The Dirty Thirty: I'm Freaking Out!Erin Foster
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This is my anxiety. Life. It’s intimidating. And I always found comfort thinking that I could put things off until they mattered. But they matter now. I have had a full time writing job for the last year, and it ends in two weeks. And the only person who can make sure the next thing I do is great, is me. So I woke up at three in the morning thinking I was dying, because I’m freaking out that I wont live up to my potential. I think that is really the key. What is YOUR potential? We are all capable of different things. We all have different degrees of ambition. I don’t dream about running the world. I don’t dream of being famous. I don’t dream of being a movie star. I dream about doing something, doing it well, and making a living at it while maintaining a reputation as someone people like. That’s it. That is my idea of success. And I spent a lot of time in my twenties looking for distractions to make sure I don’t get it. Staying in a job I didn’t care about, sleeping in, going out, boyfriends, giving up, boyfriends, taking the easy road, boyfriends…

Anxiety is a delayed affect. You do something that is easier in the immediate and you feel great. But then this little nagging feeling keeps creeping up on you. It’s like, “Hi, I know you don’t want to deal with me right now, but I just wanted you to know I’m here and I’m not going anywhere and whenever you’re ready we can do this. And if you take too long I will literally bring you to your knees.” And so that shit brought me to my damn knees.

Having the free pass early on is such a handicap. There is no real free pass. When you feel fine failing a test in school, it sets a pattern in your mind that it’s okay to fail. When you sleep the day away as a teenager it teaches you how to procrastinate. When you underperform at a job, it makes you think you don’t have to have respect for the opportunity you’ve been given. They aren’t free passes, they’re set backs. They are lessons you will have to UN-learn if you want to be a high functioning person some day. I know I want to be one. I mean, I already am one, and I want to continue being one.

But it’s all just a lot of pressure. I’m pretty sure it’s the good kind of pressure. The kind of pressure that makes you step it up. Nudges you in the right direction. And then sometimes it’s the kind that attacks you in the middle of the night and makes you want to die. I’m going to push through and not let it stop me.

Then again, I could also just marry rich. I haven’t decided yet.

Featured image via ClubPlanet

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  1. Hi Erin, I’m heading toward 60 and have had whole decades of the ups and downs of what you’re talking about … procrastination, relaxation, free passes, trying to make up for the free passes I took …. Surprise, surprise, though. As life goes on I figure out: I’m not using up free passes, life allows for flexibility and following my own ways. Then every often I choose to follow all the rules. You follow the rules too long and you go stale, you operate on your wild side all the time and you can’t be the kind of person others want around and the kind you can be proud of, because traditional society doesn’t allow that.Don’t beat yourself up when you realize you need to go the other way-either buck up and work or chill for a while-it’s just your mind and body saying, “Switch it up, girl.” Above all, for anyone under 50, don’t take your careers so seriously it isn’t a lifelong decision. You’ll have jobs, and you’ll have interests, and sometimes both in one, but all of those change and develop over time. Enjoy yourselves, chill, take a pass, work harder, change careers, that’s what life’s about. Not to worry!

  2. I’ve been feeling this a little bit myself lately. I feel as if life is going too fast and that I’m not ready to grow up. At 27 going on 28 I feel like I’m behind in my years and that I should still be in my early 20′s because I’m only just starting to discover who I am and I’m not ready to approach 30. A year and a half ago I came to Canada from Australia on a working visa and it has been a huge eye opener and has given me a few ideas of what I want to do for the future including volunteer work, even though I know I’m going to feel lost when I get back to Australia after being away for 2 years. In 6 months a new life in Australia or wherever my life takes me awaits, and I’m excited and nervous for the future as I finally have ideas, which mostly consist of adventure. But I’m still not ready for 30 to creep up in 2 years.

  3. Oh my goodness! Story of my life right now! I had a panic attack last night and a few nights before that, I thought it was defiantly the end! I’m so glad this was the first thing I read this morning, I feel semi-normal now. Anxiety is a horrible thing. I have constant doctor appointments to make sure i’m not dying, I stress over the slightest cough or headache. I think about my loved ones dying and how I would react to that situation, it’s mind destroying. And yes, I agree, it is common in entertainment and creative industries, it’s pressure to have the perfect job and longevity.

  4. Oh so true! It happened to me recently: last year I worked for an entire tv season for a daily show, worked a bit in the fall then I was forced to stay home for almost 3 months. One night in January I woke up sweating, started looking up symptoms on the Internet and freaked out. I went to the doctor 4 times in a month, but still this nagging feeling doesn’t go away. He says my unemployment and my long period of time back home with my parents have found this outlet.. He gave me some mild anti-anxiety prescription and told me to go dancing and swimming. Thank God I found a new job at a major network, I still don’t feel well, but I try not to think about it and concentrate on going swimming before work and doing some yoga at night…. It’s crazy to see how our generation feels the same problems all over the world. I also think this is really common in the entertainment industry where no job is long term!

