Tag Archives: Jamie L. Rotante

Practically Imperfect in Every Way by Jamie L. Rotante

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism and Other Fun Stuff

(illustration by Laura Collins)


Confidence is an elusive mistress. She courts me with her feminine wiles, her perfectly catted eyes that hide behind heart-shaped sunglasses and full, redder-than-red lips. She wears her dark hair in victory rolls that sit high atop her head as she lifts her chin up and walks through doors with assuredness that makes men cringe.

She is me in my fantasies.

In reality, my eyeliner looks like I’m a Black Swan reject and my lips are forever feathering, as I burn my fingers on my curling iron while my “rolls” split and fall. I’ve misplaced my heart-shaped sunglasses to parts unknown and I’m constantly in a rush, so I shrug and accept it as “good enough” before slumping my way out the door and always making sure other people enter doorways before me.

Confidence is my fantasy.

But confidence is more than just appearances and badass makeup. It’s partially about how you present yourself to the world, but it’s also about how you think of the world and your place within it.

As previously stated, confidence is my fantasy.

I don’t think I can remember the last time I felt 100% sure about something I’ve done. Confidence is a fleeting feeling for me—my moments of triumph are often blocked by moments of total doubt and self-consciousness. Praise always makes me feel sheepish—when I’m congratulated on a job well done, all I can focus on are the ways in which I don’t deserve the praise and what I could instead be doing better. In terms of the “larger picture,” I’m constantly questioning about my place in the world; my inner voice is loud and full of commentary on society and how I can change it, but I find it hard to verbalize those thoughts in a way that will get others to listen. When I do talk, I feel that others aren’t interested in what I have to say and that I’m instead rambling on like a damn fool for no reason.


Confidence is only unattainable because I keep blocking myself from attaining it.

Unfortunately, I am not alone in this. It has been proven that women have lower self-esteem on average than men, and often disregard or downplay any hard work they’ve done to achieve their goals. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the book Womenomics, have noticed that, after talking with multiple highly successful women in America, that most women regard their success as luck or some other attribute beyond their reach. In an article published a few years ago in The Atlantic, the two women also noted there is a vast confidence gap which separates the sexes and that “compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities.”

So not only am I totally devoid of confidence, I’m also completely unoriginal in feeling that way. In all of the ways I wish to have camaraderie with my fellow women, this is not one of them. Another reason for women’s lack of confidence in our abilities comes from our apparent need to be perfect. Shipman and Kay state that “underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in. Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect. Or practically perfect.”


Perfectionism is the ultimate confidence cancer. Nobody’s perfect—even Mary Poppins. “Practically perfect in every way” my ass—you know, practically perfect because she acts as stand-in mother for the terrible, terrible woman who’s being such a shitty parent because she’s too preoccupied with fighting for women’s rights. Or how Ms. Poppins forced children to believe they were liars instead of allowing them to freely expand on the limitless possibilities of their imaginations. She had a pretty bitchin’ pair of purple shoes, though.

Maybe cultural and pop cultural cues constantly reinforce this need for maternal perfectionism as the ultimate goal, leaving us non-mothers to feel as if we only truly have one end goal in our collective lives, causing one existential crisis after another. Maybe this lack of confidence stems from a more scientific place. Much research has been done to explain why there is this notable gap in self-esteem between men and women and there is even scientific evidence provided in that very same article from The Atlantic. MRI studies have shown that women tend to activate their amygdala—the brain’s “fear center”—more easily in response to negative emotional stimuli than men do, suggesting that women are more likely than men to form strong emotional memories of negative events (those social media trigger warnings aren’t something to fuck with). Basically, women will constantly think back on negative events of the past more than men. I, as I have already mentioned, try not to talk on behalf of all women but goddamn if that isn’t true.

But what does all this science mumbo jumbo prove? That I’m predisposed to worry myself into a tizzy over every little move I make or word I utter until I render myself mute and motionless out of fear of making a mistake or overstepping my boundaries? That only weirdo, blind-to-the-world’s-pressures, robotic alpha-females can conquer this fear of confidence until they become feminist icons and I’m just not meant to be one of them? Is it that what I really fear is confidence itself and, in turn, confident, outspoken women? Or have I just fetishized it/them to a point that it’s a weird, masturbatory fantasy that achieving it wouldn’t make it as fun to ruminate over?

Am I overthinking all of this? Is that what I’m just supposed to do because I’m a woman?

Here’s something I am confident in: my inability to answer everything. I’m also confident in my stubbornness and unwillingness to accept that I’ll never have the gait of a women who knows what she wants and where she’s headed, who doesn’t stumble over her own words or start to cry when she’s overly passionate about something. I’m confident that fantasizing about my future self as a self-assured woman is a source of temporary happiness for me on a daily basis, and a goal I still look forward to attaining.

I’m at least 70% confident that I’ll be 100% confident someday.

Destroy the Silence by Jamie L. Rotante

Destroy_The_Silence_@lauracollinsart

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism and Other Fun Stuff

I have a problem with keeping things to myself. I’m someone who seems to word vomit about her neuroses any chance I can get. Yet when it comes to actually speaking about my feelings to people around me, it’s an entirely different story. I either hold too much in or say too much—and neither of those are particularly good for my mental well being. This time I’m going to focus on the former, the things I keep quiet.

I haven’t been shy to acknowledge the fact that it doesn’t take a whole lot to make me cry. What I haven’t really elaborated on is just how much I hate it when people do see me cry. Showing emotion is something I’m not fond of. I don’t like feeling vulnerable around others, simultaneously out of shame and out of a fear the wrong person could use my emotions against me. It makes it difficult when my tear ducts decide to open like floodgates, a great waterfall comes gushing down my cheeks, and I have to try my best through snotty sniffles to say, “No really, I’m fine.” Because even if I’m not fine, even if visually I’m falling apart at the seams, coming out and actually saying that is damn near impossible for me.

So I handle my shit my way: having intense and robust conversations with myself, trying my best to be my own life coach, all in my head. After particularly rough spells, I come to a lot of revelations about who I am and the type of person I wish to be. They happen often and are kept within the safe confines of my brain, despite the fact that that very same brain has a history of splitting into separate malicious beings and forming a group of tormentors hellbent on telling me how bad or weak I am. You would think by now I wouldn’t trust my brain for guidance, but when I’m in the right state of mind and open to acting—and feeling—better, my mental pep talks and boot camps are just the recipe the doctor (me) ordered.

Here’s where it’s going to get real. Here’s where I’m going to be vulnerable in a way that I’m not always comfortable doing, even if I do often share about my many anxieties and neuroses in this format. Here’s where I’m going to embrace the written form to put out there one of the bigger issues that’s been clouding my mind, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, this will be the spark I need to actually talk about it.

