Hey! What’ve you been up to?!

The dishes from Christmas dinner need to be put away.

I keep staring out of the curtained window, like I’m waiting for something to happen.

What is it artists use to record their videos?

Do I even want to push my art into the world and jump on that bandwagon?

A composition I threw together from some scribbles that were already on the page. Who knows if it’ll ever make it onto a canvas. (Dec. 2020)

Groan. I still have those Christmas wreaths to get started and finished.

Ah, and I need to start working on something for the company newsletter, too…

Can’t you tell that I’m super distracted? I’ve told my counselor a couple of times that being at home, unfocused, is a dangerous thing. It’s easy for me to slip into that dark corner and think little of myself. Last week was so busy and now I’ve got another two days to slog through. Where’s that teenager at? I need a right proper scoff and eyeroll!

Let’s get to back-pedaling.

No joke, I thought I was in trouble there for the last couple of months. I wanted to disappear, angry with everyone around me for not noticing how much of a mess I was becoming. Work was becoming increasingly busier, I felt incompetent, I held grudges against colleagues… I needed my screen to flash GAME OVER. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Why am I not as good as everyone else? Why am I not more liked? If I were just a bit more like everyone else, I’d have more attention.

HURK BLARGH. How petty are those thoughts?! Seriously, I feel disgusted with myself. Combine those insecurities with the fact that my family seemed to be suffering blow after blow, I hit the end of my rope faster than I would’ve liked. I couldn’t, wouldn’t accept that all roads were starting to point me in other directions.

Change is scary. Acceptance is every scarier. I’m learning, though.

I’m learning to accept that I won’t ever be as popular as other artists, that my skills will stay where they’re at until I hunker down and practice. I’m learning to appreciate what I’m capable of doing already and now. I’m learning to love my determination and single-mindedness regarding my work as an ALT.* I’m learning to stop thinking “I’m always alone” and ask for help. I’m learning to be grateful for what Japanese I know.

Be kind and love yourself. Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I’m worthy.

I’m valuable.

I’m not insignificant.

My work and my accomplishments in life will speak for themselves.

Just this month, in fact, I was notified by my branch that I was awarded Top Motivational Instructor. It’s the highest honor an ALT can receive in my company for superb work ethic. I’m still trying to process it! I certainly wasn’t expecting it — I even went to one of my bosses and urged him to remove my name from any kind of running. I felt I didn’t do anything this year to deserve recognition in… well… anything.

I hadn’t done any work with my English boards.

I completely scrapped my English newspaper.

I did absolutely nothing for my schools this year, but somehow… my supervisors and bosses recognized and acknowledged something I don’t see within myself.

Some time during this winter vacation I’ve got to make a small speech for the occasion. Who would I even thank?

I’ve thought about dedicating this win to my late Aunt Judy. She was taken from us rather suddenly this year and not from COVID. I feel I’d be more at peace with the whole thing if it had been that — I mean, it’s kinda become the taste in everyone’s mouths. Other than that, I have no clue on what to say. Have you ever written a speech before?

I’ve also seen some success in the wreaths that I make in my spare time. The praise I receive from one of my schools certainly helps keep the motivation going. They’re not hard to make if you’ve got some wire cutters, scissors and a lot of hot glue sticks. Perhaps it’s a good thing that Japan doesn’t have Hobby Lobbies. I’ve included a video from my Facebook page for your viewing pleasure!

2020’s Halloween wreath as featured on my Facebook page, Artleycoul.

Other ways I’ve been attempting to handle my stress and keep my mental health healthy is through baking; specifically brownies. My friend Carla, over at The Geordie Gaijin, seems to really enjoy them. I’m happy my sweets can reach her “cold, bitter English heart” as she more or less puts it.

I’m in a love-hate relationship with breads, too. It’s so incredibly easy to kill the yeast! I never seem to know when to knead the dough enough, so I’ve just kinda given up reading the instructions. I work it all until it comes to a consistency I’m comfortable with and give it all shove into my tiny oven. Which do you enjoy baking, quick breads or yeasty breads? I think my specialty will always be an improved version of my grandma’s banana bread recipe.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A third method has been to write an extended letter to my dad. I made it to 11 pages (they’re small — maybe like B5 size) and stopped writing after December 2nd. I suppose it can be considered to be a really long conversation.

The lovely thing about the whole deal is that it got him in the mood to write me a letter, too. It arrived with my Christmas package! It’s always a pleasure to receive something as special as that from loved ones.

