My life is not that bad on paper, but I am stuck to tears in procrastination, and the world seems constently off

(I am sorry for this wall of text, it was really a brain dump… I hope some part of it does make sense, and I hope the vocabulary is used correctly, has I am not a native English speaker)

I got brought up here randomly surfing, and after ending-up crying while reading some post here, I have decided to finally speak.

I don’t know where to start. I have a gajillion thought and path showing up as soon as I start thinking about this, or really about anything for what matter. Tackling all this chronologically may be easier.

I never had any issue during my childhood. That includes the fact that I never really worked neither. As far as I recall, I always had acute feeling of
something being off. With me, or with the world around me. I can’t seem to comprehend why others did not have this feeling. Why do they just accept all this junk that is outright unnatural? Anyway, when I was 11th, my sister had issues in school (I’m two years older than her). She went to have her IQ tested because her teacher was sure she was just bored to hell, and my mother also took me with her. Result is, at least at this point of my life, we both had an above average IQ. Not like crazy above average, but significantly enough. We never knew a number, the therapist did not want to tell us that because she feared that we (my family, my sister, and me) would use it to compare ourselves. But we know that she had the highest of the two.

And then, not much happened. We knew we were “smart” but we did not see a therapist regularly or anything. I did continue to move through the school system, making it just OK, but hey, I know I am smart, I can just not work right?

In 2004 I entered a somewhat competitive curriculum we have there (2 years preparatory courses to access engineering school) in physics and chemistry (because I wanted to be a geneticist at that time, and yeah chemistry was the way to go at that time for that, at least in my country). But I only did the first year, and choose to switch to another type of study (2 years that mostly lead to a job, but you can switch to uni after that if you do well enough). It was way less competitive, and there I discover that I kind of was a “natural” when it comes to programming (at least, in this context, it was not true anymore after that). I just followed the flow, not working much, playing video games, and ended up in the top three at the end of the two years. It is during this 2 years programme that I discovered the world of the open source, Linux and everything. The joy of fighting with your winmodem, discovering Ubuntu, then Ubuntu server, then Debian. At this point, I wanted to do Computational Neuroscience related works. But I went to follow a computer engineering degree (3 years). (In my country, engineering school is considered “better” than the university, so even if you do something not fully related to what you want to do in an Eng school, you can still join back the uni course afterwards.)

In this EngComp curriculum, my habits of not working start to bite, I end up doing my first year twice, and I just barely get the degree. While most of the course where not that interesting, what I really like was programming, fiddling, installing servers, but I did not like to work. I was the kind of person somebody will ask question to when having issues with computers or code, but who will end up in the last 25% of students at the test.

Following this curriculum, I got the opportunity to work 6 months in a computer science laboratory, getting to work on computational neuroscience. This was pretty cool and I try to enter a PhD program after that. I failed just at the door, because I was not prepared enough. I knew that I needed to prepare to get it, I knew I had lacking knowledge in mathematics, and that I needed to fill those before the last round (we discussed that in a previous round with the PI). But hey, WoW and EVE Online were more appealing. This was a big blow for me. I was crazy hyped about this subject, it was at the limit of science fiction, I was able to talk hours of the implication of such research and what it could open in the future. But hey, video games.

At this point, I was a somewhat “active” in the local OSS community, going to the local LUG. This was the time where Telecomix made noise around the Arab Spring, I was admiring their work, I wanted to do that, I wanted to help. But I never did. I also discovered meditation, and started to practices it on and off. Then Aikido which I somewhat practised on a regular basis.

So, I ended up working for one year for a really small telecommunication startup (I was the third employee). Nothing was bad about this work, but 6 months in and I was fed up, 9 months in and one day I went back home and cried in front of my girlfriend. This day we decided that I needed to quit. Three months later I was free. I had projects on my list, I had product ideas, I was going to freelance a little, and work on my stuff. After years of feeding on the OSS community, I was going to give back, I started to help organise cryptoparty (for context, it was 2 months before the Snowden leak). At that time, my girlfriend started a PhD program in another country, and I was preparing myself to join her.

While this year of work was relatively a bad time, I discovered something that actually change my life in the most positive way: I was introduced to tea tasting, and even took courses to learn this skill more deeply. While I don’t really do it as a practice anymore, tea is still a refuge for me today.

