a TED talk on why most people would never have a great career. It intimated that the vast majority have good careers in lieu of great ones. Those “lucky” enough to have great careers find their way through pursuing passion, saying yes to opportunities and forging ahead even under stormy clouds of doubt. Fear, he said, was the prime reason that truly great careers evade so many of us. It’s not a new idea, but it certainly resonated deep in my gut.

In the mentorship meeting they asked what we were afraid of. I thought about it. I’ve known that I have a debilitating fear of failure for some time. I dug deeper. Why was I afraid to fail? What did failure represent? I have constant ideas, but what stops me in my tracks? I realised that I talk myself out of opportunities all the time. Why? What is it that paralyses me? I dug deeper. When something pops into my head I think hard on it. I conceptualise what form it would take. I consider the steps it’d take to bring it to being. These pile atop one another. More considerations flood in and the pile becomes a towering monolith. A singular entity. All of the tasks combine into an overwhelming obstacle. Fear takes root and it’s too much. How would I be able to tackle all of it? I have a job. I have a social life. I’m afraid to lose precious time on a project that could fail.

Then it hit me. It wasn’t a smooth obelisk, it was a collection of steps. Yes, I’d have to climb to dizzying heights, but the process would be one step at a time. Developments don’t have to happen in an instant, otherwise they’d be called occurrences. The work would consume me, but in the mean time I wouldn’t lose everything I had, it’d fade into the background temporarily.

But still, what if it didn’t work out and it was all for naught? If putting the time and the effort in left me back at square one with nothing to show.

The mentorship facilitator said something that struck me: That while we often think we’ll end up back at square one, we rarely do. We don’t lose the lesson when we lose. I thought how fervent I was when I arrived that I needed to go out and grab opportunities. I said yes to everything because I had no other choice. In doing so, I prospered and grew. I shook myself out of stagnant habits and tried something. I’ve reached a plateau of safety. I don’t have to act out of fear and desperation. You know what though? I accomplished a bunch out of desperation and it worked out great. It didn’t happen instantly, but I got there even if I was afraid. It’s not like I have so much to lose that it’s not worth the risk reaching further.

So I did. After the meeting finished I talked to my mentor. I told him what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. I asked him if there was anyone he could put me in touch with to workshop it and make it a reality. He said he’d set something up tomorrow.

What have I got to be afraid of?

If I cast far enough, shit might get reel.

Sometimes a moment of clarity will just strike you from out of nowhere. Like a bolt flung from the hands (or tentacles, let’s be real here) of a deity, an epiphany. While I was voicing yesterday, somebody from the station dropped into the studio to hang out. When I came out of the booth, she introduced herself. She asked me my background and what I wanted to do. Without skipping a beat, I replied.

“I want to make podcasts.” I said. “It’s something the opposition does, but we’re really lacking behind.” Someone else chipped in “We have them.” I nodded and replied “we do have them, but the breadth of subject matter is pretty limited, which seems weird considering the vast Intellectual Properties we have access to and our company’s push for consumer engagement. If having a social media presence is so important, why not offer them cause to spend time with us while they work? Give them even more reason to engage with our brands. It’s an intimate, personal medium. Selling the idea to consumers that we’re their friends? It’s hard to buy that kind of marketing. Why not do that?” I stopped ranting. All three people in the room were quiet, nodding.

Where the fuck did that confidence come from?

I’ve had vague ideas about professionally producing podcasts before, but haven’t given it a whole lot of serious consideration. Then all of a sudden that torrent came tumbling out of my mouth. Who would pay me to do it? Where would the funds come from? Today though, I’ve been thinking about it more. Who better than a large corporation? It’s not like they’d have to invest in infrastructure. They have the equipment, the hosting. They can handle traffic and would have umpteen ways to promote it. They have on-air talent. They have content that invites both discussion and promotion. We know that there’s a market for it, given the near ubiquity of podcasting. All it needs is someone to go to bat for it.

I’ve been struggling a bit lately in multiple areas. Aside from near constant impostor syndrome (though I assume this is a universal part of the human condition), I’ve been feeling really down on myself. For years I had a fire burning, mantra of Make it Happen running through my head. I felt indomitable and pushed forward constantly. The past few years have felt like a rut professionally and I’ve started to doubt whether or not I’m a capable person. It’s been harder to get motivated and excited about things. Self-esteem has given way to recursive negative self-talk and I’ve started to stop believing that I deserve opportunities.

This past weekend was spent in the constant company of friends. A couple of them were people I’m quite close with, but most were casual acquaintances. I had an amazing time, but one thing stuck out to me. Almost universally, people there saw me as quick witted and down for anything. They assumed I took chances and opportunities, that I was creative and hard working. Good-natured, compassionate and funny. They saw me as the kind of person I want to be, a person who boldly follows their desires and makes things happen.