***

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! It’s been a long time since I’ve felt comfortable with airing out my thoughts. I’d like to invite you to join my artful progress by following my Instagram and Facebook page. Both hold a spot on my homepage. Let me know what you think and if there’s anything you’d like to see me try!

Self-doubt and Anxiety: I feel heavy.

Photo by Keenan Constance on Pexels.com

I sit here, greatly perturbed.

A weight is resting heavily on me.

My throat is parched.

Water.

The dreary, chunky clouds are a reflection.

I feel so alone.

Ah. There. Some tears.

Nausea.

Loss.

Fear.

Worry.

Photo by Alycia Fung on Pexels.com

An undeniable urge to do something remains a stone in my chest. Why can’t I remove the chains that are dragging me down… from enjoying life? Do I even want them gone? They are all I know and just today, I realized that that is truly what I’m afraid of the most: floating up into the unknown.

We all have these thoughts at some point — it’s just that others are better at breaking them down and handling them in a kind manner.

Of course, this is not the first time I’ve had such serious doubts about myself and the future. The sense of doom hits rather suddenly — like a bug to the eye when you’re riding your bike.

Stop.

Breathe.

The answers are inside of us. It’s just a matter of “picking up the pieces” and finding ourselves again.

I want you, but I don’t need you: Personal thoughts on self-validation.

Social distancing has got me in the throes of passion. Passionate reflection, that is. Today’s topic is self-validation. I might have touched on it here, but it’s bothering me, so I’m going to yammer on about it again.

The Backstory

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I’ve had a MySpace, a DeviantArt, a Gaia Online (is that even a thing anymore? – come to think of it, that’s where I started getting my first art commissions for a fake currency, met my first boyfriend, and met a bunch of cool people!), a Twitter, several Instagrams, and a Facebook that I’ve deleted at least once and deactivated a bunch of times. To this day, I can’t recall why I even bothered making the rounds.

One day I’ll be all, “Yes! Let me wow my friends and family with my art! BOOM. How did you like those awesome flower photos?! SNAP. Look at this video that I found interesting and have strong opinions about!”

And then there are the days where I’m like, “No one cares. I could disappear and no one would even lift a finger to figure out why. Seriously, the world is an ocean. What’s one more drop of rain that no one will notice?” Perhaps it was a case of “seemed like a good idea at the time,” as my dear ol’ pa likes to say.

The Current Irritation

About a day ago, JST (Japan Standard Time), I posted a piece of art I worked hard on and was rather proud of. Looking back now, I should have waited for the right time of day because back home, it was something like 1AM. WHO’S AWAKE AT THAT TIME BESIDES WEIRDOS AND INSOMNIACS?! Well, needless to say, that photo currently has 8 likes.

I’m left sitting here wondering why. Is it my art style? Probably. Is it my personality? Yeah, I could use some refining. Is it the algorithm? I bet that plays a huge portion of it.

What blows my mind is that I see these young people (granted, I just turned 29, so by “young” I mean 15-23 years old) who are absolutely leveling the field. They bust onto the scene with their mad skills, using iPad Procreate and whatever else they’re using these days, to make their path to stardom squeaky clean.

Yes. I’m bitter. I’m petty. I want the same kind of attention, damnit. Am I feeling entitled just because “I’ve been doing it longer?” Why am I seeking validation from them? Why do I so badly want to be included rather than take stock and appreciate the input that matters?

The Challenge

Instead of being productive in a way that would be beneficial to my livelihood, I’m here researching how to STOP LOOKING FOR VALIDATION.

Psychology Today says:

The problem arises when self-validation is not possible or is not valued. In other words, if an individual puts the opinion, approval, or recognition of someone else over their own feelings, they will need that external, other person’s validation on an ongoing basis.

If that ain’t me in a nutshell. Seriously, when did this Notice-me-senpai BS start? Is it my Only Child Syndrome?*

In the U.S., almost 70 percent of the adult population uses Facebook, with 90.4 percent of Millennials reporting themselves to be active users. By clicking the thumbs up, posting a comment, or sharing a post, people are validating each other at an increasing rate.

This, as well as the need for in-person validation, can create anxietydepression, and low self-esteem, and make it addictive to hear praise, acceptance, and acknowledgment in all aspects of life.

I can’t say that social media is the root cause of my general depression and anxiety, but it certainly aggravates the feelings that continue to churn beneath the surface. Might I also add that, because of social media, I’ve rarely formed a genuine, off-the-grid romance with someone? Ah, but that’s a another tangent for another day.