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I briefly mentioned that sometimes I’m open to feeling better—being in the right state of mind is an integral part of that. Mindfulness is key. And one thing that’s a huge deterrent for me in being mindful is chemical imbalances—namely, alcohol. It’s not surprising that many of those intense mental conversations come the morning after a night of having one too many drinks—either chastising myself for my lack of impulse control or trying to calmly forgive myself for what I’ve done. I should go on record to say I don’t get drunk often, and when I do, I never do—or have done—anything one might consider “bad.” But the fact that I have to even qualify that is what scares me. What scares me more than that, though, is the feeling that there’s something out there that can completely throw my emotions into a whirlwind, completely out of my control. Alcohol is like the banana in the tailpipe of my well-being, and it’s something I’m coming to terms with and understanding more and more.

Yet having the courage to outright say, “Hey, I’m going to stop drinking because I think alcohol is really bad for my mental health” just seems so daunting. So I give myself tests and experiments. I practice sobriety and moderation. I celebrate my successes. I do it all in silence so when I fail, I only fail to myself. That also means that when I achieve what I set out to do, I’m the only one who knows.

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I try to avoid social situations so I don’t have to explain why I’m abstaining, or if I do decide to brave them, I feel tense, woefully aware of how I’m not partaking in the “fun” the others might be having. Not because I feel like I’m incapable of having fun, but more out of fear of what others will say. I dread the questions and weird looks when I’m confronted. “Why aren’t you drinking?” and the even more annoying, “Are you pregnant?” (Please, I beg this of you, stop asking this question of women who are abstaining from alcohol). I come up with some kind of glib response because it’s easier than having to blurt out, “Because drinking dredges up the worst of my inner monologues and gives it a voice and the subsequent hangover doesn’t hurt as badly as the mental breakdown that preceded it nor the negative thoughts that will follow for hours, if not days.” Often the fear of being put on the spot to talk about why I’m taking better steps for my mental health seems more challenging than taking the steps themselves.

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Yet, despite all that, those successes do just feel so damn good. Waking up with a clear mind and an ability to completely control my thoughts and actions is so liberating. Going the steps further beyond alcohol help, too. When I feel better about the way I’m eating or how I’m treating my body, I want to shout it from the rooftops. I want people to know I feel good. Mostly because, above all else, I want others to know they can feel that way, too.

But instead, I keep to myself, doing my damndest to make sure people aren’t let in too much about what’s going on in my life or in my head, keeping a facade of cool and “normal” so that my friends or acquaintances won’t pry further or worry. Juggling this absurd notion of wanting to be there for them to open up to but also wanting to keep myself closed off, and then giving in to the notions that people don’t care enough about me, even though I know that I’ve done my best to shut them out.

It’s time to end that. It’s time to be as open IRL as I can be behind a keyboard, to just say, “Hey, I’m not doing this because I need to give my brain a break,” or “I’m taking these steps to be mentally well and even if I don’t want to talk about it too much further, I hope you understand and will support me.”

I can also hope that all of those people will just read this article and get the jist, too. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to take the actions needed for my well-being, including not only practicing—but truly believing in—those talking points. Even if it’s just by saying them all out loud to myself; giving them words gives them power. And yes, the spoken words are important, but that doesn’t mean the written ones fall by the wayside. Maybe this will be the kick in the pants I need to make the changes I want to see in myself.

Hanging on the Telephone by Jamie L. Rotante

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Hanging on the Telephone by Jamie L. Rotante

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism and Other Fun Stuff

Illustration by Laura Collins

Being a neurotic, socially anxious person, there are a lot of day-to-day tasks most people don’t give a second thought to that become nearly earth-shattering crises to me. One of the most major things that plagues me to this day is the phone. Most people don’t jolt up like a meerkat every time the phone rings, then have to coax their stomachs back down from their throats once we know who’s on the other line and what it is they’re saying. I am not most people—though this wasn’t always the case.

I went through a phase when I was about eight years old where I became obsessed with the telephone. If It rang, I’d spring up from whatever I was doing (even if it meant missing out on some quality afternoon animated programming), and run to the kitchen to grab a hold of the phone before anyone could pick it up. It was more or less the pre-message board, child equivalent of “FIRST!” My over-eagerness to answer the phone was followed by awkward conversation—I never really thought it over past the introductory lines—but I still enjoyed being the first one to say hello. Fortunately, the calls were, more often than not, from telemarketers who would butcher my mother’s first and last names, not looking for much in terms of conversation. This did, however, provide me with a funny story to tell to my family after I hung up, and even in my tender youth I was a sucker for a funny anecdote.

And it wasn’t just answering the phone that gave me my jollies; I liked making calls, too. My uncle Frank informed me of a trick he’d heard about when he was younger: if you dial 6-1-1 before your home phone number, you’ll be able to call your own phone. The concept of being able to call myself was enthralling, so I would try often. Dialing 6-1-1 actually just called an automated customer service center, but that didn’t stop me from trying at least ten times a day, every day, hoping that one day I would be able to buck the system and make a breakthrough to finally achieve the goal of having a much sought-after conversation with myself.

It probably comes as no surprise that during one of my daily attempts, I wasn’t being as cautious as usual. My finger slipped and hit a wrong button. When I heard the phone on the other side start ringing, I thought my day had finally come—then there was a voice. Not my voice, but a man’s voice. “Hello, 9-1-1. What’s your emergency?” I panicked and hung up the phone, hoping that not enough time had passed for them to figure out who called.

It took less than a minute for them to call back. This was the first time I was not eager to immediately answer the phone. I ran into the kitchen to see my grandmother with the still-not-cordless receiver to her ear, confused. “Emergency? No, no one called from here about an emergency…” I had to silently mouth to her that it was me and I didn’t mean for it to happen. It was not long after that incident police dispatchers started taking mistake calls like that a lot more seriously—something I blamed solely on myself. That was my last foray into playing with the buttons on the telephone.

During those same years of my youth, I started to lose many older relatives who were close to me—quite a lot of them in what felt like rapid succession. Those calls were the worst. I’d answer the phone to a relative’s voice sounding a lot less cheery than I had remembered, forgoing small talk in favor of having me put an adult on the phone right away. That always meant some form of bad news. If it wasn’t a distant voice of a family member, it was coming home to a sad, hurried message left on our answering machine, following whatever joke answering machine greeting my mom and I had created. It got to a point where I could only associate the phone ringing with an announcement of death—and so each time the phone rang, I’d be downright frightened of what bad news was going to come from the other side.