I feel like I used to be him. That if circumstances align, I become him again. I realised just how much I want to be as my friends see me. I want to take risks and be okay with failing. I want to put in effort because a lesson learned is the worst outcome. I want so badly to believe in myself again.

If others do, what’s stopping me?

When employment isn’t working.

If there’s one thing I hate it’s wet socks. Your feet get all wrinkly and even the gossamer wings of a butterfly are enough to rip your soft skin to shreds. Then comes the stench. Suddenly you’re telling co-workers that you drunkenly ate a skunk whole because it’s less embarrassing than the possibility of your body being that appalling. The worst. If there are two things I hate, then job hunting gets the second slot.

It’s a constant parade of inviting your insecurities to ride shotgun on your back. For the past while, reading a job application has involved skipping over the duties straight to the qualifications. I pride myself on efficiency, so I cut right to the part where I’m not good enough in order to congratulate myself on being a failure. Ain’t no party like a pity party ’cause a pity party is another name for life. Not only does everyone still require ten years experience for entry level work, but the range of skills and expected aptitude for any job is ridiculous. Who do these people think I am? Somebody with self confidence?

An ex-girlfriend once gave me good advice re: job applications. She told me that the “requirements” for any position were a way to weed out excessive numbers of applicants, not a necessity to perform the job. Ex-employers have verified this, saying almost universally they’d rather have people they can train than people who know everything already. This way the new employee will be able to learn good habits from the boss, rather than that employer having to rid them of old unhelpful ones. Ex-bosses have also suggested that it’s risky to take overqualified people, as they could use it as a diagonal move and you’d be stuck having to employ someone new almost immediately. My ex told me that it wasn’t my job to tell them I wasn’t good enough, but to just say I could do everything and then learn to do it. You’re not lying if you’ll be able to do it by the time the start date rolls around.

So why not listen to any of this ex-cellent advise?

The sad truth is that it’s much easier to talk yourself out of something than put in effort. Heeding the call to adventure, then diving in headfirst seems like suicide if you’re sure the water will be filled with sharks. Could I do most of these jobs? Probably. Do I have proof of the skills they’re asking for? My problem is that I answer “no” instead of “not yet”. How do you get content creation experience? By creating content of course. The one thing standing between you and practice managing social media audiences and streams? BY INTERACTING WITH AUDIENCES OVER SOCIAL MEDIA.

There’s always gonna be an excuse, right? The path of least resistance is to do nothing. Being gainfully employed means that I can stay static without suffering huge consequences in the short term, but that’s a pretty limited view. Why should I need Fire underfoot or my back against the wall to get moving?

My socks aren’t even wet right now, so why the cold feet?

Fortunately I steer clear of that kind of bullocks.

At times it’s all too easy to sink into the green mire of envy. You can’t help but covet the looks, skills or sexy, sexy oxen of others. Spending so much time worrying about what others have that you forget all the glorious shit you bring to the world. It’s hard not to know that feel when society’s central message is that you’re not enough, but you should always strive to be. So for today I’m going to dig deep into self gratitude. Looking into all the things about myself that I’m thankful for. Or maybe even the things that I’m not.

I’m thankful that I look okay when I run. First and foremost, if you have the wherewithal to get out and be active, then power to you. I won’t reach as far as to say I look cool, but jeebus it could be far worse. My legs don’t splay akimbo, my arms stay by my side without flip flopping like a muppet. I have a slight angle as I move rather than being bent over or ramrod straight. I don’t glow beet red or puff like a Big Bad Wolf. I’ve somehow reached a point where I have a modicum of composure and I’m super gracious of that.

I’m thankful that I’m the least threatening seeming person alive. Just have one of those faces, y’know? I’ve never sought to intimidate people with my presence and frankly, I’d be a shit enforcer of any variety. So I’m glad that my image reinforces what’s on the inside. I’m basically a carebear made flesh. Of average stature with cartoonish features. I hate making people feel uncomfortable and I’m fortunate that it’s not one of my default settings. I’m also fine that I’d never ironically have the nickname Tiny.

I’m stoked that all of my sexual proclivities (at least the ones I’m aware of) are legal and consent based. I don’t tread lightly here. Kids and animals really don’t do it for me (even dat sexy, sexy ox) and that’s a godsend. How shitty and guilty would you feel if the activities that ignited drum fills in your heart caused misery to others? If you knew that you’d never be able to experience that which set your world alight because you felt it was fundamentally wrong? If there was this part of yourself you had to shut away in a sealed vault forever? That sounds heartbreaking, which isn’t to condone these activities whatsoever, but to point out that people have no say in what excites them. It’s a lottery for sure. I’m in a position with a loving, supportive partner who’s really open to trying things. My family and friends would be there for me if I discovered I that my sexual orientation had changed, without question. Not everyone is that lucky and I understand that’s not a privilege that people are afforded by default.

