Mental Health: The Things we Carry

I’m not talkin’ bout Tim O’Brien soldiers during the Vietnam war. I’m talkin’ bout the invisible things we carry. Debt, addiction, unexpressed depression, divorce, miscarriage, estrangement, abuse, terminal or chronic illness, purposelessness, job loss, and so many more, one layering on top of one another, compacting each of our loads into an indeterminable, mashed down mess that seems impossible to untangle.

How much can one person take?

I think a lot about how people going through their particular brand of horrific when some other terrible circumstance piles on. And not that I would wish heartbreak on any type of person, but I feel like these pile ons happen most to the best, kindest, well-meaning people. When you feel like you can’t take it anymore, and then one more thing adds on, somehow you continue moving with your unique blend of terrible. The added burden newly shapes and stretches out your carrier until its walls become even thinner. Is it gonna rip? Tear? Break? Fall? Will you trip? Give up?

How do people carry on?

My roots are in the south, so most people in my family seek solace in religion, particularly Christianity, but I’m not particularly religious. Spiritual and humanist based on moral universalism, yes, organized worship and discriminatory tenets, no. While I’m genuinely thrilled for anyone who’s found peace in their particular practice, I don’t think any one religious ideology or practice is the answer to finding peace through turmoil. There are so many in the world that that’d be impossible. Only a percentage of the world gets a shot at true solace, comfort, and understanding? I cannot accept that.*

Something I have believed for a long time, though, is that the purpose of people going through horrific things is to then help others going through similar things. It’s suppose it’s a sensical way of dealing with the senseless, a chain of people helping the one behind them up. That help can look like conversations, writings, any art form (I’m thinking movies, music, and theater in particular), community, emotional support, and empathy. Any form of someone communicating “I get it,” basically.

Whenever I get blue about circumstance I try to remember that, unfortunately, there are people who have it much, much worse than me and/or my loved ones. I also try to remember that my experience and the way I process it through my writing can very well act as someone else’s stepping stone to healing. These ideas don’t deactivate pain in real time, though, it’s just something to cling to like a life preserver in the throes of a storm. Life is a squall of varying intensities, no?

A lot of folks have messaged me to say they finally feel understood when reading my posts. Those messages give just as much back to me as my writing originally gave to them, because during my darkest moments I remember others have been in that same headspace before and have survived it.

No one gets off scot-free in this one, weird life. It took me decades to realize that someone who seems ideal to me, someone who appears to “have it all together,” effortless in everything as trivial as fashion to as serious as family dynamics, has something. Everyone has something. When I’m in a dark space, I’m comforted by phantom warmth or lingering scent of someone else having been there before, like an echo of perfume, hope from someone having made it out. That idea comforts me as I wade through the thick.

If you’ve been to the catacombs in Paris, you know it’s drafty tunnels of human bones and skulls and bones and skulls and bones and skulls. Thousands of people found their final resting places there. Instead of being overwhelmed by the number, I crouched down by one skull that was a cog in a tall stack of hundreds. I wondered who that person was. They were there, and now, hundreds of years later, I was there. I’m looking at them, and mentally honoring the life they lived. They’re not forgotten and aren’t alone, like me. Like you.

*I’m aware that this paragraph is likely to stir the pot and upset some people. That’s not my intention, but it’s a side effect I’m willing to risk if that means I’m telling my truth. Remember, honesty is my policy, and this piece would have a gaping hole if I didn’t address religion as a common way to cope. However, this is not an invitation for didacticism or debate, and I thank you for respecting that.


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: The Sad Clown: Part 1
Mental Health: New Year Goal Mapping
Mental Health: Ho Ho HELP


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going and also access exclusive content? Support me on my Patreon. I want to give a huge thank you to Amy Powell, Vicki Utley, and to my biggest fans, my parents, :) Keith and Staci Powell, all for going above and beyond in their support of me on Patreon. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Special

On the 8th I went to a live podcast recording of a person who makes me laugh. I align with her views, and she keeps content light with pop culture commentary – something I desperately needed after this summer. I’d been listening to feminist and political podcasts exclusively, but I found I could no longer pile onto my festering patch of mental illness anymore. I needed a break, and I found something to make me smile when it was hard to.

Something she’s talked about on the pod a few times is that she kinda never wants to meet her celebrity heroes (for her it’s Taylor Swift), cause while she’s sure they’d be so lovely to interact with, as soon as the conversation is done she’d walk away knowing she’d probably never talk to them again and that they’d never be friends, no matter how close she felt to that person through their art.