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I became conditioned; every time the phone rang, my heart sunk. I’d cower in fright, close my eyes, and pray for good news. This went on for years to come, until my family got caller ID, which allowed me to rest easy when I knew it was a frequent-caller family member or a telemarketer, only being worried when it was a number I didn’t recognize. Over time, I got less frightened, though I still wasn’t the best at making conversation. This became a slight disadvantage to me when I started working part time as a receptionist at my college’s Performing Arts Center. If someone called in with a question I couldn’t immediately answer, I’d panic, stumble over my words, then settle on providing most likely incorrect information because it would just take too long to find the proper response.

My worst experience came when a Q&A scheduled before a performance was moved to after the performance. I was tasked with cold calling all members of the Center—whether or not they were planning on attending—to let them know of the change. I had to breathe deeply and give myself a silent pep talk before each call before finally stumbling my way through the message. Despite my inadequacies in speaking, I grew less afraid of the phone—until one night when we received an alarming call: my uncle Frank had suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. Too afraid to go, I stayed at home and waited for news. This led to a week of waiting for the phone to ring until we received that final, upsetting bit of news. If there was ever a reason to hate the phone before, this further propelled my disdain for it.

Is it unreasonable to associate something as menial and integral to day-to-day life as the phone with something as major as death? Of course it is—but that’s exactly why it happens. Rational thinking often has to try and squeeze its way through the tiny filters of a neurotic person’s brain. My phone-related panic attacks aren’t as critical as they once were, but that’s not to say I don’t damn near jump out of my skin when the phone rings at work. Or that I don’t say a silent prayer when I feel my cell phone vibrate a few more times than it should if it were just a text message (in the cyclical nature of life, those calls are still usually from telemarketers).

Maybe one day I’ll get over this fear. Maybe new technology will come and make phone calls obsolete. It’s already starting to happen. And I’ll probably learn to fear that new technology, too, though I’m not there yet. As it turns out, receiving bad news over Facebook isn’t all that great either, but without having to speak, I don’t find myself constantly on high alert whenever my phone lets me know that I’ve received a new message or text. Sometimes, despite my fears, I do miss the days of my later youth when I embraced talking on the phone—namely hours spent going on and on about nothing to my friends. Now it’s replaced with a quick group chat message here or a dumb GIF there. As our conversation grows gnarled and more cynical by the minute with quick responses on email and Slack, I find myself getting that “get off my lawn”-type nostalgia for person-to-person talks, despite my relationship with the phone.

Until, of course, something goes wrong and I have to place a call to a bank or credit card company—then I wish all I could do is send a funny five-second video clip of a child throwing up her arms in confusion or a dog drinking coffee in a fire and let that do all the talking for me.

Meditation Proclamation by Jamie L. Rotante

Meditation Proclamation Illustration by Nikki Kelli

Meditation Proclamation by Jamie L. Rotante

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism and Other Fun Stuff

Illustration by Nikki Kelli, @looseteethshoppe

I’m a sucker for self-help tips, as much as I hate to admit that about myself. I’m currently subscribed to a number of health and wellness email lists, and I devour them wholeheartedly each time one lands in my inbox—especially any revolving around mental health and well-being. Sometimes I manage to read through them while simultaneously rolling my eyes so hard I fear they’ll fly off my face. Other times I indulge them in earnest. But either way, I always give them a shot.

In reading many of those articles I’ve found a few common themes to establishing a sense of calm or restoring balance in life: get enough sleep, wake up early and start a consistent morning routine (see my last article for how I feel about that one), practice regular self-care rituals, eat a balanced breakfast every day, reduce screen time so you’re not looking at your phone right before bed or first thing in the morning, pour turmeric on everything you eat, drink plenty of water and, last but not least, make time for meditation.

I’ll admit, I’m doing my best to follow through with almost all of those. I’m trying to become more ritualistic in my day-to-day: I’m drinking water every morning (even if it’s only a few sips), I’m having a cup of turmeric tea every day (and I honestly don’t even hate it that much!), I’m not hitting the snooze button as much (trust me, I still hit it a lot and I’m still constantly in a rush to get ready and out the door), and I spend way more money on face masks than ever before.

But that last tip has always eluded me. For a long while, I rolled my eyes whenever people (namely, rich white people) would mention meditation. It always seemed to me like something only bougie people would do, like openly doing yoga in public spaces and buying name brand clothing at places that aren’t discount stores or flea markets. It appeared to me to be an action well-off people will tell you to do because it’s good for you, acting as if offering a bandaid will stitch up a gaping wound.

This, of course, was an incredibly flippant and ignorant view of what meditation is, shaped largely by the West’s co-opting of it for the moneyed self-help industry. I was harsh to judge something I didn’t fully understand, instead only viewing it through the lens of rich self-help “experts,” and not taking the time to learn more about its thousands-years-old practice in Hindu culture and those who believe in it. All I knew was that it was something I couldn’t make the time to do and therefore it wasn’t for me; as if that’s all that mattered in something so widely practiced every day.

Meditation Proclamation Illustration by Nikki Kelli
It wasn’t until my husband started meditating to help ease his anxiety that I decided to give it a shot. Watching someone else do it in real time as a part of self-care made it seem more accessible and feasible. It was no longer an abstract idea that self-help books and self-made influential “healers” were tossing out there as a cure-all, but instead something that, if done right, could actually work in tandem with other wellness practices. Something I should have taken more time to respect and notice in regards to other cultures, as opposed to only having my understanding of it be from the very self-help articles I rolled my eyes at before.

What I didn’t realize at the time, and still have a hard time accepting, is that there’s no such thing as doing meditation “right.”

That’s the first rule of meditation: it’s not about a hard and fast practice with set-in-stone ways of doing it that are guaranteed to achieve the same desired results every single time. It’s about owning how you choose to process and think about things. And, honestly, that’s really friggin’ hard to accept. The first time I decided to give meditation an honest go was with my husband. We sat in silence in our living room, eyes closed, following the commands. We both kept our backs straight, our feet firmly planted on the floor and our arms at our sides. I could feel myself fidgeting the entire time, which then led me to feel my husband silently growing annoyed with my inability to just sit still (he wasn’t, but in the thoughts I was focusing on in that moment, he totally was).

And I approached meditation the same way I always have, which is the same reason why I never kept up with it: I sat in silence, trying to ignore anything and become a blank slate. I tried to turn off my hyperactive brain. I tried to achieve a true sense of calm. It didn’t work. It never works. I’m just no good at meditating. But trying it with my husband, despite my belief that I was doing it all wrong, made me at least willing to give it another go. It would be months before I ever went for it again, but it no longer was something I’d avoid at all costs or roll my eyes at.

Now, a few months later since my last attempt, I was fortunate enough to land a free year subscription to a meditation app that’s become a part of my routine. I’ve also previously mentioned using technology as way to dip my toes into therapy—I’ve been finding that those apps I’ve dismissed in the past are more useful than I realized. Sure, it may not be helping with reducing screen time, but having little reminders of wellness practices certainly doesn’t hurt.