I don’t have any food allergies, which means I can be as gluttonous as I desire without medical repercussions. Well, if I ate my neighbour’s entire sexy, sexy ox in one go, my stomach would probably rupture. My lack of allergies means I can enjoy cuisine from all across the globe. I’m able to adapt to any requirements friends have at parties without being disadvantaged. I don’t need a personal food taster, plus since I’m so nonthreatening, it’s not like people are champing at the bit to assassinate me anyway.

It goes without saying that I’ve got every other privilege under the sun, which is amazing. Because of genetics, heritage and my socioeconomic environment, I’ve been able to blossom in a world unencumbered by the hardships that for many are a sad reality. I’m not gloating, I instead want to point out that I understand the number of aspects in my life that have aligned in order to mean that my life is not constant suffering. That whatever issues I face aren’t the issues that burden others. That when I complain (you know, constantly) it’s done with an understanding that a multitude of things are going my way and I’d be an asshole not to be grateful.

Plus then I wouldn’t have had access to the internet. What would the point of life be then?

I don’t think it would’ve made sense for me to be born any time before the 50s. I’m trying to think of a society I would’ve prospered in, but they all fall apart. Knowing who I am, how much I enjoy complaining and how flimsy my immune system is, I’d be ill suited to a life that existed before widespread inoculation. In medieval times I would’ve fallen for the first round of black plague, or been mowed down in the initial rain of arrows. I’m not an inherently brave person, so unless I lucked out and was born into a family of means, I’d be pretty much fucked. In the Wild West I’d no doubt contract dysentery, and in the Wild Wild West I’d stand no chance against a giant mechanical spider. I can’t see myself having excelled in the Victorian era, given my lack of concrete skills. I probably would’ve been the lackey of some merchant or an apprentice candlestick maker. The 20s through 40s were all filmed in black and white and I don’t know if my eyes would pop enough, so they’re out. In fact, if not for the age in which I was born, I think the only place for me would’ve been as a disaffected member of Gen X.

I’m being deliberately silly of course, but as I started typing my objections, I pondered how impossible it would be to predict how I’d be in any early generation. With my personality so utterly shaped by my culture (my sum of lived experiences up to this point), I’d be an entirely different person. So much of me has been sculpted from parental influences, the specific friends I’ve grown up around, my home country, my education, relationships I’ve had and (let’s be honest), the media I’ve consumed. This concept of who would I have been is erroneous from the start, because the simple answer is that I wouldn’t have have been me. I’d have been an entirely different person, a creation of my surroundings.

When I start to think about the “whys” of who I am, it wigs me out. It’s a matter of pulling at threads and seeing how far they go. I’ve changed so much even since I arrived in Toronto. For instance I was always sex positive to a point, but connections I’ve made here have led to further understanding and education of what that means, engaging in experiences I would’ve otherwise likely not had. The friendships I’ve made through the community have constantly caused me to question and restructure held beliefs. People I’ve met have introduced me to others who’ve become hugely important parts of my life. Most of which I can track back as the lasting effects of going on one particular date (of the many I’ve had in Toronto), which kick-started a chain reaction. There’s a point here where anyone could jump in and say “yes, but getting to where you are required a tacit buy-in at each new juncture”. I had to say yes at every step of the way, otherwise I likely would’ve headed down a different path. The further back I go, this only increases the massive range of who I could’ve been.

At the end of the day, picking apart how I’ve become who I am doesn’t change who I will be. Errant navel gazing doesn’t serve meaningful progress. Concurrently it’s not like the viewpoint is a total waste. Maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle. Further consideration of actions taken could help shape who I become. Which is a fine idea in theory but useless in practice. Who wants to think about things all the time?

That’s how you wind up with a project like I Have My Doubts.

Is it possible to exercise demons? Smite them with treadmills and shit?

This post is gonna be a hard slog. I’m operating at 25% capacity today.

I feel swampy right now. In my effort to shunt back to healthier habits, I’ve taken the cold bucket o’ water approach to a couple of things. No coffee today. The duelling tensions of sleep vs activities, artificial vs naturally produced energy, have meant that my coffee use has escalated as of late. It’s been none-too irregular for me to have four or five cups a day. Considering that all bar one of those are shitty brew coffee that I don’t even like, begs the question as to why I’d go there in the first place. Pretty sure it’s a combo of boredom consumption and habitual addiction. Too much coffee has meant flailing afternoons, which have led to crashing in the evening, no energy to get out and do things. I’ve been way less social than I’d like, unless prodded by alcohol. Not the place I want to be.

