What would I do? How would I think? What would I spend my time doing?
Firstly, I need to factor in my diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder with suicidal ideation. Figuring out how to manage it has been my #1 focus for 4 ½ years. I still learn things every day about tools that will continue to give me an edge. And in that time, I have, with help, navigated different medications, talked to therapists, and psychiatrists for medicine management. All of this is necessary for me to lead a balanced life with depression.
But that still doesn’t answer the question; what makes me happy?
Can I visualize a day in the life of Joel when I am at my happiest? And show my true, authentic self in my actions. This exercise requires me to make decisions about what and who is important. If I put my grandson in the top tier, what does that mean? We have been flying to Boston every 6 to 8 weeks since he had his first covid vaccine at 9 months old. And he just turned three last month.
So right away, I am sidetracked and am not focused on what I want to do in the next 20 years.
Seeing my grandson is very important. And when there are other grandchildren, I want to be able to spend time with them. I want them to know who their grandpa is. So how do I accomplish that? What do I need to do to be more a part of his life and the lives of future grandkids?
Near the tippy top of my list is writing.
I have notebooks filled with my writing. I have written and published two books. Both are available on Amazon. I have the beginnings of a third. And if you count the book I sold from ads In Popular Mechanics, then it will be four. Putting pen to paper, or more accurately, tapping out my book on my laptop and sharing its progress in Google Docs is my passion.
One of my teachers said I should be a writer. It may have been 4th or 5th grade.
It never occurred to me that I could pursue writing and journalism as a job. For me, getting paid to write would be my dream job. I obviously remembered what she said, but not when it came to choosing a profession. The thing is, I got into management because I was good at it. I am still good at it. I understand the financial and services sides of any business and can break it down for my staff.
But choosing a career was not exactly what I did.
Being in the right place at the right time, I ended up in retail management. And my initial position blossomed into becoming a store manager within my first year. From there it was seven stores in seven years. In the end, we returned to where we started. Then I bought a vending business and grew it from 90K in sales to ¼ of a million in 20 months.
Again, I was good at it, but I sold it and looked to the future.
Now, after 30-plus years with my big box retailer, I am once again thinking about what’s important. If I had done that 20 years ago, I wouldn’t be writing this. Yet I am not sure what part my depression would play in all this. I know I made some rather rash decisions over my career. Both times I began to feel that I was alone and only my depression knew how to fix that.
And boy was I wrong about that.
Depression only knew how to get me thinking. And little by little, it gets me thinking that a random idea would be infinitely better than what I was doing. So I left once with the idea that I could help my aging mother while earning money in the commodities market. If you ever need a licensed Series 7 commodity something, maybe it’s a CTA, I would qualify.
So my depression had me focused on getting ready to trade and was reluctant to have me actually trade.
Sadly, I did so much better trading while I was still working. After leaving the company, my depression ended up winning and I returned to work. Thankfully, I was able to step into my exact title and role. But depression wasn’t done yet. 14 years later, depression thought I was doing well enough in my resume writing and career coaching business, that I should retire and do it full-time.
Well, boy was I wrong to follow that idea.
This time, in less than a year, I was in 5 East for 4 days. This was where I began to face my lifelong partnership with depression. And this is where I first said out loud that I have depression. I finally faced it and did not run away without bothering to understand what had happened. Now I have tools, medication, and peer support. And I live with the challenge of leading a balanced life with my depression.
So, I have had some significant issues.
But I have had extremely positive outcomes. There have been days, weeks, months, and even years when I barely noticed my depression. By sweeping the end of each episode under a rug, I was walking away from what could have been a learning experience.
But what does that have to do with me being happy?
I guess there is a part of me that enjoys making decisions within company policy. Solving problems is a large part of what I do every day. And each day I meet a host of new people. Plus each day I get to interact with employees and managers whom I see more than my family. And the 14 months I spent retired proved just how much I missed that aspect of my job.
Plus, I had no clue about what retirement would be like.
Because depression helped me cook up this early retirement plan, I became secretive about it. Everyone who could have helped me ask better questions about my plan was systematically cut from my life. Well at least cut from my discussions about retiring early. So now I have been back at work for over 4 years, doing again what I was doing before.
But where am I the happiest, the most fulfilled?
Having written almost 600 blog posts in 4 years, I think I can finally say out loud that I enjoy writing. That writing is exciting, gives me a sense of purpose, and it never seems like work, even when do work for a paying client. In addition to their resumes, I give my clients permission to be awesome, to confidently tell their stories.
Wow, maybe I could do that for myself.
Becoming a full-time writer would have benefits beyond the positive endorphins I gather as I put my ideas into print. The best additional benefit is that I could and can write from anywhere. This means I could be with my grandson, or I could be around when the kids came home to visit. And I would have an occupation that would make me happy.
Hmmm, maybe I should look at this a little more.
OK, I will not tell my depression about this. It will be very jealous. I can feel depression looking over my shoulder as I think about a future as a writer and a grandpa. My depression does not like it. In fact, it continues to toss distractions my way. Oh, look, a new tool I can use. Now look over there, I see something that would make me a better writer.
And then, oh look a squirrel. READ MORE: Super Focused, Then Super Distracted
So, weeding out all of the sidebars I went into, I see writing and being a grandparent as the top two things I enjoy. This then will be my starting point as develop a map of my future. I know so far it is not well thought out, but it is clear what I enjoy most. Well, it’s clear when I do not listen to my depression. My depression can take my ideas and turn them into a force that I will eventually use to bring myself to the abyss.
But knowing that these two things bring me joy is instead, a fine place to start.
What brings joy and happiness to you?