And the end result? I’m okay. I’m feeling okay and okay is… well, okay. Has meditating made me all “better”? Of course not, but I’m okay with understanding that that’s not what it’s about. But it has made me more aware. Every day I take somewhere between five to fifteen minutes to go for a walk outside (another routine I’ve added!), and just sit and… be. I’ve learned that my prior approach had a major flaw in it: it’s not about the absence of thought and forcing my mind to be a blank slate; it’s about allowing thoughts to come and go as they please, with breaks to focus on my body and the elements around me. And sure, even that’s not easy. When I focus on my breathing, I start to hyper-focus on it, forcing me to breathe in a way that’s not natural, and it clouds my mind with all the things that must be wrong with me since I’m not breathing correctly.

Meditation Proclamation by Jamie L. Rotante
Then I become aware that I’m trapping myself into that type of thinking again. I become aware of the thoughts I’m letting cloud my mind and I let them come and go as they please. I don’t try to dismiss them or force my brain to think about something else, I just let them do what they have to do, knowing that, they too, will pass. Meditation has also taught me that I might not feel that different or even “get it’ for a while, and I’m aware that that’s fine too. But those few moments of stillness, of awareness, are a much-needed way to hit the reset button mid-day. And taking the time out to do this every day, even if I don’t want to or think I have the time to, makes me realize how there are always times for the little things that help us, we just need to make them happen.

So what have I learned since I’ve been meditating? Fresh air (even in the cold winter months) and a little exercise is therapeutic. Thoughts can only be controlled so much, but sometimes it’s about letting go of control and letting things run their course. Accept that some things aren’t meant to be right or wrong, but doing them with regularity can be enough to establish some sense of balance. And, most importantly, if you’re going to close your eyes in a public park, survey your surroundings carefully. A raccoon appearing next to you in the daytime likely has rabies and will chase you for at least a block unless you can turn a corner fast enough.

You know what, maybe just meditate in your car instead, just to be safe.

@jamieleerotante

The Big Sleep by Jamie L. Rotante

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The Big Sleep by Jamie L. Rotante

An examination of my history of using sleep as a method of anxiety avoidance.

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism and Other Fun Stuff

When I was in high school my favorite extracurricular activity was napping. I spent a good portion of my teenage years in the depths of slumber. I didn’t have many part-time jobs, I sure as hell didn’t participate in any team sports, and I definitely wasn’t going out partying or on dates. Most of my free time was spent wrapped up in a blanket, snoozing my life away.

I didn’t think too much of it at the time; most teenagers are lazy (at least that’s what I told myself, I know now how untrue that is) and the “best years” are, in all honesty, pretty damn tough (this, on the other hand, is very much true). You study for eight hours, presumably get tormented for (if you’re lucky) only one to two hours in that time, spend most of your waking life trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be after those four years are over, and you deal with parents who just don’t seem to get it.

So, yeah, exhaustion is kind of par for the course. Plus, I wasn’t alone. A lot of my friends also took pride in their slumber. It’d be like a challenge between my friends and me to see who could sleep in the latest. Over the summer it would get really wild—I’d be impressed with my waking up at two in the afternoon to only be bested by another friend who’d clock in for the day at five o’clock. We didn’t have anywhere to be, and time, at that point in life, didn’t seem very fleeting, so why not spend most of it in a dream world where everything is just a little bit more exciting?

As I got older, I’d grow to learn that sleep wasn’t really just from exhaustion—it’s a solution. To boredom. To consistency. For avoidance. It’s a bad habit that runs in my family. My grandmother was known to sleep when she’d get upset—it would sometimes take multiple people to wake her up in the morning. In my formative years, my mom would often retire to her bedroom mid-day, exhausted and in need of space. It was hard for me to understand as a child why she wanted to sleep more than spend time with me. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that it wasn’t her not wanting to spend time with me; instead, it was easier to sleep than to deal with the stress of her newfound (and unexpected) motherhood. I get it—I’m guilty of the same. If things are rough—sleep it off. If time is ticking a little too fast—don’t fight it. Go with it and sleep it all away. There will be another day tomorrow. Another chance to deal with what’s bothering me. Another opportunity to face challenges, as hopeful as that may be.

Nowadays, I think of naptime as a luxury I can only award myself if I feel I’ve truly earned it—or if I’m sick and have no other choice. And even then, I feel like any hours spent sleeping midday is time that could be better spent doing something, anything, else. Sleeping instead of productivity is a real-world nightmare, but even if I reject the notion of sleep, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m living to my fullest potential. Even to this day I find myself lying vertical on the couch in place of confronting deadlines. If I sit on my couch in my living room and start to think ahead to my workload, my eyes instinctively begin to shut, my body to slouch. My internal clock falls off the wall for the night and any sense of urgency is trumped by a desire to sleep and get away from it all. And if I do manage to fight the sandman off, my time is instead spent mindlessly scrolling through my phone, playing some stupid app or another, until my eyes get heavy from staring at the screen.

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That being said, the opposite is also true. Nothing upends my week more than an inadequate amount of sleep. As much as having a jam-packed weekend of fun and friends is great, it interferes with the amount of rest I’ll have to gear up for the next work week. Some of my worst anxiety attacks have happened when I’ve allowed myself to stay out late or party too hard on a Sunday night (a very rare occurrence), weekend me not caring enough about what Monday me will think. Waking up burned out on a Monday morning isn’t a good look on anyone—but for me, the mental exhaustion it causes is far worse than any physical tiredness.

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So what have I learned? All the health tips aren’t lying—it is important to get the right amount of slumber, especially if you have anxiety issues. I’ve also learned that sometimes sleeping it off does help. When the anxiety quells late at night or the emotions run high in the wee hours of the morning, falling asleep to turn it all off and press the reset button for the next day is the best possible option. Sometimes those dreaming hours are the exact recipe needed to unwind. That being said, I’m also making strides to not only defer to sleep as a cure-all, especially when it is instead a roadblock to creativity, productivity, or an escape from issues that need to be handled.

I’ve gotten better at budgeting my sleep time wisely (removing my comfy napping couch from the living room in favor of my desk has also helped—I’m much less likely to lie down in my bed early on, instead forcing myself to sit at my desk and actually work.) I’ve also learned how much more I appreciate getting home from a fun night out with more than enough time to get a good night’s rest. But the balance is what’s key; sleep is important but, unless absolutely necessary, shouldn’t take precedence over carving out time to spend with friends and loved ones. I’ve still got a lot more to learn and still need to get better at the whole budgeting my time thing, but I’m getting there, one snooze at a time.

Waking up, however—that’s a whole different story. I’ll save that for another time; I’m far too tired now.

