It’s September, which means summer is over and autumn is knocking on the door! I know I haven’t updated my blog practically all summer, so I thought I’d do a summer recap, to explain why I wasn’t in the mood to write and what has been going on with me behind the scenes (that is, if you don’t follow me on twitter, where I often went on rants about this).
I’m not sure exactly how much sense this entry is going to make, given that it’s my first time trying to articulate the feelings I’ve had all summer in a proper blog post (it was really hard to do this at the time they were happening, and in a way, they still are happening). But nevertheless, here I am, writing this and hoping to get back in my blogging routine and using this post to “unstuck” myself.
For the past number of years—I’d say since 2014—a new and somewhat weird phenomenon has been happening: I’ve started disliking, if not downright hating, summer.
This is new to me. For the majority of my life, summer has always been my favourite season: school was out, I had no boring commitments, nothing I was forced to do against my will, often my family and I would go on holiday somewhere (almost always a beachy area and I love the beach), and my birthday is in August, which means towards the end of every summer, I was guaranteed to receive a gift, something that I liked and wanted, before I got to ask for any other presents for Christmas. I loved summer—even the heat, because it meant almost every day was sunny—to the point that I was confused by people when they said they hated my favourite season.
However, for the past five years, I’ve grown to understand those people—and now summer is not my favourite season anymore.
I’m still a student, which means I have “summer holidays”, but I am too poor to actually go anywhere I’d like, or have a proper vacation. Worst of all, I get to see other people do that—the people who can afford it and don’t quite realise how lucky they are, that is, and it often upsets me, because all it does is remind me of my financial hardship. For the past five years, I’ve tried to get a job, or at least a summer internship, and, with the exception of one year, I have constantly failed. My failure at getting a job during these three months always equated to more financial hardship, as neither of my parents makes nearly enough money during the summer to be able to support me. That is frustrating and also ends up upsetting me quite a lot during the period between June and September (when I finally receive my student loan again). I hate the heat now, a lot, and even my birthday doesn’t cheer me up—mostly because I forget it and I don’t really look forward to it, and my own parents must have decided that I must be “too grown-up” now to receive presents from them, because I never get any—and they decided this pretty much as soon as I turned 18 and graduated high school. (My Scottish friends still get me presents, but it’s safe to say that if it wasn’t for them, my birthday would be a very depressing yearly occurrence.)
So yes—I dislike summer now. But this past summer I have positively hated.
I interviewed for a few internships, but I didn’t get any. I don’t want to count this as a total failure, though, as they were internships that would have suited students further along their course of study, and I was only in first year! Clearly they must have been somewhat impressed with my work to grant me an interview. However, I was still sad when I got rejections or no call-backs, as I had really hoped to get an internship, not just for experience, but also to ease my financial burden. My parents haven’t sent me anything since September of last year and I think at this point they cannot support me financially, at least while I’m a student (they know I receive the student loan). So the financial hardship stayed for this summer.
My birthday was pleasant, though. Peter is getting me a belated birthday present as soon as we receive our student loans; his family got me a vegan cookbook; and an online friend got me a video game from my Steam wishlist—an action which still never ceases to amaze me and humble me, no matter who does it. I spent the day with Peter, doing whatever I wanted—mostly watching films and writing. The day was nice.
However, other than my birthday, this summer was awful. And it wasn’t even so much the financial trouble that made it bad.
These three months have truly blurred by—both quickly and also excruciatingly slowly at times. I was often frustrated and annoyed with myself. I wanted to create stuff, to do things—but instead, I did nothing. June, July and the first two weeks of August were spent in a weird haze of being too numb, too tired, too upset to do anything—sometimes a mix of all three.
It’s hard to explain. It’s like back when I had crippling depression and couldn’t find joy in the things I liked, or didn’t feel like doing any of my hobbies. Except this time, I didn’t feel depressed—or I don’t think I was.
Physically, I was okay: I was eating and sleeping fine, and the latter had been a huge cause of my depression back when I lived at the old flat in front of the pub. My depression, from 2017 until I moved to my current flat at the end of summer 2018, was at least 50% because of physical, external causes, lack of (restful) sleep being the main one. That was pretty much confirmed to me when I felt much, much better and happier, a mere three days after moving out of that horrible place and having experienced just two nights of complete quietness, going to bed when I actually wanted to sleep and waking up naturally early in the morning. University started shortly after and it seemed to me that I had put depression past me, for a long time.
Except this summer, the symptoms started again—though physically I was okay. I started wondering if it was possible to experience mental depression without any of the physical symptoms or causes—except it didn’t feel entirely like depression, either.
You see, when I had depression, I felt numb; too numb to even think about what I wanted to do, what would bring me joy, and too tired to muster any of the energy necessary to do it. For example, I might think, ‘I should start reading again, I used to love doing that’, but the mere thought of even as much as picking up my Kobo—much less actually read—was exhausting. I’d think back to my hobbies, to the things I actively enjoyed doing in the past, and I’d almost wince—doing them now felt like a herculean task. I couldn’t really see why or how I could enjoy them (still?) and I put off doing them. I had to force myself to pick them up again.
During this summer, I experienced something similar, but also different. For a start, I knew what I wanted to do. Or at least, I had an idea of what I ‘should’ do: I wanted to work on my Youtube videos; I wanted to read (comics and books); I wanted to watch more films, to study them for the new film I’d be making this year. They weren’t activities I thought of as ‘things I have to do’, necessarily—I just knew they were things I had promised myself I’d do during the summer, and I still felt some excitement at the thought of doing them. (Again, it’s hard to explain.)
The point of the matter is: I wanted to do things. I had this drive—however small it may be on some days. When I had depression, this drive was completely non-existent.