I suppose that’s the essence of having a fanbase, isn’t it? People who connect with your work who you may not know individually, but are the collective reason you share what you make, or perhaps continue to make anything at all? I think this woman found her niche in her podcast and has grown it to thousands and thousands of loyal followers who converse in her private Facebook group and encourage her on social media. It’s a wonderful thing, seeing another woman succeed, especially when it’s in an unconventional, trailblazing way. This woman essentially patched together a career organically by pursuing what she wanted to do full throttle, using any possible contacts in her life but mostly just Google. For instance, she learned how to write a book proposal and query an editor at a publishing house by scouring the internet, which is not easy. There are so many unwritten rules and tedious details that need to be attended to to be taken seriously or even have your content read, and I didn’t learn this tedium until I was in grad school! Now she has a hilarious, touching parody bedtime book for a baby, but really it’s for adults.

I know consistency is key in anything you want to succeed in, a drive that can sputter every once in a while (we’re all human), but that ultimately continues to move forward. In all of my past jobs, there would be days I was going through the motions, counting down the hours, and days I was on fire, seeking out projects, double and triple checking, building relationships, pitching ideas, etc. Those waves might have a lot to do with my mental illness, but I feel like more people than just those w mental illness can relate to that up and down, even if it’s of a smaller variance than mine.

I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to leave my 9-5 (except 8-6 is the new norm… rip off) and focus exclusively on writing. I graduate with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) in May, have maintained this blog with consistent content for nearly two years, and have gotten my LLC for my home organizing company, something I love doing and hope to build up to supplement the meager payouts of writing.

Okay, so, back to where the post originally started, and here begins my vulnerability: it feels like I’ve been waiting for my “ship to come in” for a long time. I’m embarrassed writing that, I suppose because I have imposter syndrome and have convinced myself I’m undeserving of success. It’s a competitive world out there, and it’s imperative to reinvent, find your strength, and push your talent as far as it can go in order to distinguish yourself. When I was at the live podcast show, I felt like a small face in the crowd to a woman who she herself felt like a small face in the crowd in other situations. Do we all feel this way at some time, unimportant? Is that a developmental rite? Whenever I fail or feel humiliated or a sense of self-loathing I remember that that’s a part of my story, something that will eventually contribute to my success and a piece I can use to inspire others, like one person getting pulled up by the person in front of them and then turning around to pull up the person behind them, repeat. As I get pulled up, I will turn around and pull someone else up.

…I cannot do pull ups. (Today.)

There’s always gonna be someone ahead, and there’s always gonna be someone behind. I suppose it’s all about how you look at your position, constantly thinking of how to improve whatever it is you’re hoping to succeed in, like looking for the next grip when rock climbing.* Is now the right time to mention I’m not a talented rock climber, either? #athlete

Sometimes I grow disheartened. I feel ineffective, like I don’t have something special to offer the world. To people who like my writing, this may sound ridiculous. But, just know, that whoever you feel is doing well probably feels inadequate or unsuccessful at some point in time. Humility is important, but sometimes it feels like a weighted blanket holding me down and it’s not that snuggly one that helps you sleep better.

Whenever you feel on top, pull up someone behind you needing encouragement. You may just be helping out someone stagnating and doubting themself, on the brink of giving up. Always encourage and share the momentum, like you’d hope someone would do for you. Champion women. Is it Galentine’s Day yet?

* Speaking of, I wrote about goal mapping here.


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: The Sad Clown: Part 1
Mental Health: New Year Goal Mapping
Mental Health: Finding the Glow


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support me on my Patreon. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Location, Location, Location

A lot of people probably think I live some sort of fabulous life in New York City.

While I’m very privileged to live in this gazillion dollar city and grateful to live rent-free in my in-laws’ house, my and Rick’s makeshift living situation isn’t a sexy get-up. ;) Of course, we chose this life, me not working so I could fully focus on school.

More important to note than a shared living space as newlyweds, though, is that inspiring geography doesn’t alleviate the same bouts of depression that would strike in the suburbs or rural areas. It’s easy to romanticize New York, and imagine my days filled with strolls through Central Park, coffee in hand, before stopping off for a chic lunch at the Met followed by 5pm cocktails at the Carlyle. But, let me tell you, that’s not how most New Yorkers’ lives go down. It’s an exhausting city of grit that requires peak professional performance and constant reinvention and innovation to survive in every sense. New York City is like the ole duck simile, calm on top of the water and, out of sight, furiously paddling below the surface.