 

Problematic Mental Attitude by Jamie L. Rotante

Problematic Mental Attitude by Jamie L. Rotante

Problematic Mental Attitude by Jamie L. Rotante

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism and Other Fun Stuff

Illustration by @lauracollinsart

PMA. Maybe you’ve heard it shouted on stage by a muscle-bound lead singer of a New York Hardcore band. Maybe you’ve seen it sloppily graffitied on a street corner—it’s three letters that pack a punch, and the command is simple: Positive Mental Attitude. In short, it means that even when the chips are down, you focus your mind on persevering. Get your head right and your life will follow. Think positive and good things will happen.

But goddamn if it’s not easier said than done.

A bit of history: the concept of PMA came about in 1937 by self-help author Napoleon Hill in the book Think and Grow Rich. While never actually using the term “PMA,” the book does develop the importance of positive thinking in relation to wealth and success. It’s the philosophy that having an optimistic disposition in every situation in life attracts positive changes and increases achievement. It’s also become the premise for pretty much every self-help book that’s come out since, using the notion that having a simple set of principles—if implemented correctly and with enough persistence—will guarantee success regardless of the person’s background or social status.

But is it really as easy as all that?

Problematic Mental Attitude by Jamie L. Rotante
For me, that’s a big fat no. And I’m sure there’s no surprise in me stating that—I’ve already divulged in-depth my own issues with negative thinking. I’ve even touched upon the notion that PMA seems to be the obvious answer to countering my intrusive bad thoughts. If I just try envisioning the good and embracing the positive outcomes, won’t that keep my negative thoughts at bay? Or, at very least, strike enough of a balance between the two? The truth is I attempt this at least once a day. I spend a lot of my time daydreaming about the future—imagining myself in better scenarios and with an abundance of happiness. I hope for positive outcomes for those around me, too—envisioning my friends and family living their #bestlives. I commit to the dreams and hope that they’ll transcend reality and manifest themselves as truths, even while my brain tries to poke holes in that imaginary happiness with nugget-sized craters of fatalistic reality visions.

But envisioning those positive scenarios actually does help. Not by some magical force or by crude mentalist tricks, but by attracting positive people and happiness and deflecting anyone who wants to impede on that (even if I do spend a lot of time agonizing over those who try to actively stomp on my happiness). I do believe that spending a lot of time being outwardly miserable will only bring forth more misery. I do think that putting on a happy face and trucking on even when things are rough helps to bring on good tidings and better outcomes.

That being said, countering all the bad shit in the world takes a hell of a lot more than just thinking about it all going away.

Let’s also be honest: shouting PMA at people and telling them that it’s a simple solution to their issues is a pretty privileged thing to do. It’s not fair to assume that the answer to everyone’s problems is to just imagine themselves being better and then they’ll be better. That mindset is just laced with victim blaming. Sorry, Napoleon Hill, but having a good mindset might not be the key to wealth and success in spite of your societal standpoint. Sometimes your social class does define you and it takes way more than just invoking the positive to change that. There’s often an element to the PMA movement that implies that we’re all starting from a level playing field, which is just way off base, both in terms of physical and mental attributes.

And on a personal level, I also think that pushing forward even when times are tough and deflecting the bad to think about the good can be agonizing. Sometimes an uphill battle can go even slower when you feel like you’re suffering in silence. The last thing you need is someone to tell you to just change your mindset the moment you open up about your problems, as if the answer is an easy one you’ve been ignoring all along.

That’s not to say that I think PMA is disposable or a bad motto to follow—there are quite a lot of good aspects of it that I sincerely try to implement in my daily life. A big part of having a positive outlook is putting effort into leading a meaningful or purposeful life, especially in which one works toward a higher cause. Many modern theories of self-esteem explore discovering value within ourselves. We can discover this personal value by using our unique strengths to contribute to the happiness of not only ourselves, but to others as well. It’s about focusing on the positive as a means to acquire the skills to be able to deal with the harder times of life in fuller, deeper ways—both for ourselves and our communities.

Problematic Mental Attitude by Jamie L. Rotante
PMA, even in the hardcore sense, is often heavily rooted in civic activism. When active, rebellious positivity is used to counteract injustice, that’s an excellent deployment of PMA. And when you can combine PMA with an awareness of your own privilege and use it to help others, that’s the best possible combination.
In the end that’s my biggest motivation for staying positive and forging forward; if I can help myself, I can help those around me—especially those who don’t have the same privileges I have. It’s the awareness that we’re not all born of the same class with comparable backgrounds and upbringings. It’s the awareness that not everyone can just think positive and change their statuses in life—but that those who have even the slightest more access to the tools to create change can use that PMA to help others. And using a positive mental attitude to create positive change is a damn good feeling.

As redundant as it may sound, being positive is key to being happy—but only if we’re not forcing ourselves to be positive, instead choosing to live that PMA and share that positivity with the world around us.

@jamieleerotante

 

Look Out Honey, ‘Cause I’m Using Technology by Jamie L. Rotante

Look Out Honey, ‘Cause I’m Using Technology by Jamie L. Rotante

Look Out Honey, ‘Cause I’m Using Technology by Jamie L. Rotante

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed yet, but I’m a pretty neurotic person. Maybe it’s my proclivity for crying, my obsession with the end times, my fear of being happy, or just my general, unending sense of uneasiness that tipped you off, but overall I’m a pretty off-center person. Here’s another fun fact about me: I currently do not go to nor have I ever been to a therapist. And that’s not because of any sort of aversion to them or to the psychological process it’s… well… it’s like this…

I believe in the positive and remarkably helpful effects of therapy—yet I find myself fear-stricken with the idea of moving forward and actually going to a therapist. It’s like going to a job interview but instead of explaining the boring minutiae of your day-to-day work life and career history and hoping they don’t judge you too harshly on it, it’s the intricate goings-on inside your fucked up head and hoping that they do. Here’s what scares me about therapy—and it’s not the naive notion that I won’t be “fixed” or that the highly qualified person won’t tell me what I want to hear—it’s the same anxiety that drives most of my neurotic thoughts… what if they don’t like me?

I’ve heard some psycho-horror stories: A therapist falling asleep while the patient was explaining their day; doctors who aren’t paying attention or belittle their patient’s problems; others who pay a little too much attention and are too hands-on. What if my doctor thinks my problems are childish and doesn’t take me seriously? What if they joke about what I’ve said with their friends? Sure, that’s legally prohibited, but who really can tell? What if, on the other end of the spectrum, they diagnose me too quickly and try to push me to take medication I don’t want?