Similarly to when I had depression, however, I couldn’t seem to muster the energy, or rather, the motivation necessary to do any of it.
And I think that’s the main reason that made me think it wasn’t quite depression: I had the drive, I had the list of things I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to do them and I still do; when I was depressed, none of this was true. Plus, towards the end of summer, after I had identified my problem and the potential root cause of it, I was productive and did all the things I felt inspired to do. This is also another reason why I’m reluctant to call it ‘depression’—I felt joy in those things, I felt like I really wanted to do them, I didn’t have to force myself and I didn’t feel too numb to do them—all important differences from my depression days. It seemed to me that, in this instance, all I was really lacking was motivation.
And I think ‘lack of motivation’ is really what comes closest to describing how I felt during the summer. It was the source of all the negative feelings I experienced (frustration, annoyance, sadness, disappointment, etc.) and that, subsequently, got me stuck in a perpetuating and self-destructive cycle of some sort.
I have mentioned in the early days of the blog, and also in other parts of it, that motivation is really my biggest crux. Keeping myself motivated and feeling inspired to do things is the only way for me to actually act—discipline has never, and will never, work with me. If I want to make stuff, I have to keep myself inspired—there’s no way around it.
I had started investigating, last summer, on what exactly kept me inspired, but before I could reach any conclusion, it was time to move to a new city, start a new university degree, pass the year, make documentaries, make a short film—and before I knew it, the academic year had flown me by. University had kept me insanely busy and I had achieved things, but most importantly, I had made things: ‘Connected’ (my short film), a short radio documentary, a Youtube video (somehow) and, of course, I blogged from time to time. And, behind the scenes, so much more went on: I submitted assignments, I was on crew for a few projects out-width university (including three classmates’ Graded Unit projects and another short film) and I wrote scripts for future videos and my future podcast. Not to mention all the studying and learning new things and getting to know myself better, as a person and an artist.
I revamped my portfolio at the end of the academic year, and I felt I had so much more to show for myself now. I felt really proud of what I had achieved and what I had made.
But I think part of the equation is also recognising how these things came to be: a lot of was through university, and specifically, had to be completed in time for university deadlines—external deadlines that I could not, in any way, fail to meet. The deadlines didn’t inspire me, really—but they were something that was there, with a tangible date attached to them, that dictated when my work had to be completed by. I worked on my assignments and my creative projects, bit by bit, periodically, in order to submit them in time. I know most people hate deadlines, but I find that they help me, somewhat: they give me a rough timescale of how long the project will be, how much it should take and when it will definitely be completed by. With that information down on paper, I can start my project with a little bit more direction.
But most of all, deadlines and university projects meant I couldn’t back down.
I’m a perfectionist—to the point that it actively hurts me. I want my work to be as perfect as can be—and often that means that I will end up with nothing, still working away at my idea, or the script, or any other beginning stage that nobody will see. When some people say, “It’s better to have something imperfect but have it there, than try to make something perfect and have nothing,” they’re talking to people like me—people who will not publish work that is, for all intents and purposes, perfectly fine, but isn’t quite perfect in our eyes.
Not having deadlines is the biggest downfall of people like me. Because, without external, official deadlines (with self-imposed ones, we can still cheat and not meet them—because who will make us? What’s the big deal? It wasn’t a real deadline) we will simply end up never making or sharing anything.
But deadlines keep me ‘in check’, so to speak: they give me a date and a time that x, y, or z has to be finished by, no exceptions. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect—it has to be submitted. And I don’t mind submitting something that’s ‘good enough’ if it means I get to pass the year—because passing the year is my biggest priority. When I make a commitment and I say, ‘I want to make X for this class’, I have to stick with it, whether I regret the project or not, whether I like how it’s coming along or not. It forces me to not back down, to not give up, and instead turn my project from something that frustrates me to something that I actively like—which, at its core, means I will have made something for that class, I will have finished something and will have a final product at the end.
When I have too much free time and zero deadlines, I end up not making anything. Which is what happened this summer.
Thinking back to all of my previous summers, it struck me that I have somewhat always been like this—just with different degrees of intensity (and lack of self-awareness) depending on my age. Somehow, in the summer, I am just not motivated or inspired enough to do much—even when I have projects I want to work on.
I don’t know why this happens, yet—or rather, I have an idea of why this happens. I think I might have spotted the cause of this, the root of the problem, but I want to talk it over with a counsellor or a therapist first, though I might still write about it in a future Tea Reflection.
This summer was one of the worst in terms of inspiration and making things—at least if you see it in terms of things I felt I ‘should have done’ by now. But, I feel, it isn’t all negative: now that I know that this happens, and that I have an idea why, I can take action to fix it. Identifying this problem and the potential root cause of it was important and a very good use of my last few weeks of summer.
Also, during the the last two weeks of August (after I identified the problem), I was able to be the most productive I’d ever been all summer: I wrote at least four video scripts, I wrote almost 30,000 words of fanfiction (it counts), I finished reading a few books (and am on my way to finishing three more this week) and I watched some series that enriched me—in story, characters and cinematography. Now that I see it from this angle, it doesn’t make me feel like my summer was ‘totally wasted’.
So now summer is over, university has started again and I feel really excited about it. Summer has been feeling, for the past few years, purposeless, aimless, and like it’s just this stretch of time that has to ‘officially pass’ before life can ‘officially start again’—in my instance, I consider university ‘life starting again’, as it gives me a routine, a purpose, and plenty of things to work on. And it may seem crazy, but I am excited at the prospect of having real, official deadlines for projects again. I want to make things; and if university deadlines are what it takes, for the moment, while I work on myself, then they are very welcome indeed.