    • So, im not the only one! yay! There is hope for me :-) I do yoga, but i hadn’t considered swimming…. thanks! xo

  5. Oh so true! It happened to me recently: last year I worked for an entire tv season for a daily show, worked a bit in the fall then I was forced to stay home for almost 3 months. One night in January I woke up sweating, started looking up symptoms on the Internet and freaked out. I went to the doctor 4 times in a month, but still this nagging feeling doesn’t go away. He says my unemployment and my long period of time back home with my parents have found this outlet.. He gave me some mild anti-anxiety prescription and told me to go dancing and swimming. Thank God I found a new job at a major network, I still don’t feel well, but I try not to think about it and concentrate on going swimming before work and doing some yoga at night…. It’s crazy to see how our generation feels the same problems all over the world.

  6. Erin, you always manage to encapsulate how I feel. Thanks for making me feel less alone :)

  7. I can relate to this, as I am an extremely anxious person. I worry pretty constantly about a wide range of things. I’m 28 and I feel like I’m never going to be able to pay off grad school debt and actually build up a savings account at the same time. I just started a new job and I worry that everyone there is going to find out what a fraud I am and that I’m totally unqualified. I worry because my Facebook feed is filled with wedding and baby photos and, while I’m now in a totally happy relationship, I feel like I’m falling behind.

    Here’s the thing, though. You don’t really run out of free passes. I mean, sure, you have to figure out how to pay your bills on time and feed your cat each month. But that doesn’t mean that you have to have everything figured out by a hard and fast cut-off date. You can be thirty and still change your mind about what you want. You can fail and pick yourself off, but now you have a lot more knowledge of how to actually do it. You might feel pressure to always be working towards something bigger and better, but the only thing that really has to be bigger and better is your sense of self-worth, happiness, and satisfaction. That’s going to be harder to achieve if you’re too hard on yourself. It’s about finding balance. Which is way, way easier said than done.

    And when I freak out too much, I give my therapist a call and she reminds me that I’m doing just fine.

  8. From what I’ve experienced, this is most certainly the good kind of pressure as you say. From the sounds of it, you are doing really well and should be proud of where you are right now, not where you could be or should be. I experience bad pressure. I’m kicked from every direction of how I am failure, not good enough, no positive reinforcement at all from the ones who matter. After a while it adds up and you explode. I keep imploding because I’ll never measure up to what others expect of me and truthfully it shouldn’t matter but when that voice in your head is all you hear of your failures and shortcomings, it wears a person out. I get panic attacks more times a week than is normal. No way to live. I’ve tried to cut off the toxic people but their voices still ring loud in my head. It was said to often for too long that the actual person doesn’t need to be in my life, their voice is still in my head. I’ve cut my mother off almost 2yrs now and her voice is still taunting me. I’m working on evicting her from her rent free space in my head.

    Best of luck to you in the new chapter of your life. Make it exciting!!

  9. Erin. Wow, I can so relate. I’m 29 and completely freaking out. So much so that I just signed up for my 80th new therapist, hoping there’s some magic equation to stop being so stressed out about running out of excuses. It’s – refreshing – to read that someone as successful as you are feels this way (not that I want you to feel this way.) I majored in theatre in college and thought my life was going to be filled with creativity. Instead, I managed to build a seemingly successful career in marketing. But all of that doesn’t matter because there’s no more “what do you want to be when you grow up” to fantasize about – it’s, as you put it, who you are right now and what you’re doing right now. Eeeeayyyyh. I write about freaking out a lot on my blog – hereverycentcounts.com – which mostly focuses about freaking out about not having enough money, like, ever, even though I’m doing pretty well for myself and my age, and also freaking out about the bigger picture of turning 30 soon and not having any clear direction despite in many people’s eyes being successful. Pressure is good because it can lead to greatness but it can also lead to a lot of anxiety, depression, or worse. It’s nice to hear that even super successful people like yourself have this feeling…. but how do we stop having it and cherish our success, and accept that even though we’re old now, life is still exciting and we’re still allowed a free pass every now and again so we can keep kicking butt and be all sorts of wonderful?

    • hey! im so glad that my anxiety could help you feel less alone in it. No one is immune to it. Good thing you also have a blog where you can vent about it! Best of luck to you. xo

  10. Wow, this article really spoke to me. I have recently had a freak out about what I’m going to be doing with my life in 6 months, and not knowing has seriously made me panic, like stay in my bed for four days and bursting into tears panic (what a freakin’ mess). People always tell me I needn’t worry so much (I’m only 20, for gods sake) and apparently got my whole life before me, but I constantly overanalyse myself and unfortunately everyone and everything around me. I’ve always had the idea that if I can’t be the best at something then why should I try, you can probably guess how well thats worked out? I always end up feeling guilty on top of being anxious, I look at my life and see that I have things people feel lucky to have, but I still cannot be contented. When I look at this article, written by someone who I consider to have achieved a lot, who is talented and intelligent, and still doubts herself, it definitely puts things into perspective, we are certainly our own worst enemies. It was interesting the life affirming questions posed, (what are you doing? Are you great at it? E.t.c) are the ones that I’m constantly asking myself, I don’t even know what I want to do, what I’m even good at. Life is intimidating, and its definitely difficult to discover what your potential is. I know what I want from life generally, but I don’t know how to get there. Thank you for this article, it’d made me realise I’m not crazy for thinking the way I do, and that if someone who I can admire asks the same questions, then maybe pressuring yourself to be better can b a positive thing.

    • Thank you so much Nicole, it means a lot to me that this would help you feel better. And in turn, knowing you can relate makes me feel better! What a perfect scenario! Thank you so much for sharing that with me, i really appreciate it. xo

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