Look Out Honey, ‘Cause I’m Using Technology by Jamie L. Rotante
I completely believe that the right pills can be incredibly effective and helpful to those who need them, but I’m also frightened about taking anything that can become addictive or change my brain chemistry. If they work, great. But what if they have an adverse effect? Also, swallowing pills gives me anxiety. My throat closes up as soon as they enter my mouth and I end up gagging, spitting them out or—ugh—chewing them. There’s a reason I never take anything larger than seasonal allergy tablets and baby aspirin. But we’ll save that story about my fear of hospitals and the entire medical practice as a whole for another day.

So how do I cope? Well, writing, for one. Putting my thoughts onto paper helps me understand—albeit from a very crude, rudimentary standpoint—what’s going on in my head. Sharing these thoughts with the world (which, for some reason is easier than just sharing them with one person, who knew?) and hearing from people who feel the same helps me lose that sense of isolation that so often triggers my anxious thoughts. What I’ve also noticed is that, because there are so many people out there like me, there’s been a huge movement over the last few years to bring mental health awareness and therapy to our fingertips. Apps, websites, podcasts, and more exist solely to provide tips, guided meditations, and even therapy sessions to people in their own homes.

Look Out Honey, ‘Cause I’m Using Technology by Jamie L. Rotante
I’ve tried a few. I’ve downloaded countless apps for guided meditation and daily affirmations. I forget to make the time to meditate. I get the text alerts with my “feel-good” advice in the morning and curse them from disrupting me from over-sleeping. I sign up for the email lists that do the same. I scan the tips: Create a vision board. De-clutter. Organize. I’m trying. I’m trying to do that digitally too, but these new therapeutic email lists are contributing to my mess. I see the emails keep piling up—the stress of an overfilled email inbox sends me into a panic. I filter the messages by sender and start to power my way through them, but they keep coming faster than I can mark them as “read.”

Very recently I took what was probably the biggest step in my attempts to get digital self-help: I actually spoke with a therapist through video chat. It was part of this special intro program that gave users a ten-minute session to chat with a therapist of their choosing. Admittedly, I picked one at random, not entirely understanding what the whole thing was about in my quick read of the website during my lunch break. I assumed I’d watch a video she had pre-recorded or it would be a group chat, sort of like an online lecture or a livestream, with everyone asking questions and her answering what she could. Instead, it was a real therapist giving ten minutes of undivided attention to me.

As soon as I realized what was happening, I almost bailed. Nervously, I hemmed and hawed so our ten minutes wouldn’t involve anything too serious. I asked her about how to approach therapy and coping with generalized anxiety. She was incredibly kind, patient, and promised to send me a link with tips that she actually recommends, as opposed to so many of the emails and websites that offer self-help rituals that may only benefit the person writing them. I have not yet received that link and I’m still too nervous to try and ask her for it, but that chat made me feel like I could do this. Maybe. Even if it’s just by starting out with video chats and taking it from there.

What the therapist I chatted with also gave me was a sense of confidence in my search. She was upfront and honest—yes, there might be some therapists out there who I won’t “jive” with, but there are also many who I will. It’s daunting to put yourself out there in the wild like that, but it doesn’t have to be a hopeless cause. And if just those mere ten minutes of talking made me feel better, I can only imagine what a full hour—or even a half hour—would do. Yet, putting myself out there and open to less-than-savory experiences is still intimidating, though no longer seemingly insurmountable.

Maybe one day, when I’m incredibly rich and famous, I’ll start an app kind of like Tindr or Bumble—maybe I’ll call it Brainr—that lets users swipe through a database of highly rated, effective therapists in your immediate area and you can match with ones you feel can help you the best. Maybe go on a trial therapy run with them; find a bar with a comfy chaise lounge to relax in while you unload all your dreams, fears, and paranoias, and hope that the person on the receiving end treats you with kindness and doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, send you on your way, and send you an inappropriate picture in the morning.

Until that day comes, I’ll keep reading those emails. I’ll keep downloading those apps. I’ll follow other like-minded people on social media and read their stories. Maybe I’ll even make another attempt to video chat with a licensed professional who understands, but take it a little more seriously next time. I’ll start serious research into the most compatible mental health professionals in my area. And, as always, I’ll keep writing.

The Crying Game by Jamie L. Rotante

The Crying Game by Jamie L. Rotante

The Crying Game by Jamie L. Rotante

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism, and Other Fun Stuff

I’m a crybaby. I have no qualms about admitting this. Most people who know me probably already know this fact and those who don’t—well, they just haven’t spent enough time around me yet. I was in the first grade when the Chronic Crying™ began. It was a Monday, right after my mom’s thirty-first birthday, and we were nearing the end of the school day. As a “treat,” my class was watching one of those animated VHS tapes—the ones made specifically for Catholic schools. Nothing out of the ordinary was going on, but then something hit me: I really missed my mom. She hadn’t gone anywhere; I just missed having her nearby. I kept replaying in my mind how happy we all were just one day prior. For the first time in my young life, I felt the emotional pangs of nostalgia—even if it was only for the weekend. I missed the happiness we felt being all together. I missed not having to be separated by school. I just… missed. And before I knew it, before I could explain it or even begin to fathom it, the tears came gushing down my cheeks.

The Crying Game by Jamie L. Rotante
My teacher noticed and pulled me aside to ask me what was wrong. I think I managed to stammer out some BS about the dumb animated dog film we were watching. Maybe I blurted out that I missed my mommy—that part is fuzzy—but the truth was, I really had no idea what was happening. Unfortunately, this was a confusing sensation I’d have to learn to get used to, since this became par for the course every day for the last two months of the school year.

The crying episodes got so bad that my teacher had me step outside the classroom with her. She pleaded with me to stop. She begged me and asked what it was she was doing wrong. That only made things worse. Knowing my unexplained sobbing was also causing confusion and sadness in others just filled me with even more upset. I had no answers—it just seemed to be something beyond my control. Days where I’d successfully avoid crying (or, at very least, avoid letting anyone see me cry) were triumphs. I eventually made it to the end of the school year and spent a (relatively) tearless summer.

Second grade brought with it a renewed attitude, until one day when the tears inexplicably started up again. My teacher, a different one from first grade, pulled me aside and told me she heard about my episodes. She wasn’t about to deal with me crying every day. I could sense my classmates’ groans and snickers at my expense—they, too, were tired of my shit. That’s when a new sensation swept over me—one of extreme shame and embarrassment. And that feeling plugged up those tears because, in that moment, that was a far worse feeling than sadness—and one I could easily understand. Thus ended the crying saga of my eighth year of life.

Thinking back on it now, it’s kind of astonishing how little my educational system cared about the well-being of one of its young students. Instead of having a formal sit-down with my mother, it was only mentioned here and there as an aside. Instead of having me sit down with the school’s psychologist, I was instead scolded, shamed, and made to feel worse about what was going on. There were no further attempts to unpack what was going on with me. It seemed like the only way to solve it was by making me feel as though I were doing something bad. I’m sure there was nothing malicious behind it—just teachers underprepared for dealing with the needs of an apparently emotionally fragile child—yet it still seems like something that could have been handled with, pardon the pun, kid gloves.