I think a lot of New Yorkers have to regularly sell the city to themselves – why do I live here, again? Subway smells, $80 takeout dinners from an average place, traffic, the general filth. In the burbs I’d have beautifully done hair and makeup, get into the car, and arrive to my destination still coiffed. Here, I have to tie back my hair lest I arrive with knots and sweat at my neck and consider footwear to accommodate the weather. This ain’t no Carrie Bradshaw game, and there’s a reason why heels are referred to as “cab-to-curb.” They’re only feasible if you’re getting picked up in a cab, dropped off at the front door of your destination, and the same on the way back home. It’s impractical and most certainly not a frequent occurrence for the average New Yorker. When Rick and I get wagged along to a black tie event with my father in-law, we of course take pictures because it’s a rare, effortful occasion. I never want to sell a farce.

I’m proud of having lived in New York City for eight years as of next month (yes, I count the 18 months I lived in D.C. as part of my time in NYC because I was remotely planning a wedding and up here constantly), but not for the reasons you may think. I can officially call myself a New Yorker after ten years, and I can’t believe it’s coming in hot. But, I’m not proud of living here in an “I’m fabulous” type of way. I’m proud of having made it this long because it’s been a lesson in survival. I moved here at 23 and would go home to Texas as often as I could. In those first couple years I’d cry on the plane every time on the way back to New York. While the city excited and inspired me, I was in survival mode in terms of finances, profession, finding a good friend group, and safety.

My apartment in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn had a MC across the street and one night I woke up to gunshots right outside. I had to stay below the windows in case a stray bullet flew into my apartment. I’d be aggressively cat-called on the street and even followed. My apartment was bare- a used, frameless bed resting on old linoleum and thrifted sheets covering my windows. One time, when I was still days away from getting paid, I ate cornbread for three days because that’s all I had in my cupboard. I know my parents would’ve wired me $20 if I’d asked, but this was on me. NYC was my game.

One night it’d gotten too late for me to safely take the train out to my apartment, so I had to splurge on a cab. Just months after my brother Alex’s latest foray into booze-fueled tragedy, the cab driver stared at me in the rearview.

“Do you like to party?” He asked, leering at me, a smile playing on his face.

“Uh, I guess… do you?” My eyes shifted out the window. The area we were driving through was rough.

“Yeah. Do you like to drink? I’m drunk right now.” He laughed.

I noticed his eyes were bloodshot. “Are you serious?” I re-surveyed my surroundings and considered which option was better- getting out of the cab in a strange, scary neighborhood and find my way home, or hoping this drunk cab driver would get me home safely. I could call 311 to report this guy, but it wouldn’t change my current situation. Although I kinda didn’t want him to know where I lived, I decided to stay in the cab. The speed limit was 20, or something, so I hedged my bets. “That’s not cool.”

Finally, we turned onto my street.

“My friend’s house is right up there, first building on the right,” I lied.

“You should stay with me and party,” he smiled, still leering, this time over his shoulder at me.

“Yeah, no thanks. You shouldn’t be driving people around drunk. Seriously, it’s not cool.”

I opened the cab door as I paid so he didn’t get any ideas about driving off with me hostage in his car. I raced up my building stairs and bolted through the exterior door, interior door, and then my apartment door as quickly as I could. I closed my door and triple locked it, then began my usual inspection of every potential hiding place for a person in my apartment. I finally considered myself safe, but my shoulders never fully relaxed. They’ve been tense since the day I moved here, to be honest.

“We’re just not gonna tell your dad about this,” my mom said when she visited.

“This is where you live?” My friend Betsy asked once, mouth hanging open, eyes darting between my “curtains” secured by pushpins.

After “Frankie” got shot (I know his name because it was being screamed over and over), I received the following note from my landlord:

Bailey,
You’ve been a great tenant and I know you’re a woman who lives alone. I understand if you need to break your lease to move to a safer place, given the recent events.

“You live in that building? I wouldn’t feel comfortable if my daughter lived there, either. Let’s get you out of there,” said the man who leased my next apartment to me. Relief.

