IT WOULD BE EASY TO HAVE A DIFFERENT KIND OF BLOG
I could blog about all the fancy schmancy perks of being a doctor at the age of twenty five and go on and on about how gloriously glamorous my life is. I could pretend that I never had any debt and that there is nothing frugal about me. I could post about the time I went out to dinner with friends in Johannesburg once when I was on leave, and I covered the entire bill for everyone’s meals. I could post about how I once dropped a ridiculous amount of money to go bungee jumping with one of my best friends. I could go on and on about these things that happen ever-so-rarely but obviously have happened, and curate this image that I’m just living it up and #blessed.
But that wouldn’t be accurate and it wouldn’t be completely truthful.
I have no “entertainment” budget and these once in a blue moon events are only possible because I’m such a frugal nerd. Most of what I earned this year went right back to shrinking and eventually eliminating my debt, and I continued to live well below my means so that I could create the kind of buffer I need to help out at home when needed while simultaneously catching up on contributions that I’d postponed for retirement savings. Yes, I have a retirement plan at 25. I’m that person.
And you know what? I’m that person entirely, freely and shamelessly. I’m a relentless planner and a part-time optimiser. I grew up with zero financial security and never intend to go back there just for some facade of outward success. My friends think I’m too cautious, my colleagues think I’m a simpleton from the township who doesn’t know the finer things in life, and my family thinks I’m still going to adjust to earning a salary in time. But truthfully, none of this is true. I’m just really frugal and I won’t sit here and feign some lifestyle that is completely out of whack with my values, even if those values are rather unconventional.
So sure, it would be easy to write a different kind of blog, but since that wouldn’t represent my life and my goals, it would be a lie. And part of growing up is becoming comfortable in your truth, and finding the confidence to be real about who you are.
SO ABOUT THAT SUPER DEPRESSING POST LAST WEEK…
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that a relatively small proportion of my identity lies in being a doctor. I didn’t get the degree for the prestige or for the potentially over-the-top lifestyle many doctors advertise. I got it because it was one of a few areas of intense interest and passion for me, and it was the only one that required a degree. I love what I do for a living and I derive a great deal of meaning and purpose from it, but it doesn’t define me. I’ve always said I’m a creative heart stuck in a nerd’s mind. And although I love that medicine can be both personally fulfilling and societally beneficial, I can’t shut off the part of me that wants to pursue more creative endeavours just because I’ve supposedly “made it” and become a doctor.
The problem is, becoming a doctor and the responsibility that lies in that has become an unexpected block for me creatively. Ever since I started this job full time and left the relative safety of training/University, I have felt the pressure to be more than competent like a heavy weight on my shoulders. I don’t want to short-change my patients, I don’t want to be a burden to my team, I don’t want to be a disappointment to myself. I see what it looks like when a mediocre intern becomes a mediocre CSO/MO and it chills me to the bone. So I push and push until I can’t push any more, and then I take whatever energy I have left for myself and pour even that into my patients.
It’s not healthy, but I’ve been a perfectionist all my life and it’s the only way I can sleep at night.
The issue is, it means I can’t really create anymore. I’ve already opined this previously so I won’t darken this topic any further. What I will do is reinforce that I had to recognise this in order to do anything about it.
IT’S LIKE TRACKING YOUR SPENDING
If you don’t know how much you’re spending, or how deep in the hole you are, you don’t know how much you need or how much to cut down or where to make adjustments. You can’t just plan to ‘save more’ without knowing where those savings will come from and where you want them to go.
And so it is with being creatively “broke”. If I didn’t know where all my energy and will was being expended, it would be impossible for me to do anything to constuctively turn the table. I can’t just instruct myself to “create more”. I need to carve out the emotional space and start making small but important changes to the way that I spend my time and live my life in order to ensure that I can slowly build up to my creative potential without sacrificing my sanity or my patients’ safety.
SO WHAT’S THE PLAN?
I have decided to tackle three spheres that have been making me less than happy in the last several months. Those are writing, photography and music. This barely scratches the surface of a deeper problem, but sometimes art, like mood, follows action.
I haven’t written anything substantial since I graduated. This is unacceptable, especially since I’ve managed to read more in the last eight months than I’ve read in the last few years combined, so clearly it isn’t entirely a time issue. I think the problem is that writing requires more emotional commitment than reading, and since I’m all tapped out emotionally on most days, I can’t commit. So, some things that require a smaller commitment might be better off than the grand goal of writing the next Mistborn trilogy.