For the rest of my educational career I’d only cry in certain circumstances, likely for fear of being embarrassed. The crying usually accompanied panic attacks which struck me in the wee hours of the night during my preteen years. Other than that, it took a lot to get me to a point of breaking down. High school left me unfazed; I’d balk at the other young women who got emotional over fights with boyfriends or receiving low grades. Maybe it was my keeping online journals to write out my feelings that allowed me to better understand my emotions than I ever had before. Maybe my life was just pretty all-around okay, but for some reason I was an alarmingly even-keeled and unemotional teenager.

It wasn’t until college when I experienced losing someone very close to me for the first time that I felt true sadness again. And with that loss came an emptiness, an impending sense of doom that set me sail on an emotional tidal wave. Suddenly, it wasn’t just sadness anymore that caused me to cry. It would come from anger, frustration, nerves, existential dread and, the one I hate the most, absolutely no good reason whatsoever.

Crying is weird. I still find it hard to quantify what will or won’t make me cry. When I’m angry, the tears come rushing out before I have the chance to control them. When I’m sad, there’s no telling when the crying will actually begin. But the worst is feeling completely out of tune with my body and my emotions. As confusing as it was to not understand why it started or where the tears were coming from is just as bad as not knowing why they won’t. Berating myself and feeling that utter internal sadness, knowing that if I could just allow myself to cry—just really sob—it would make all the difference. But it’s always in those moments when the tears refuse to freely fall. It’s when I, shockingly, want to cry I can’t.

The Crying Game by Jamie L. Rotante
One thing I’ve learned from being a crybaby is that a good cry every now and then can actually be a positive thing. It’s reinvigorating, an enigma—simultaneously exhausting and rejuvenating.  It makes my face and red and puffy yet also exfoliates the pores or some shit. I don’t know. That might be a lie, but, either way, crying can feel really good when it’s a release of pent up aggression or long term sadness. I’ve also learned that it still kind of sucks to get caught crying in public and my total fear of complete embarrassment will often cure that. Maybe I’m not really all that different at thirty than I was as a scared and confused eight-year-old. I just now have more constructive ways to channel my feelings. But I won’t give up working on understanding myself better—I owe it to the sad little girl I used to be.

//
Jamie L. Rotante
Twitter: @jamitha
Instagram: @jamieleerotante
Facebook: JamieLeeRotante

Laura Collins
Instagram: @lauracollinsart

The Charlie Brown Mindset by Jamie L. Rotante

Charlie Brown Mindset Jamie L. Rotante

The Charlie Brown Mindset by Jamie L. Rotante

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism, and Other Fun Stuff

“I think I’m afraid to be happy because whenever I get too happy, something bad always happens.” –Charlie Brown

My life has been, to put it simply, pretty good. Sure, I’ve dealt with my share of loss and failure and rejection but—and I can assure you I’m banging my knuckles across wood until they’re bloody as I write this—no more than most people. However, if you were to film the movie of my life through the lens of my brain, oh boy, would it look a whole lot different.

You see, I have this problem: I like to call it the “Charlie Brown dilemma.” Whenever I feel moments of pure, unbridled happiness (even fleeting moments of happiness) they’re almost immediately accompanied by a sense of overwhelming dread. I like to be happy—who doesn’t?—but I often find it hard to really enjoy those transitory happy moments.

Contentment creeps up on me when I least expect it: when the sun hits my face at just that perfect angle, when a song comes on which reminds me of summer, a certain scent that transports me to a spring of my youth (side note: I think I might also have Seasonal Affective Disorder but we’ll save that for another time), and I just stop and allow myself to briefly bask in it. Maybe I’ll do an introspective celebration of a recent goal I achieved or of some goal just within my reach. I stop, smile, reflect, and just get… happy.

Then it happens. The next thought follows almost immediately after—or intrusively during—my silly little internal happy dance. The ever-dreadful, “What next?” question posits itself in my brain and reminds me there is a balance to all things in this world… and with this good, there must certainly come a bad. What about one, sticking obstacle that might prevent me from obtaining almost-in-my-reach goal? What about those outstanding circumstances surrounding an already-achieved goal that could rear their ugly heads and turn everything on its ear? What if something tragic happens tomorrow and completely consumes my very being, wiping away any of my good feelings and memories from existence?

Ah, yes. It’s those fickle little “circumstances beyond my control” that manage to consistently break me to my very core. Illness, death, terrorism, war, freak accidents, apocalypse, a smallpox epidemic, a bigpox epidemic… anything is possible, especially when it comes to impeding upon my personal happiness. What if I’m so busy celebrating an insignificant victory while someone I love is suffering and I don’t even know it? What if my personal fulfillment comes at the cost of someone else’s loss? Who am I to be happy, really?

Of course, I’ve found more often in life, it’s when I start to really feel bad for myself—when work is piling up, when there are endless chores to do, when there are deadlines that seem impossible to meet—life decides to smack me in the face with something bigger than I think I can handle. Like an earth-shatteringly subtle reminder that there are circumstances outside of me and my way of life, and challenges that are much harder to endure. Events which completely make reaching any sort of deadline obsolete or cause me to rip up any to-do lists because there are more important problems to face. It’s not when I’m content the universe hurtles problems and misfortunes in my direction—it’s when things are already rough. So why? If I know this to be true, why do I deny myself my splurging moments of sheer enthusiasm and happiness?

I think it stems from my ever-present anxiety. Even when everything is seemingly copacetic, my anxiousness pokes at me from within with the “what ifs?” and negative thoughts. My anxiety wants to breed more stress and, as they say, misery loves company. So even if everything seems hunky-dory, it’s my nature to find the holes within that happiness and peel away at the potential stress-inducing situations that could occur, or could be waiting for me on the other side.

The reality is, when things are going my way, they tend to stay on a streak. When I acknowledge how good things are, better things continue to happen. PMA is a way of life for a reason. It’s not allowing positivity to break through which summons up bad vibes and cause unwanted events to occur; it’s instead negativity breeds more negativity, which makes me aware of just how selfish I’m being. Because denying myself happiness isn’t selfless—instead it’s supreme selfishness. I’m thinking of my current emotion, dwelling on the potential bad, and turning a quick moment of happiness to be a pity party of hypotheticals. It’s the worst kind of selfishness—it’s ego masquerading as some kind of weird joy martyr.

…so now what?