My New York City living situations have been precarious and thread-bare, barely scraping by, filled with strokes of luck and kindness: a friend letting me sleep on their couch my first ten days, bosses moving me for free, landlords who seemed to truly care (unicorns in this money-hungry, ruthless city). So, while my living situation isn’t ideal, I’m at least safe in my latest blue-blooded cocoon.

me and my friend Marlon, the friend who let me sleep on his couch when I’d first moved to NYC six months prior, at my 24th birthday brunch

It doesn’t matter where I am, though, when it comes to being at the mercy of the storm swirling around inside of my head. A suburban Wal Mart is the same thing as Bergdorf Goodman. When you have mental illness, public school is boarding school. Bed-Stuy is the Upper East Side. Depression is depression, an equal opportunity head occupant.


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: New Year Goal Mapping
Mental Health: The Sad Clown: Part 1
Mental Health: Spiral


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support me on my Patreon. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Mental Illness + Disaster Fatigue = Stagnation on ‘Roids

Coming at you live from a bad day. I slept for 12 hours, too exhausted to get up when my alarm went off after the generous, allotted ten. Could-barely-lift-my-head-exhausted. My contact case, typically in the bathroom drawer, was on my nightstand when I woke, indicating some type of night time ~activity~ AKA sleepwalking. I assume moving around unconsciously contributes to what seems like unqualified exhaustion, but why the hell am I on the move in the middle of the night? I don’t think risk of night rearrangement of toiletries is on ashwaghanda’s side effect list.

I’m so upset and feel so helpless about what’s going on in our world. I thought the mildness of New York’s last winter was a fluke, but I haven’t seen any snow in the forecast. Even when there is a rare flurry, it’s been too warm to stick. In Australia, 500,000,000 animals are suspected dead as of two days ago, and I can’t bring myself to google current numbers. The ecosystem is up in flames, and we’ve got an evil Twitter tyrant wiping out an evil military tyrant, causing the populations of their respective countries, America and Iran, to spiral into a hole of fear, worry, anxiety, and devastation as we collectively presuppose the unrest to come. People, often low-income, choice-less people, will die because idiots are at the helms.

I was emailing with an Iranian friend, checking in on her and her loved ones given the latest. While she and I go to school together in NYC and she and her husband are currently in Dubai (where they live), her parents and family are in her homeland, Iran, and these are just regular people subject to the whims of a violent general like Americans are regular people subject to the whims of the erratic star of The Apprentice.

All over social media are horrific images of what’s happening in Australia and begs for money to help the country stop the destruction, somehow, and salvage what they can. My $5 feels like a drop in a bucket that couldn’t extinguish a single match. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, sitting on an estate of billions of dollars, sent their thoughts and prayers.

As a privileged white lady, I have the luxury of logging off all social media / internet for a day, or a week, or whatever, and my world seems unchanged. I know that if I do something like that disconnection, though, I won’t forget that the chaos is still seething beyond my bubble, that the skin of my safe cocoon isn’t and wasn’t ever as thick as I thought. It’s all connected, and it all matters.

Political, environmental, or even just compassion fatigue paired with the spoils of mental illness is a real doozy. I crawled out of bed and the sun started going down in every sense, orbitally, mentally, emotionally, motivationally. It’s hard for me to sit here and write out this worry and devastation and, again, I’m privileged that I’m able to even process and record feelings while so many others are in survival mode.

It’s come to the point that sitting still makes me a part of the problem.

But, I’m mentally gridlocked, and a helpless, infuriating stagnation has descended upon my days. It makes me want to go back to bed, but I’ve got a book to write. We’ve got a world to fix. I’ve got an in-laws’ house to move out of. I’ve got a carbon footprint to offset. I’ve got golden retrievers from the Yulin meat festival to rescue. I’ve got word impeccability to employ and practice. I’ve got guilt about my homeless brother to carry. I’ve got black Americans to champion. I’ve got the exhaustion of feeling like an ant pushing a rock uphill to overcome. I’ve got the worry and very real consideration of whether it’s a good idea to bring a baby into this world to ponder. I’ve got people in my life who don’t think climate change is real, or believe it’s simply biblical destiny and are complacent. I’ve got the reputation of being alarmist, of being too sensitive, of being a snowflake. I’ve got major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder. I’ve got too many plastic bags, too many things I feel guilty about dropping into a landfill-bound trash bag day after day. I’ve got the knowledge that the U.S. military does not properly re-assimilate or care for veterans, resulting in proportionally more deaths by suicide, and I have guilt that the people who read this for mental illness knowledge, community, or solace are getting none of those things today because I’m having a crisis.

