Grief and 2020

Hi friend,

I was really hoping to have a more light-hearted email for you but I saw something the other day that's been gnawing at me, so I wanted to share my thoughts.

I saw a post the other day saying that complaining about 2020 has "become a sport" and people are "wallowing in imagined misery." (I won't link to it here because this isn't about giving that person attention.)

This is a completely bullshit and toxic take. I know that a lot of us do the "others have it worse" comparison under normal circumstances but I want you to read the next sentence carefully: 

Every single one of us is suffering from grief and trauma from living through a pandemic, regardless of the loss you personally suffered.

Even if you didn't lose your job or your health or a loved one. Even if you are single without kids. Even if you've had more good days than bad ones.

We are all feeling a collective grief that we aren't used to.

And if you haven't acknowledged that, take this as your permission to do so. We've been going through the stages of grief and they're not linear.

However you are coping, however you are processing, don't ever let anyone diminish your feelings. This is not imagined. This is grief. This is trauma. Give your feelings permission to move through you. 

I shared this in my last newsletter but I want to share it again. The CDC has an entire page dedicated to the grief and loss and resources to deal with them. It is extensive and a great place to start.

I also shared this on Instagram as a caption with a handy graphic with a few of the resources for sharing if that's your thing.

I don't know what you're going through right now but I know it's not easy. And if you ever want to reach out just to talk, you know where to find me.

Wishing you all the best,

B.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Turns out it's not just my inability to sleep

Dear friend,

About 4 years ago, I hit publish on a post titled Confession: I am an absolute failure. In that post, I talked about how I completely failed as a freelancer at the beginning of my journey, but how I was taking the lessons with me as I moved forward in my career.

At that point, I attributed how I let my first few clients down to my inexperience and my emotional struggles.

But I thought once I figured it out, and I was more experienced, things would get better. And they did.

I figured out what worked and what didn’t, what I’m passionate about, and what clients and work truly make me thrive. I even went in house at an agency to grow my skill set, which was a change on its own.

Yet, there are still a few things that keep getting in my way.

My insomnia.

Feeling stretched too thin.

Feeling like I have to explain myself over and over.

The uncertainty that I’ll have the motivation to be creative on any day.

The burnout.

The anxiety.

And in looking for a reason behind the fact that I still feel stuck no matter how hard I work, I always blame myself. Maybe I’m not cut out for this, I tell myself, until I get a burst of energy and the opportunity to work with a team that gets me.

Then the spiral begins again.

I never feel accomplished. Ever.

I’ve spoken at major industry conferences. When I am in a conversation where I don’t feel belittled, I actually thrive, and dare I say, sound smart.

But the reality is, I always feel like that girl attending her first networking event with business cards she printed at FedEx that afternoon.

I don’t sleep. I do my best work after midnight. I have to set certain boundaries and expectations with my work environment. When you’re in an agency setting, this may mean that you’re setting this expectation with a new project team every 2-3 months. I was working on 4-5 different clients, feeling overwhelmed and unable to communicate my needs, I would shut down.

I felt like a failure every time. The feeling of letting down team after team after team, even when you try to set boundaries and expectations wears on you.

But until recently, I didn’t know that there was a legitimate reason for all of this besides the general anxiety and depression I feel.

In October, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder.

Suddenly, I had a name for that missing factor in my inability to move forward, no matter how hard I tried.

Now, that means that besides setting expectations around my communication style, I need to disclose that I have Bipolar Disorder to every team I work with and explain what that means?

Now, I have to look at my past mistakes and see where it truly was my fault and where I literally couldn’t overcome an obstacle; I didn’t even know was right in front of me.

A decade later, I still love what I do, but I am so incredibly exhausted.

Let’s be honest: No matter how far we’ve come in accepting mental health struggles of those around us, the pace of the marketing world doesn’t always give allowance for someone finding their footing with a mental illness, let alone every single person we come across.

Everyone’s fighting their own battles, but how do we fight for ourselves?

That’s what I have to figure out during this leave from work.

But first, I have to accept that while I have made mistakes in the past; I am not a failure.

So easy, right?

If you have tips for managing expectations and when to disclose a mental illness (which I guess qualifies as a disability), hit reply.

I also want to leave you with some resources because we are all in the middle of dealing with a pandemic that’s taking its toll on our mental and physical health. I hope you’re showing yourself some grace.