I, like another witty, balding child comic pal Calvin, demand euphoria. I yearn for total calm and complacency with no interruptions from stressful situations. But, let’s face it, that’s just too damn unrealistic. If our comic and cartoon pals can’t achieve it, how can us mere humans? Maybe those small moments of happiness aren’t big enough to wipe away the bad shit in this world—but how could anything? Circumstances beyond my control are just that—beyond my control. What’s the use in dwelling on what can’t be controlled? Instead, it would be much more worthwhile to allow my awareness of my own personal happiness enable me to be a positive change among others in my life. Why not turn those “selfish” moments of happiness to selfless acts of kindness toward others?

Lucy: Why do you think we’re put here on earth, Charlie Brown?
Charlie Brown: To make others happy.

Of course, as I’m writing this and thinking about how happy I am to have almost completed it, the truths I’ve learned about myself, and the steps I can take to improve my well-being, all I keep thinking is, “Great, now you’ve learned to conquer this—what awful thing is going to happen to you tomorrow?” “How wrong are you prepared to be?” “What if no one likes this or agrees?”

There’s still time for me, yet.

“I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time.”

Me too, ol’ Chuck, me too.

///

@jamieleerotante, @lauracollinsart

ProcrastiNation by Jamie L. Rotante

ProcrastiNation by Jamie L. Rotante

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism and Other Fun Stuff

As I’m writing this, the audible ticking of the wall clock behind me is damn near deafening. It sounds like a drum march blasting in my ears. It’s not really that the clock is loud, but the mental tick-tick-ticking is inching closer and closer to the big boom.

Yeah, I guess you could say I’ve been procrastinating again.

I’m counting down the days and hours until my deadline. Sure, I’ve had a solid month and a half to work on it, but it’s come down to these last few crucial hours… the same as it always does. I like to trick myself into believing that it’s because I work best under pressure. The reality is that every deadline is accompanied by a series of mental Olympics that can last anywhere from a few days to a few months. Freelance projects for me are akin to the five stages of death—except crank that number closer to ten and have them be way more manic.

The first step is smug satisfaction. I’m working and writing. That’s a good thing.

Second step is avoidance. I know I don’t have to work on said project until a certain date, so there’s no point in wasting energy on getting it done early when I could be working on something more pressing (i.e., a different project I’ve been procrastinating on that needs more immediate attention).

The third step is panic. Wait—fuck—what was that deadline again? Have I blown it all? Am I the most unreliable freelancer in the world? This is usually followed by a realization that I still have ample amount of time to get the job done.

Fourth step: doubt. Not just in the project at hand but my entire life. Does anyone care what I have to say? Is my writing really worth anything at all? Why do I even bother?

Fifth step: Writer’s block.

Sixth step. Denial. There’s no way the deadline is already in a few days.

Seventh step: acceptance. It’s time to hunker down and get it done. Of course, this last step only comes after days of opening my laptop and silently screaming before deciding to play mindless games on my phone, wrap myself in a blanket, curl myself into a ball, and fall into a slumber so I can hate myself in the morning when I realize how non-productive I’ve been.

Then I finally write my damn piece.

And so it goes for literally every project I embark on, from school projects of yesteryear to writing gigs of the present. It’s like my mind just refuses to let me get a head start. I think about it. I entertain the notion of getting ahead and doing things in a timely fashion, but then my mind and body will just not let me. I take note of my deadlines. I mark them down in my planner. I create alerts in my phone. I make myself aware of how long I have. I take all of the responsible steps I can before being decidedly irresponsible.

ProcrastiNation by Jamie L. Rotante
Don’t get me wrong—I always hit my deadlines. I have to. I’m so hyper-aware of them it would be straight up negligence on my part not to. But I just never feel inspired until the days and hours before the deadline are official. Every time I’m given a new task, I want to get it done early. I want to get ahead of the game and make an editor’s life easier, especially being one myself. But the little part of my brain that likes to go swing dancing with paranoia and anxiety refuses to allow that to happen, so I can only truly function at the last possible minute (sorry, Todd!). That’s the only time my brain will allow me to actually gather my thoughts in cohesive way.

It’s worse with personal projects. Deadlines actually help; sure my brain may go into overdrive and I may panic for weeks on end about that “time’s up” moment, but at least they actually give me a direct path towards creativity. So often while I’m at work or handling mundane tasks, I think of my best ideas for stories and new creative ventures—always when I don’t have the time to harness them and bring them to fruition.

Then when I have a few moments to myself to start cracking down and making my ideas a reality, I go blank. I can’t concentrate, I can’t bring pen to paper. There’s no timer going off pushing me to do it, so it never gets done. I have notebooks upon notebooks of half-finished scripts and ideas. Documents upon documents of short stories I started with the intent of entering into writing contests, but never finished. If there’s no real threat of someone being angry or upset with me for not getting it done, it’s impossible to do. I’m always angry and upset with myself, so that doesn’t work. I spend more time chastising myself for the work I’m not doing in the time I could be doing it that self-loathing is no longer a motivating factor, just an ordinary occurrence.

ProcrastiNation by Jamie L. Rotante
It’s also not just about writing or freelancing. It’s procrastinating in life. “Why put off till tomorrow what you can do today?” is a really nice sentiment I reject as often as I think about it. Laundry goes unfolded, dishes pile up, my car’s oil goes unchanged until I explode into a mess of frustration. Text messages go unanswered. That’s probably the worst offense I’m guilty of. Text and other kinds of digital messages, things that should bring forth happiness and excitement, instead awaken a dread within. What does this person want? Why are they texting this early? Oh God what if they want to… hang out??? I read the message and wait to reply. And then I read it again and wait some more. I read and read and hope they don’t see that I’ve read their message while I continue to put off my reply. Then I genuinely forget I was waiting to respond. Then I hate myself for being a bad friend.

Why didn’t I just respond earlier? Well, why do today what you can put off till tomorrow? Why do anything in a timely fashion when it’s so much more fun to procrastinate and agonize? Why would my brain want completion and complacency?

Then there’s the last, final stage: achievement. Once I’ve finished my writing, dried off the last dish, put away the last book on the bookshelf, or finally shot off that text or email, the feeling is so good, so pure—the closest to true bliss I’ll ever get. In fact, I’m inching closer to it now with every word I type. Maybe that’s what this is all about. The procrastination and the panic it breeds wouldn’t make that actual act of completion so damn fulfilling if I just got things done like a normal person. The rush of creativity and satisfaction in what I’m producing wouldn’t taste nearly as sweet if it came to me in a timely manner. It’s the mental hell I have to put myself through to achieve nirvana when I come out the other side. It’s not about just being lazy or irresponsible; it’s the journey, the struggle and the triumphs.

Nah, I’m pretty sure I’m just an asshole. But hey, that felt nice for a while. Now, time to cross this one off my deadline list and hibernate until the day my next project is due!