ymmv .17 – Exhaustion
I’ve seen more than one meme about not glamorising exhaustion and I’ve already had enough so I’m going to throw my hat in the ring on this topic. Open the Can o’ Rant…now.
Look, I get it, self-care is important, super important, anyone who knows my history knows I get this, I get it. I’m a childhood survivor of parental suicide, I know what happens when things go south. It’s why I discuss mental health online, in my work, in my classrooms. I believe that you have to be in a place to survive, I know it’s not worth pushing too far past the last post. I know.
And I don’t agree that you’ve gotta fly your exhausted flag so high it’s getting altitude frost on it. I see some people arranging their coffee photos with such precision I figure they should just shut up and use that time to do the actual work allegedly keeping them up, but I’m nobody’s parent [except my kids] and it’s not my place. I don’t go online to rant on people’s posts, I save it all up for passive aggressive columns [‘s’how I roll].
You don’t need to have a Twitter feed full of lamentations of sleepless nights, of treaties about how much you don’t do so you can do your dream job [comics, YouTube, knitting, gargling, whatever the hell you roll in]. You don’t need to become your exhaustion, your poor hustle, your problems.
Sometimes these things are a little cry for help. Or not so much help, but maybe solidarity. These are flags we raise to start a dialogue, to not feel so alone [which is usually one of these problems, these needs to isolate to get the job done]. We tweet about Daredevil S2 because we wanna chat with fellow hornheads; we talk about going to bed at noon because we wanna connect with those who miss every family breakfast. We don’t wanna feel like fools doing it wrong, because maybe we are legion. Maybe it’s not so crazy, right?
And, well, we kinda are legion. In a way.
Because, what else do you think it takes to realise a dream? I’ve been getting comics published for four years. In that amount of time I’ve hustled/tricked my way into gigs at Vertigo, Dark Horse, and my own Kickstarters of moderate success. In that time, I’ve also held down a full time teaching job [often as Assistant Principal], I’ve taught weekends, I’ve had and managed to keep alive two children, and I’m still happily married. I balance all of that and if you think I’ve found a way to do it while maintaining eight hours of sleep a night and a completely healthy social life then you are fooling yourself.
Yes, I sleep less than might be advisable [~5 hours so it’s not crazy insane but it means I know the meaning of a good solid yawn – and I found out that if you can fall asleep in under 5 minutes then you are sleep deprived and to that I say, man, I never wanna be sleep prived – sacking out the moment my head hits the pillow is my superpower]. I have watched my coffee intake go from having one socially, every now and then, to it being a daily thing. I have missed a lot of tv, a lot of movies, and my novel reading has perished. I don’t see my friends as often as I used to, or would completely like [but tbh, they are starting to have kids and aligning these things is proving difficult regardless]. I hustle and I get exhausted and I know I’m working harder than pretty well 90% of the people I know irl. The people not chasing stupid dreams.
I’m the idiot trying to manage two jobs [and only one of them really pays with any thunder or regularity]. I’m the idiot with a full life. I’m the idiot with a dream. And I know it’s gonna take sacrifice. I try not to make it a sacrifice on a personal level– I’m an engaged father, I make time for my wife. I turn up to the day job and I work hard [I’m a teacher, there’s little other option, honestly]. But I pushed aside a truly high level of fitness and now do moderate exercise. I still eat right because there’s always time for food, but I wait for flicks to hit Netflix, saving time out and money, and I make them date night activities because multitasking is your friend.
I hope this isn’t my life until I die but I know there’s no guarantee it’ll get easier. But I also know I can’t not do this. I will always write.
And I think by sharing the struggle you share the burden, you have peeps who understand you, or will throw a meditation link your way, or will drop an email just to check in, but it also shows others who are attempting your dream as well that it’s not easy.
I’d feel terrible if I found this dream as exhausting as I do but everyone else made it look effortless. I’d start to doubt myself. Or I’d get annoyed when I found out they had the same problems but didn’t let us all know. It’s important to know the hurdles before you start leaping at full speed.
Because it takes hustle to get shit done. I work from 7:30-5:30 most days at school, commute included [a commute spent listening to podcasts about writing]. I get home and eat with the wife/kids, then help put them to bed, and then spend like ~half an hour with the wife. This usually puts my night at 9pm. If I were to fall asleep right then, and get a tidy seven hours, that puts me up at 4am. My kids usually wake between 5-6am and I’m not the kind of dude to just throw them in front of the tv while I do other things. Our mornings are spent talking, I make their lunches, we share breakfast, and I get most of us ready to start the day and the wife has a 60% chance of getting breakfast in bed. But even if I did have a lazy morning, that’s maybe two hours a day to fit this madness in before I’d have to go to work, yeah? And even that’s just seven hours sleep, something I figure would keep me pretty full, I guess, but it’s nothing regal at all.
So, no, I don’t know how to do this without going tired and mad and itchy and wild. I stay up until midnight, 1am, and I start my day around 6am, if I’m lucky, and I wash, rinse, repeat. Because that’s what it takes, what other way could there be?
This good hustle v bad hustle thing that’s opening minds is great, and again I understand that the concept they are pushing of self-care is great, but it talks about making the things you want to see in the world but not neglecting yourself a little and I can’t help but wonder how you manage both? Where are people finding these imaginary hours in the day to do this new thing and still be a functional adult in The Real World [MTV or otherwise]? It’s rare you get to do these things in a perfect biome of rest and sleep and time. Shit has to get done, laundry, paid work, the basics of showers and some exercise, and once you push past all that you are no doubt going to encroach on something in your world. And bloody right you should, too.
People sharing their exhaustion are just being transparent. And hoping others might understand what’s going on. I refuse to feel like a fool because I can’t fit the dream in between the grind. I won’t feel like an asshole because I don’t have perfect sleep, or if my baggy/saggy eyes are war medals at times because that’s the kind of spin it takes to keep me sane. I’m not turning ugly, I’m getting published, and that’s the only way to see the world so I’ll not slaughter myself in a cold bathtub one quiet wintry morn.
I am exhausted because my life is exhausting, but it’s the life I chose, not the life that chose me.
Except those who seem to spend all day doing that, responding to every Facebook comment instantly 24/7, taking the time to Instagram every moment of their oh so difficult life. There are those who are only their exhaustion, and there are those of us just working our asses off to do something that is a dream. I see a tpb of Negative Space coming from Dark Horse with Owen Gieni//Ryan K Lindsay on the spine and I know it was worth the worry, the late nights, the hustle.
So when you’re slamming hustle and exhaustion, make sure you don’t just shotgun blast us all, okay, we’re tired enough, it’s only gonna be harder if you take our legs out from under us.
And of course, take care of yourself, take care of others, and be realistic in what you can and want to do. And then work your ass off because no one’s going to hand you spare hours and dollars and time to do it, you have to make your own space in the world and that’s going to cost you.
Ryan K. Lindsay is a comics writer who has logged time at Dark Horse, Monkeybrain, Vertigo and other esteemed publishers. He currently writes Negative Space, a comic we here at Loser City love quite a bit. You can (and should) pick Negative Space up from your local comic shop or directly through Dark Horse.