Sending you love and strength,

Berrak

Buffering...

Hi friend,

We’ve had a good relationship, words and I. As with any relationship that lasts through the decades, we’ve had our ebbs, flows, and even betrayals. 

But never like this.

No, this is the roughest patch we’ve ever hit because not only can I not rely on them for my projects, but I can’t even tap into the professional creative reserve. A simple email takes hours to write. Collecting my thoughts during a conference call is physically painful. 

I show up, so why don’t they? Where are they hiding?

There was a time in my life when “prolific writer” would’ve been an apt way to describe me.

I’ve been accused of sharing too much. I would write thousands of words for school, for work, and then turn around to put out multiple blog posts a day, sharing “too much” of my personal life.

I processed the world through words.

For the past few months, all I’ve done is buffer. 

So, not much processing has been happening. 

I’m stuck.

I’m sure you can relate.

“Through the lack of attaching myself to words, my thoughts remain nebulous most of the time. They sketch vague, pleasant shapes and then are swallowed up; I forget them almost immediately.”

― Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

You know, I’ve been working for as long as I can remember. All I’ve ever wanted to do is grow and find ways to help people. 

I haven’t always been good at this, and I’ve fumbled more times than I can count, but I’ve learned so much along the way.

And at times, I’ve turned into Doc from Boondock Saints, mixing up my metaphors and proverbs. 

But I always find my way back.

Well, sometimes.

Like the way I’m trying to find my way back to the reason I began writing this letter to you in the first place.

You see, part of the reason I’ve just been buffering is that I’ve been working for as long as I can remember. Last summer was the first time I took a real vacation in 11 years, and even during that, I worked at night after exploring Paris during the day.

I’ve been terrified of taking an actual break, maybe because the first time I took a 4-day weekend at a job, I got fired. That was 11 years ago, and I’ve gotten over it. I think.

But it took a pandemic to push me over the edge. Just like the rest of the world, dealing with the uncertainties and anxiety of the pandemic on top of daily levels of stress put my brain on stand-by mode.

So, I decided I need a reboot.

For the first time in 20 years, I’m taking a proper leave from work, where I will have no obligations, no deadlines, no responsibilities except to recharge.

Taking a 2-month leave of absence from work when I check my email even on my days off is a pretty terrifying decision.

Of course, there are underlying personal reasons, which you can read here if you’d like.

I want to stop buffering.

I want to find the words to share my story with the world, the same way I’ve always done.

I want to heal and find my way back to enjoying work again.

So, a month from now, I will shut down my work laptop and leave it behind to go looking for inspiration once again.

I will be writing without racing to a deadline.

Uninterrupted.

And hopefully, I’ll find my way back to sharing those stories with you again.

Squeakily yours,

Berrak

Squeaky Wheel for Life

I was always the kid with my hand raised in class.

Yes, I’m an overachiever.

No, I don’t like standing still.

But that’s not all.

Let’s take a closer look at this impostor syndrome-filled squeaky wheel’s humble beginnings, shall we?

My mom taught me how to read and write when I was 4 years old. When I began first grade, I was bored out of my mind and my school told me they would consider letting me skip to 2nd grade if I passed a test. My mom and I studied for a week. Reading, writing, arithmetic. I was ready for anything they would throw my way. The day came and you know what the test was?

They asked me to read a sentence. Write another one. And there were maybe two arithmetic questions. Needlessly to say, I passed, but now I was the youngest in my class by 2 years, which meant that there were a lot of frustrated and scared tears when I fell behind in class. My teacher was seriously tough but in the best way. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to her for pushing me and teaching me that hard work would pay off. 

My constant desire to prove my worth and belonging in that 2nd-grade classroom is where it all began.

When we moved to the US, I was placed into an ESOL class and since we moved in the middle of the school year in fifth grade, I already felt a million light-years behind everyone - this time in a brand-new country. I placed out of ESOL within 2 weeks and proceeded to overcompensate by getting perfect scores on my spelling tests. 

And so, on and so forth. 

As you can guess, I was bullied - often. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Yes, I do love to learn, and I do like to engage with my teachers and classmates, but there was something deeper in my need to be the squeaky wheel. I constantly felt the need to prove that I belonged in that space. 

This feeling evolved from the classroom to the workplace as soon as I turned 16-years-old.

