Celebrating Growth, Even When You’re Bad at Math

I’ve been thinking a lot about math lately.  I’m terrible at math, I always have been.  It was the only subject in school where I was happy if I even squeaked by.  But it took some growing up to understand that the concepts in math are much more relatable to life than I expected.

I’ve started to notice that each time I get into a rut about where I’m headed, it’s because I am looking at the “numbers” in my life instead of the rate of growth.  That’s a math thing, right?  Rate of Growth?  Growth Rate?  Charts?  Great, I took on another blog metaphor that I don’t understand, like that whole basil thing.  Well, here we go!

On those lousy mornings when I feel waves of despondency, it’s often because I am looking at the actual number in my bank account, or the number of shows I’ve done this year (or haven’t done), or the number of things I have fallen behind on.  I look to everyone else’s numbers and feel like a failure, or that I am starting to go in circles.  I think about when I first moved to NYC, confused and broke and start to think, “Aren’t I still confused and broke?”  And things get much worse when I suddenly think, “Will I always feel confused and broke?”

And then it hits me.  If I had the income I have now back in 2010, or wrote online as much as a I did, or had so many wonderful theatre people to collaborate with, I would have considered myself a success.  I would have felt like I suddenly hit the jackpot.  And yet in these low moments, I feel like I haven’t made progress at all.  So the bad self-talk takes over, which spirals me into a state that actually temporarily stops the amazing progress I was too blind to see I was making.

Sometimes it takes all getting in the same place to realize how far we've come. Go team go!

Sometimes it takes all getting in the same place to realize how far we’ve come. Go team go! Photo Credit: John Reardon

Recently I’ve been trying to measure growth over numbers, and here are some helpful things I came up with:

Money!  

Oh money.  You suck.  And yet you try to put a value on our goals no matter how hard we fight it.

Think back to five or even ten years ago.  What hourly rate or salary did you think was a stretch?  I know with me, I thought I had hit it big when my first bakery job asked me if I was okay with $10 an hour.  “Am I ever!”

It’s all relative.  Even if you have larger debt or more expenses now, you have grown.  You are able to pay that debt (even if it’s slowly) or are starting to have a plan to pay it.  You were able to purchase those financial responsibilities in the first place.  The issue is that your relationship with money may not have changed at the same rate of your actual growth.  Even if you feel more strapped, there is a way to feel that you have made strides, and will continue to make them. This helps me constantly get through those “maybe let’s not touch the debit card” days.

Career!

When I was a teenager, I definitely assumed that I would be bouncing around on Broadway by now.  Or even that I’d be one of those celebrities that has to wear a baseball cap and sunglasses around NYC to keep from being swarmed.  Though try asking an even younger kid about their goals, like a really tiny kid, and they’ll say something like, “By the time I’m 22 I will be married to Mickey Mouse, have 7 children, a house, and I will be an astronaut on Mars.”  I once had a six year old tell me that she was discussing buying a houseboat with her friend Sarah, like, next year.   There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s adorable.  But we don’t completely let go of these unfairly timed expectations.  Should we stop pushing to achieve what we dreamed of as a kid?  Nooooo.  It’s just important to remember that we hadn’t lived in our careers yet.  We didn’t know what came along with the package.  Right now, I am thankful that I have a “survival job” that I do not consider a survival job.  Yes, it keeps my artistic career afloat, but I happily go here every day and spend time with lovely people who respect and support me.  I would not have given you that answer as a teenager, because I didn’t know how wonderful it was yet.

You!!  

This morning, I realized that an article I had published on Elite Daily had been posted on their Facebook site.  Suddenly, people were reading it.  And out came the trollers!!  There weren’t that many really, but I’ve never been in the position to answer negative comments online.  And I thought it was time.  Because you know what?  It’s only the anonymity (wow, I just realized I have always said that word incorrectly) of social media that allows people to project their insecurities onto someone else’s creation without consequences.  And then, holy hell! The author of the article I just ripped apart wrote back, directly!  I didn’t want to attack anyone, and I didn’t, though sometimes with commenters like that, everything is an attack, which makes you wonder how they get through their day.  But without shaking (too much) I answered a comment that made fun of the Camino, which if you know me, is a no-no.  I answered it calmly (and with a tiny bit of sass) that the person was welcome to look more into the history of the hike.  I was tempted to tell them to private message me so we could actually talk it out.

Two years ago, I could have NEVER done something like this.  Nonconstructive criticism, even from someone clearly just trying to get under my skin, would make me cry at the drop of a hat.  The only time I ever almost got detention, I burst into tears and the poor teacher probably realized it was less stress to not have me stay after.  Now that I’ve been a teacher, I can see I was a pain in the ass.  But still, calmly standing up for my ideas took a long time.  And I still shake a bit.

But I bet there is something that would have terrified you five years ago.  Even if it seems small, a change in the way you see life has a massive impact, and can take years to recognize.  The seeds you planted then are popping up now.

So going into the weekend, when I often find some tensions pop up for me, try to remember that you are not going in circles.  And most importantly, the rate at which you grow can increase with certain changes.  In a month, I went from blogging once every three weeks, to basically every day, just because I realized I needed it in my life.  The rate is important, not only the numbers themselves.

Happy Friday everyone!!

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