The main point here is that, without the attention, I start feeling like I’m not good enough. (One long-winded example is here.) Like my art isn’t good enough. Like my opinions aren’t good enough. Like my advice isn’t good enough. Like my character isn’t good enough. Like… my humanity isn’t good enough.

Man, when did the world become so mean and superficial?

The Eureka Moment

Another article that I was looking at comes from Medium. The author talks about their experience and thoughts on the issue between social media and self-validation:

When we’re so focused on how others are viewing our work or daily routines, we lose sight of who we are as people and what we really care about. Instead, we view every activity or daily routine as simply another opportunity to be seen.

This brings to my mind this cycle of thinking I have. One friend will tell me that they’d like to see a certain something about Japan. The most immediate thought is, “There are tons of other YouTube stars and high profile bloggers out there that have already talked about it. Why ask me?” That absolutely tanks whatever self-confidence I had in that moment.

I’m small and insignificant.

Wait.

WAIT A GOSH DARN MINUTE THERE, COWBOY.

I kid you not, as that statement left my brain and was pooped out by my fingers, I realized how stupid that just sounded.

When that one friend says they’d like to enjoy something from me despite the world being at their fingertips and instantly accessible, they’re wanting my spin on things. They want my personality. They want my IDGAF attitude, my weird facial expressions.

It’s the same with my art! The few people that take the time to look at and like my stuff are 90% of the time people close to me. They’ve known me for years! And they know firsthand what I’m capable of… they know my talents and good points… even if I can’t see them myself.

The real meaning of life comes only from living our own truth and creating our own happiness.

[…]

Instead of relying on others to give us the confidence we need, it’s important to remember that the expectations we set for ourselves are what ultimately matter.

[…]

…when we’re so focused on what our followers think of us, we’re no longer connected to our true purpose. Instead, we’re more concerned with finding the “best” moments and capturing them as a highlight in our social media stories.

I could go on, but I want to remember what one of my uncles told me.

Emotions are a natural part of you. YOUR emotions… your feelings… your attitude about your life and everything around you is absolutely unique to you and your experiences. […] But one thing you must understand… you… are… incredible. Just the way you are. For all your weirdness, silliness, sadness, happiness, and those moments of wild abandon… and for all those moments you will feel every one of those things and more in that very instant…. you… are… wonderful. You are loved just for who and what you are.

I may want validation, but I don’t need it from social media. I can find it within myself.

Lost and Found, A Mystery Entry

Good morning, everyone. I stumbled across this file on my computer and cannot, for the life of me, remember why and when I wrote it. It’s a great introduction to the moodiness I feel the majority of the time. Enjoy!

While many people are waking up with fuzzy eyes, lost wallets and misplaced cars, I thought I would use some time for reflection. I have seen on the Internet an Anonymous compare the number of years accrued in life to the levels of a video game. It makes sense. 

As with every year, every level of The Game, we gain experience points, venture out on side quests, rescue men and maidens, and imbibe on a touch of debauchery… and just like on screen, we watch our Healer get axed, the Sorcerer turns out to be a spy from your ex-best friend’s assembly, and your progress is totally lost because your cat decided, five months earlier, to vomit on your console. In short, life is not without its difficulties and successes. 

2017 marked the first full year I have lived in Japan and along with those 365 days came numerous trials and tribulations. I caved to social pressure and created a Tinder profile and, much to my dismay and soul-deep inner knowledge, men suck no matter what their culture is or what language they speak. I found love, lost it, dealt with false pregnancy anxieties, and in the process, discovered the steel in my spine. I visited and paid homage to 8 castles and 3 major shrines and temples, thus enlarging my knowledge on Japanese history. In addition to my travels, I acquired an addiction to Japanese sweets whether they be waffles, pancakes, ice cream or traditional. Furthermore, in the vein of discovery, I unearthed 4 new cousins, their families and made two more friends this year. 

On the flipside, I heartily struggled with my self-identity; wondering many times about my purpose on this planet (besides adding to its death), whether or not I should even exist, and that, cruelly, my demise would hardly be noticed for I hold no influence on anyone. In my darkest moments, I truly embrace the belief I am nothing more than a sack of bones taking up space. Most of all, the separation from the people closest to my heart has been the hardest on me and not a day goes by I do not think of them. Saying I miss them would be an understatement. 

I am still attempting to riddle out my end-goal in life but then, I remember the future does not exist and I am only left with the present. Live like you are going to die tomorrow and if that is on the couch, comfy and cozy, that’s more than OK. Here’s to Today and less cat vomit.