There are two fundamental reasons why I began creating friction at a young age:

  • Simply doing the bare minimum was never enough for me. My first job was as a cashier at KMart, but as soon as I got comfortable in my responsibilities, standing still was no longer an option. The older cashiers who had a rhythm didn't like that I was actually speedy. There was a customer at the service desk and no one around to help? I was free? I would walk over and at the very least engage the customer while I paged a coworker or manager. I stood out because I went above and beyond, which is how I moved to the customer service desk within 6 months. 

  • I helped not just to help, but to learn. I asked questions about how everything worked. I shadowed our loss prevention officer. I asked our HR person questions. I wanted not only to be a useful part of the team, but it's always helped me to see the big picture and understand where everything fits. 

Gosh, it’s a mystery that I somehow evolved into a strategist.

As a young, ambitious, sometimes "too energetic" squeaky wheel, I always stood out. At times, I've jumped into situations where I didn't have a complete grasp but fully embraced the "fake it till I make it" mentality because I knew that was the only opportunity I would have to learn. 

This mentality has served me well over the course of my career in digital marketing, but after 15 years of experience, I am noticing that I am still aggressively raising my hand to simply prove that I belong here

I referred to this briefly in The Nostalgia Conundrum, and I've talked about how being the squeaky wheel has paid off in my career.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have three modes:

  • Squeaky wheel to learn, to contribute, and to keep moving forward

  • Squeaky wheel causing a little too much friction to overcompensate for impostor syndrome

  • A squeaky wheel on fire and burning bridges, destroying credibility.

If it happens very infrequently and doesn't appear too obvious externally, the second scenario is usually manageable but when it begins to spiral out of control, that's when I tend to get into trouble.

As I face the most exhilarating challenge of my career, I am fully aware that if I'm not careful, I will most definitely catch on fire. 

Yet, I will always be that girl raising her hand, asking questions, and volunteering to help whenever possible.

How does impostor syndrome manifest itself in your daily life and career?

How do you manage?

Enthusiastically yours,

Berrak

All things are subject to interpretation.

Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.*

Who are you, at this moment? As you're reading these words, in this moment of your life, what's the energy you're giving out into the world?

I've been thinking a lot about social perception and how at any given moment, a new person who comes into our life has a snapshot of who we are in that fleeting moment in time.

What if it's a new coworker or a customer?

Maybe it's just an unknown person seeing one of your tweets in their timeline because someone else shared it and well, there it goes again.

Their impression of you.

As humans, we grow and evolve constantly.

We express a different side of ourselves in different situations, sometimes with the same people.

What are the conclusions people are drawing about you at this moment of your life?

It's funny, isn't it, how a moment in time can define a person's understanding of who you are, where they choose to place you in their life, and whether or not they will be open to evolving that perception as they learn more about you.

I deleted my Facebook account a a few months ago. I'm still active on other social media networks but that platform was no longer serving a purpose in my life. At a gathering a couple of weeks later, a couple of friends who are relatively new to my life and have limited daily interaction with me asking how life is without social media. Their perception of me has been largely shaped by my activity on Facebook specifically outside of our get-togethers and game nights.

A few years ago, the only impression my friend's husband had of me was that I post a lot on Facebook because we hadn't met in person yet. It became a running joke. Who I am in his life evolved from that point because our friendship grew.

When I was job-hunting a couple of years ago, I emailed a friend of mine about a job at her company and asked for her insight. She told me that it wasn't a good fit for me because I was just a content strategist. What she didn't know was that I had evolved as a marketing strategist and now beyond just a "content" strategist. Her perception of me was frozen in time because even though we stayed connected on social media, the passing snapshots were not enough for her to see my career evolution.

Where does social perception fit in my daily life and how I put myself out into the world?

It's not so much about being so concerned with what people think of me but what it is I'm putting out into the world at any given time. I don't want to curate who I am but I want to be cognizant of any external circumstances, which is why I also tend to try to give people the benefit of the doubt in my daily life.

As a society, we're so quick to judge. We make snap judgments without even thinking about how others may perceive us in passing on the next bad day we're having but still have to be out in public because life goes on.

It’s human nature. It’s preconceived. It will become confirmation bias until we make an effort to recognize the factors that influence social perception.

Our perception should be more than the sum of the momentary snapshots we experience.

Do you know how others perceive you, right now, in this moment?

What can you be doing to continue to express your evolution as a person?

*Friedrich Nietzsche

Share

Loading more posts…