In a Rut, and Getting Out of It

For those who’ve been there, being in a rut feels like a mental quicksand. No way out. It’s all about survival. I’ve been there myself, and in it again. One of my old students from Singapore and now back home blogs about the life of a third-culture kid. I enjoy reading blogs from other TCKs at different life stages and backgrounds. It’s just too familiar. She recently wrote a blog about being in a rut, which I can relate on many levels.

It got me thinking. Often, I got so much going on: writing, editing, kids, marriage, and friends. And, I’m such a busybody that I don’t realize that I’m in a rut till I feel sluggish. It made me think, why am I in a rut in the first place. Everyone has different reasons, but I’m not ready to blame quarterlife crisis for it yet. When there is a period of growth and I’m ready to move up the next level, the transition in between can feel like a rut. It can be anything. I wondered if it was getting a house with my husband and the idea of being in one place after living life abroad and in the city. Of course, I embrace adult responsibilities and can’t be living the young adult lifestyle of always going out. I’m done with that. I never like clubbing anyway. Yet, I sometimes miss the diversity and connectedness to culture and arts the city brings. Then, there’s transition of us learning to parent a child with autism and a toddler. Then, there’s money. Managing finances and being confident in our financial realm. We had a frustrating week. We were trying to sell our old property and the buyer backed out last minute. Our realtor and we were pissed off. Yet, the unforeseen circumstance was inevitable. I’m trying to put myself in the buyer’s shoes.

Like most people these days, life also revolves around what we do. Career transition is another thing. I left teaching when I left Singapore and still have no regrets. It’s true that I worked my ass off to achieve my degrees. Yet, I will always have my education. It’s helped me with understanding Eddie’s autism and connecting with him. Plus, I don’t need to be in a classroom. I’ve worked with a small educational publisher and another educational company as a copyeditor and proofreader. I edit educational texts and presentations in the comfort of my own home.

The rut to me means to strategize and bust the mental plateau. Here’s what I think would work. I loved my student, Tessa’s idea to be vulnerable and let that be an encouragement or motivation for someone else. The toughest part for me to be vulnerable online is 1, people who don’t respect my boundaries. There are people who read too much into my blog posts, judge and gossip over what I’ve written. If that’s you, please quit. And while at it, get a new hobby. 2, maybe I’m old-school and still uncomfortable with the idea of putting myself out there online. I used to uncomfortable with the concept that someone can find me when they Google my name. I now see it as a good thing. I had potential clients and employers at interviews tell me that they enjoyed my blogs and could see my writing, and copy writing skills. It’s a great marketing tool. For me, trying to find the balance is difficult. Sometimes, I’m not sure what to put on my blog.

Here’s my plan to bust the plateau and break out of the rut:

1. Clean and organize. Yes, Tessa. You’re so right on. I agree with you. Clutter can bring negative energy. It takes work. Of course, it’s much slower with a toddler running around. Even Marie Kondo says that being perfectly tidy at all times is impossible with little ones. We just moved and still unpacking.

2. Exercise. That’s another thing that’s taken for granted. I gained weight since childbirth, which I want to lose. I also want to exercise for stress relief, health benefits, and creativity. Exercise works out the brain as well. I get many of my ideas while exercising. I found a local gym with childcare. At this time of the year, many gyms have deals.

3. Challenge yourself by learning something new or taking advanced level. As an editor, it’s important to learn new ideas. I signed up for an online class with EFA (Editorial Freelancers’ Association), and picked up some new books about the craft, a galley copy written by a  college classmate that’s to be released in April. I haven’t written journalistic articles for a while, so hoping to write a few short pieces to pitch. Varying writing is one way to challenge myself, and I’m going to write a review for that book.

4. Spend quality time with people who matter the most. I’m getting a finger painting set for Ava. My toddler discovered painting and loves it. After writing this post, I’m taking my baby to story time at the library. Eddie loves Chuckie Cheese’s and indoor playgrounds, and XBOX. My husband and I bond over drinks, going out to writer/art events, watching sci-fi. And, then there’s our friends where we can plan game nights that everyone can join, including the kids. And, then there’s my girlfriends. It’s nice to hang out with like-minded, fun women.

5. Finding your joy. What gives you joy? I’m trying to take a minute to stop worrying about deadlines, goals, financial concerns, kids. That’s most of my reality. In order to function well, it’s a good idea to think about things that give me pure joy. I’m thinking of the moment when Ava saw Eddie painting and wanted to do it too. When I watch Ava or any small child color, they just do it without worrying about if it’s good enough or if they’re getting it right. I could see the joy and spark in Ava’s eyes when she was discovering what she could do with a paintbrush (or her finger) and paints. It made me think of what gives me that same joy.

Ruts are definitely not the best times. But, they are signals trying to tell you something about yourself. Are you close to burning out? Exhausted and need rest? Unchallenged and need to advance? Worn out by negative people in your life? Whatever it is, a rut is a moment that you can use to your advantage or let that moment of rut become your perpetual sinking sand.

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