1. Write a minimum of one blog post a week This has been surprisingly easy thus far because blog posts are simply thoughts edited into form. I don’t have to create plot lines or invent interesting dialogue or maintain suspense. They’re still a lot of work, but work ethic isn’t my issue.
2. Edit at least one blog post a week This may seem redundant, but because I have more ideas than I have inspiration, I currently have about 100 really poorly written drafts that will require laborious work and flashes of inspiration before they ever see the light of day. I consider editing to be as important as composing, so that’s a separate but important goal. This will be especially important in weeks where I don’t have the inspiration to write anything from scratch.
3. Definitely participate in NaNoWriMo I don’t yet know what I’ll be writing, but I’ve decided that if I don’t commit to it I’ll always have excuses not to do it. Last year it was studies, this year it’s stress, next year it’s…you get the point. So this year I’m going to participate in National Novel Writing Month in November. It turns out there are South African sub-forums, so that should be interesting to follow and keep me motivated. I probably won’t start a new novel, since I have one in particular that I really want to finish that needs about 50000 words worth of work, just what the initiative is all about.
As I’ve said before, photography has actually been the one hobby that hasn’t dwindled too much. Maybe it’s the endless opportunities to photograph goats napping in the middle of the street; more likely it’s the relative inconspicuousness and ease of capturing a moment on a mobile device in an era where people are always snapping pics for social media. My only problem on this front is initiative. Sometimes, you do have to go looking for the good stuff.
1. Take at least one photo a day, even if it’s just a sunrise/sunset. I threw out this idea last time, but I actually really like it. I used to photograph every sunset in University with the exception of nights when I was on call. The photos weren’t great, but they made me feel happy and peaceful regardless.
2. Spend at least one hour a week editing photos. If I’m taking seven photos a week, I may need a little less time. But the idea is that I spend time with my photography. I’ll use my blogging as an additional motivation (hey, posts need pictures!) with the aim of having just over one year’s worth of pictures (if 56 pics for 56 posts) for one year’s worth of posts in 56 days.
3. Food photography shall rise! This is actually more to motivate me to cook at least once a week, but I really do enjoy photographing and looking at photographs of food. Not quite as much as I enjoy eating, but this isn’t about eating. (Hey, I said I was going to be keeping it real around here.)
This is going to be the hardest one, because it has been the most dormant creative outlet for me. With writing, I’ve had the blog. With photography, I’ve had aforementioned goats-in-the-street moments. With music, the most I’ve had were long walks to the taxi rank where I could belt over the sound of traffic. Things are going to have to change quite drastically.
1. Start recoding demo’s again. This is more to get back in shape harmonically than anything else. Because I no longer have my ever present musical buddies, the most I get is a two part harmony between me and Whitney Houston. This is obviously not going to help me grow much. So I’m going to start recording multitrack demo’s again to get my ear back in formation. If I find that that’s getting redundant, I might prepare to take an online course on the basics of music production that a friend sent me a link to via iTunes University (but this will more likely be a 2017 goal due to the initial costs of equipment like a MIDI keyboard or a mic. There are just so many other priorities right now.) Demo’s are a little more involved than my other goals from a technical standpoint, so I think one full demo once a month should suffice.
2. SING! I used to sing so often it was bordering on excessive. But I never cared too much how annoying it might have been for anyone around me because it used to make me feel like I could fly. Now I need to find a way to get back to that. If that means more long walks in traffic, so be it. If it means I have to overcome my fear of singing solos in church (God is working on me bazalwane), maybe that’s what I have to do. But I will commit to singing my lungs out at least once a week.
3. Send at least one voicenote/idea to my songwriting friends a week. This is more for accountability than it is for critique, although that will obviously be valuable. There is very little I can’t learn from them, and I think if I can at least use them as a bouncing board for all my horrible ideas, they won’t be as surprised when I rock up to Bootcamp with a similar dirth of creativity 😉
So that’s it for now. I have set up three achievable goals for each sphere with the idea that something is better than nothing. I might fail at all of these within a week. I may manage to only do one thing in the entire list. But considering that I’m doing nothing right now, that’s hardly anything to scoff at.
Wish me light!