The art of 'struggling my best'

Struggling my best — that’s basically become the motto of my mid-twenties. When people ask how I’m doing, I say, “I’m struggling my best.” After paying the credit card bill for bae’s birthday party, my bank account was struggling its best. When I think about having to wake up five out of seven mornings every week and clock in to a job that I don’t like, with people that I don’t like, to spend 40 hours a week doing work that doesn’t even slightly use my hard-earned degree and leaves me facing the inevitability of this asinine daily cycle repeating itself for the next 50 years of my life… I’m certainly struggling my best.

I guess you can say I’m sort of in a quarter-life crisis. In three days of typing this, I am turning 28 years old and I still am not in a job or career track that I like. I just recently uprooted my life and moved from South Carolina to California. Now, I’m one of millions pursuing a writing career in L.A. — thousands of miles away from my relationship, family, friends, and the only life I’ve ever known. My bank account isn’t where I’d like it to be. And, honestly, I really want – but can’t afford – a dog. 

But, despite the fact I’m consistently struggling my best lately, I find something to smile about every single day. Don’t get me wrong: Doing that takes work. A lot of work. But here are some of the tips on how you can find something to smile about every day, too.

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1. Music

No matter what, music is there for me — whether I’m happy, sad, angry, exercising, sleeping, writing, doing chores around the house, or performing a full-scale concert in the shower on wash day (all you naturals know what that is lol). Finding something to be a soundtrack for your life, emotions, and situations helps. When I’m feeling any kind of way or maybe don’t know how I feel, I know that someone has already written and composed the words for me and put it to a beat.

Some of my go-to albums for those moments:

  • Lemonade by Beyoncé

  • Freudian by Daniel Caesear

  • The Score by the Fugees

  • The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill

  • The Velvet Rope by Janet Jackson

  • 4:44 by Jay Z

  • Songs About Jane by Maroon 5

  • Dirty Computer by Janelle Monaé

  • Channel Orange by Frank Ocean

  • How I Got Over by The Roots

  • Back to Black by Amy Winehouse

2. Creative Stress Releases

Let’s face it: creativity is stamped out of us by family, school, and society as we grow older. Naptime becomes insomnia, coloring books become tax forms, and imagination becomes depression. As one of my favorite media personalities, Crissle (aka one hilarious half of black culture podcast The Read), once said, you have to “parent your inner child.” Get yourself an adult coloring book. Draw pictures or paint. Write (stories, poetry, journal, etc.). Build a blanket fort and watch some of your favorite childhood movies/television shows. Just like a child’s imagination, there are no limits to what you can do to get in touch with your creativity. Best of all, you can do all of this with a glass of wine in hand!

3. Have a Squad

I couldn’t have gotten through the downs in life without having people I love to pick me back up. My small, close circle of friends are very near and dear to my heart. They let me vent — without input — when I need it. They also aren’t “yes men” and give me solid advice when I need to be set straight. I know that for some people – including me – the idea of social interaction isn’t easy. But if there’s even one connection you can make, either in-person or online (but always be safe!), make that connection and hold on to it dearly. The change that one good person can have in your life is invaluable.

4. Actually pursue your dreams and goals

OK, time to get really real. We currently live in times where Issa Rae and James Bland are living their best lives and inspiring us to do the same. These are times where we’re seeing (very) young people showing us that it is indeed possible to pursue and achieve your wildest dreams. The 9-to-5 life previous generations settled for is no longer enough. If you feel you have a calling, be it writing or acting or music or travel blogging or being a pastry chef or professional gaming, go for it

Yes, there’s a fear of failing. Still, you can never know if you’ll succeed if you don’t try. It’s cliché, but cliché for a reason.

5. And don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments, big and small

Something that I am still learning to do is celebrate myself. Whether it’s my own birthday or my successes with work, or just that I woke up and cleaned my room, I have actually begun acknowledging and celebrating all the moments when I did something good. A literal or metaphorical pat on the back, buying yourself a gift, giving yourself a compliment — the point is to love yourself and be kind to yourself. 

For some people, waking up and physically getting out of the bed to brush their teeth may be all they do that day, but it took every ounce of strength to do that bit of self-care. Why wouldn’t that celebrated? 

Photo by  Kelly Sikkema  on  Unsplash

6. Confront stress head-on

So… music is great, adult coloring books are fun, and self-love/care is healthy. But where a lot of those things start is with confronting the stressors, traumas, demons, and skeletons that hold us back. Admitting that you may have a problem or confronting the past will be the biggest pill to swallow. It would be much easier to say hakuna matata and act as if it never existed, right? 

But the healing process and growth will never begin without being real with yourself. It may be the hardest and realest thing one can do, but it will also be the healthiest.  

This is the part of the article where writers will probably wrap things up and say, “In conclusion [blah, blah, blah].” But not this time. Because with self-care, there is no conclusion. Self-care is the 24/7 work of our every living moment. And that’s the point. To live! To put the work in to better your life. Yes, there will be times that you struggle. That’s unavoidable, honestly. So if you’re going to struggle, then struggle your best!

Embrace your mistakes and obstacles and continue forward. You may be surprised at how beneficial those rough times actually turn out to be. So instead of “in conclusion,” I’m going to end this article with the intro of my favorite current show: “The category is… liveworkpose!” 🍒