Drinking a ton of coffee is symptomatic of a larger addiction to consumption. It’s both because of this addiction and a cause of this condition. I feel a need to consume, which extends to filling a cup of coffee. The more I drink, the more my inhibitions are lowered. My sometimes foods, while usually during outside meal times, have become a larger part of my daily intake. I’ll make an exception for something I wouldn’t usually have, then make that same exception the next day “because it was okay yesterday”. Then I feel grumpy and bummed out that I’d veered so widely, leading to eating my feelings later on in the evening. At work our new-ish boss always has a well stocked treat table. If I had the discipline to not be treating myself constantly, I’d exercise it. With the way things have been, it wouldn’t surprise me if a caloric consumption (not that I’ve been counting) of one and a half to two times my normal intake has been the rule, rather than exception.

It’s a dumb, but understandable pattern to fall back into and it’s been throwing my mood way out of whack. I’ve been alternating between extreme grumpiness and fatigue. I’m distractible all the time. It’s shitting on my ability to concentrate on work, turning me into a home-bound mope and making me feel shitty about my body. It sucks. It’s also something that nobody else can really help me with. Sure, there’s emotional support, but emotional support is not habit forming and won’t help me get anywhere. It’s something I need to take care of on my own, because it’s not something I’m doing for anyone else. It’s also far from the first time I’ve hoisted this bugbear atop my shoulders and I’m sure it won’t be the last. As always, a long term view, self-compassion and hard work will be lead me in the right direction. Right now though, it’s slow going.

One foot in front of the other. Again and again.

Weight and see.

I could write up a snazzy preamble slowly working into the topic, but frankly it’s better to put it out there. I’ve gained weight recently and it’s bumming me out. Eight kilos altogether. I’m the heaviest I’ve been in years and I can feel it, you know? It’s there when I see myself in a mirror. I see it in my face, a softness there. When I’m clothed, there are bulges I haven’t seen in years. When I’m not, curves have replaced definition I worked pretty hard for. I feel it at all times. Not just emotionally (I mean, that’s present too), but physically. My pants are tighter, less comfortable. Before I left, I bought a larger belt than normal because it was all they had close to my size. It fits pretty snugly now.

Emotionally I’m coping. Handling it. I’m not happy with how things have turned out, but I’m not letting it consume me either. Credit to my therapist, she coached me a little in case this came up. Yes, I’m in a situation I have control over. No, my identity is not tied to the way I look. Yes, my friends and family still love me as much as they did before. No, this one thing will not drag down every other aspect of my life. Sound melodramatic? That’s just how my thoughts manifest. You try telling your brain not to think like it does.

Now the why. Diet and exercise. End of year celebrations always involve a cluster of celebrations and I’ve rarely been one to shy away from celebrating. Due to barely taking a holiday in the past few years, I had to burn through a ton of vacation time. From the start of November to the end of January, I was away for five weeks. Five weeks of travelling, dining and drinking. I’ve found that a huge part of maintaining healthy habits is routine. It’s a lot easier to keep plugging away if the pieces are close at hand. The less effort you need to put into making more informed choices, the harder it is to fall back on excuses. Do you have healthy food in the cupboard or accessible at work? Whatever your fitness plans, are they close to your usual route? It’s hard to be as consistently active when you’re overseas. Between that we had Christmas in all of its splendour. Much feasting and revelry. I had a great time and even now I don’t regret it. Just keep breathing.

What now? First, compassion. A big thing I’ve learned in struggling with weight is to forgive myself for slip ups and deviations. At the same time, it’s important to recognise that this is nobody else’s issue to bear. They have their own trials. I’m not a robot, and to err is to be human. Letting go every once in a while stops me from fetishising unhealthy food. If I use it to reward myself, then I’m setting up an unhealthy relationship with my consumption. Casting rich cuisine as a “treat” ascribes a correlation of ethics to food. Food is neutral, it’s inanimate. If I give it a moral compass, that effects my relationship with it. If I feel guilty for having “bad” food, what is that gonna do to the way I feel about myself? It’ll set up a self-perpetuating cycle where I consume because I’m unhappy and I’m unhappy because of how much I’m consuming. Compassion is important.

Next, adherence. Routines. Simpler, healthy foods. More basic proteins and green/fibrous vegetables. Fruit instead of baked goods. Dropping alcohol consumption for a while (and when I do, moderation). Physical activity at least three times per week (cutting alcohol makes it a lot easier to get in for weekend workouts). More of a reliance on cardio (such a pity it’s winter, making outdoor running pretty tough). Maybe putting the money saved on alcohol into fun rewarding physical activities like indoor parkour, rock climbing or obstacle courses. There’s a non-zero chance that I’ll start to shed the first few kilos simply by being back to a regular routine. As always though, moving ever forward. Not beating myself up for what’s happened, but looking towards a solution and not at myself as a problem.

And now? Patience. With myself mostly.