And I’m one of the lucky ones.

There are days when I don’t know where to turn, how to cope, or how to move forward. Today is one of those days. Today I feel damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

I just finished reading Lindy West’s The Witches are Coming, and near the end she addresses this very fatigue with a droplet of hope in regards to all the exhausting current issues we face.

Build it into your day. Every day you call. Every day you write a letter. Every march you march. Tax yourself. Protect your community. If you’re waiting for a grown-up to come fix it, stop. Be your own grown-up. Be your own president.

[…]

“…this world is beautiful and worth saving. Do not despair. Despair is the death of action. Go, act, fight.”

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West, p. 231

There is always a day, crystalline, tantalizing, diminishing behind us, that was just before the point of no return. When we knew, but we didn’t act. If only we could go back. Well, today is that day. Tomorrow is that day.

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West, p. 257

I’m surrounded by rich, white people. I am a rich, white people. My surroundings are disillusioned and inappropriately calm, and I do not accept it. Sometimes I need a day to grapple with both my own demons and current events, and while today is that day, tomorrow is another, another chance to restart, redirect, recalibrate, refresh the fuel to fight.

cousins @ 2017 DC Women’s March

Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Productivity
Mental Health: Suicide Looming
Mental Health: Spiral


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support me on my Patreon. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: New Year Goal Mapping

First of all, are you okay?! I know a lotta people drink to excess on New Year’s Eve, although of course ole Bummed Out Bailey isn’t condoning boozin’. ;) If you’re horizontal or, like, sort of propped up somewhere on a mountain of pillows like a limp, bleary-eyed Raggedy Ann* reading this on your phone or laptop, welcome. You belong here. Hello.

It’s strange to think it’s 2020 and, while I have no recollection of so many people being hype about the decade changing to 2010, wooo! New decade! Who are you? Why are you the way you are? What are you doing on this earth? Is this too deep for New Year’s Day?

Okay.

Let me dial it back a bit.

While we should be checking in with ourselves regularly throughout the year, the New Year is a common time to take stock of health, relationships, and quality of life. I don’t want to be prescriptive – the self check-ins can be on whatever you find to be a pillar in your life.

As 2019 came to a close I was racing to create a sustainable, yet maximally productive work calendar for January. Because I’m a writer and work from home (aside from Tidy B Organizing), there’s a lot of space for workflow to go awry, veer off course, and then wreck into a wall of general life admin and minutiae, AKA unpaid domestic labor and it’s invisible friend, emotional labor, among other things. I’ve found that, if you’re not disciplined with your time, it disappears and you have no idea where it went. I start some laundry and cook breakfast and answer emails and buy birthday cards and order flowers for a friend and go to my psychiatrist and call health insurance to sort out a bill and coordinate how to pay tuition online and do some yoga and file papers and order toilet paper and q-tips on Amazon, and, and, and… the day is over. “The day got away from me,” as they say. I’ve also found that, like a gas disseminates throughout a room and its particles expand to fill any size space, days are the same: If you’re not almost militant about your time, even a small list can fill your day the same way a big list would’ve with its necessitated, more tightly managed time. I hope that analogy makes sense. Science. I do not know how to science.

When I was active in Junior League, I was lucky to work with and get to know young people who’d rolled out of the NYC foster care system. We worked on all kinds of life skills like resumés, writing thank you notes, and how to (proverbially) balance a checkbook. There’s one session that stuck with me and taught me something, too: goal mapping. If you don’t know, goal mapping is essentially figuring out how to get from where you are, currently, to where you want to be, using short term goals (chewable bites) that propel you toward your end game. This can apply to any goals: professional, emotional, physical, personal, anything.

For instance, I want to publish a book about my family, centered around my brother, Alex, right? So, my goal starting place would be an unpublished writer, and goal finish line is to be a published book author. That’s a huge goal, and can feel insurmountable. However, if it’s broken up into real time action items, you can see and track your progress.

To publish a book I must structure my time in a way that prioritizes prolific writing. Then, I must be a diligent time keeper, and crank out, say, 500 words of quality writing on each “writing day.” Once I reach 100 pages, I can begin searching for an agent to represent me. I research agents, identify who I might work well with and who might be interested in my subject matter, then I begin shaping a proposal. I write and triple edit query letters to agents and attach the strongest 50 pages of my book (so far). I then create a spreadsheet to track every agent I’ve queried and when, so I know when is an appropriate time to follow up, and also track which queries have been rejected or unanswered. Supposing I get an agent, the first round of edits begins while I continue writing the rest of the book. The agent gives me feedback, and I edit accordingly. We go back and forth until we’re both satisfied with the content. Then, the agent begins shopping my book to editors at publishing houses. Once they’ve found a good match and I’m on board, the second round of edits begins, this time with the editor at the publishing house. Like the agent and I will have, the editor and I will go back and forth, too, again until all are satisfied. Then, the jacket design occurs, followed by printing and marketing. There is then perhaps a book tour, if applicable, and privately hosted book parties. Bam. PULITZER.

I’m not going to crank out my magnum opus prioritizing cleaning over writing over and over with the mindset of “Oh, I’ll get to writing [XY date].” I went to a writer’s conference in early December and one of the panelists said something in regards to writing that really resonated with me: don’t fetishize large chunks of time. If you have ten, fifteen minutes here and there, snag them and put them toward your goal, whatever it may be. While it’d be a blast if all goals could be accomplished in a cozy cabin in Vermont with nothing but solitude and time, it’s likely not gonna happen that way. I’ve been a huge perp of this and continue to be so, thinking “oh, well, the day got away from me so I guess I’ll just [something that’s not goal-oriented] now.”

I know that this is all dramatically compounded for parents, especially those of young children, and even more so for those who both parent and work a 9-5. For you, I recommend reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert or listening to her podcast “Magic Lessons.” She’s got a Delilah vibe while dishing out actionable inspiration items. I recommend Elizabeth Gilbert to anyone, but most especially those who feel trapped in a vicious cycle financially, professionally, emotionally, etc. She will pry and pop you right out of that rock and hard place.

Goal mapping is fairly turnkey in practice. One of the young people I worked with wanted to be an EMT. Now, go easy on me because I’m not as learned on EMTs as I am about writers, but take this process, for example: you are not an EMT, but you’d like to be one. In order to be one, you have to take courses, but in order to take courses, you have to test in to qualify. In order to test, you have to study. How long do you need to study? How many hours a day/week can you contribute to studying? Do you have to buy materials to study? Do you have money to study? Once these questions are answered, the mapping begins.

  1. Save money to buy materials to study for test
  2. Buy needed materials
  3. Draft achievable schedule for study hours
  4. Be diligent and stick to study schedule
  5. Take test until test is passed
  6. Begin courses

That’s not where becoming an EMT ends, of course, but do you see how I broke that part into chewable pieces? If you can check off one of those small items at a time, you’ll be making progress that you’ll actually be able to see. The steps can be as minuscule as you like. You know yourself best and what will or won’t overwhelm you, and the goal is success, right? If your map takes longer than another’s, it doesn’t matter. Progress is progress.

The same approach can work toward things like running a marathon, saving for a vacation, going to grad school, paying off a debt, even building a friendship. Although, if you’re using methodology to build a friendship maybe don’t tell that person, because then that person may think you’re a robot and ditch you. And if you get pegged as a robot, I don’t know how to goal map your way out of that. If you gave me some time to think about it, though…

Anyway.

We all have things that we want in life. Sometimes, when I’m walking around with my headphones on, I find myself visualizing personal ideals over and over. It’s inspiring to be able to see how to get there quite literally written out step by step. It makes something seemingly insurmountable seem achievable.

As the New Year begins, and resolutions have perhaps been milling about your brain, consider goal mapping. It not only might help you get to where you want to go, it also might alleviate the sense of failure regarding resolutions that’ve gone off the rails. If you blow whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, you know where to start again. You’ve got a literal map!

In 2020 I’m going to finish my book manuscript. I graduate in May and will be getting a typical job after that, making it harder to focus on writing, so I plan to use the privilege of my writing-focused spring semester to crank out as much as possible with fiercely protected writing blocks of time and, as I mentioned before, stolen moments. I’m fashioning the schedule now, and look forward to following my map to completion.

Happy New Year to you, and happy goal mapping. I’d love to hear about what you’re mapping for 2020.

*Honestly, Raggedy Ann is the rudest name ever. Really, Edwardian guy? You couldn’t have come up with a nicer name? What was wrong with just Ann? Why you gotta make her raggedy?


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Becoming You (This is Not a Maxi Pad Commercial)
Mental Health: Finding the Glow
Mental Health: Productivity


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