Between the moment I did quit my job, and the moment I joined my girlfriend in her new country, 6 months went down. Those 6 months I spent were really fun, just before starting my work at the previous telecom startup, I met a person who became a really close friend during this spring/summer, with whom I did spend a lot of time tinkering, experimenting dumb stuff with programming, speaking freely, I also started to be much more interested into privacy and cryptography. All of that was cool, but I was not moving on my ‘real’ projects, the ones that could have allowed me to be really independent, I was not freelancing either, and I was escaping guilt via video game and junk food, which generated more guilt. I also did stop going to my regular meditation group, and I stopped practising Aikido. For no apparent reason, because every time I was going there, I was feeling great afterwards, I had energy, I was doing something meaningful with myself. But at some point I was not able to move myself to the class.

Enter the last ~4 years. I had the chance to meet an awesome company (a web/dev shop specialised in UI) where I started to work part-time. I am doing sysadmins/devops stuff there, bringing the dev practice into the modern world. I am still working part-time for them. And I wanted to freelance on the side and do some community stuff.

During those years, I was an active member of the local LUG, we did 1.5 years of cryptoparty, I met a handful of people that are my friends today. I did a lot of work on myself, meditating more often (even did a vipasana retreat, which was certainly the most transforming and most positive experience of my life), I also started to practise yoga. And I am still not fed up with my work, we are even considering creating a spin-off organisation which would be a non-profit. This is like a dream come true.

But at the same time, my emotional state became weirder. I am more emotional than ever, I cry when watching Disney movie, there are regular episodes of Adventure Time or Stephen Universe that make me cry. When I am listening to stories of people doing stuff that matter (firefighter, medical doctor, astronaut), I cry as well. And at some point I also started to cry without (apparent at least) reason. In my out-of-work life I am stuck with things I actually want to do, procrastinating code or project I would like to see exist. Even if I only work part-time we (with my girlfriend), have enough money to live well, and freelancing was a total failure. I never really done it, when doing it I always handle my work and communication badly, doing things at the last possible time, giving suboptimal quality work.

There is so much I want to do, and I know I can’t do it all. I know that I should focus on one thing, and when it is done, switch to another. But I switch tasks, projects, over and over, even really simple projects, even when I had spent a full day working frenetically on something, the next day I can’t make me continue. Even if that’s what I would like to be doing, working on aproject that can support my life.

On the paper, my life is perfect. I live with a wonderful person for almost 5 years now, I have a non-profit project which could be fully supported by my part-time job. We are planning to go travelling the world and work remotely with my girlfriend. But I am not acting. I am stuck in procrastination loop, I am stuck crying on my inaction. And sometimes I move, and that feels good, and when I am not moving, I know starting to move will feel good, but I can’t do it. I can’t make myself take the step. Even if the step is in my todo list, split up GTD style, even with diagram sometimes for “complex” stuff I want to reach.

I am stuck in inaction, I am currently stopping to meditate, and go less and less to my yoga classes. Why? I don’t know. I can’t make me move there. For frak sake I can’t even make me meditate when the only thing I need for doing it is to take the 10 min to do it. Most of the time, my day just pass by. I know I “did” something, I was on my computer the whole day. But what did I do? How did I end up at the end of the day like that?

The most ironic things, in the company I work, we are time-tracking everything we do. When we work on something there has to be a matching ticket in our issue tracker for what we do. The workflow we follow is pretty strict but it is liberating in a lot of ways (this may sound like a nightmare, but it is actually one of the most friendly and open companies I know. The amount of freedom we have is astonishing). I deeply believe this is a good way to work for me, but as soon as I am out of work I cannot get the same flow, I try GTD, pomodoro, setting up my own issue tracker, a notebook. And it is not like I am burned out, or unable to work from home I am a part-time remote worker for this company, and I do well there, I know to work from home. During multiple years I also worked from a coworking place, but I’m actually less productive there. And I feel I have enough friend and contact even when I worked from home. And after discussing with friends, it seems that for them I am an example of organisation, but I can assure you that everything is falling around, and all the “system” I use are actually barely patching stuff together so I can avoid missing the most basics things I should be doing (paying bills for example).

There is so much more I did not touch yet. The constant feeling of how absurd everything is in this world at the scale of the universe, and why nobody else realises that? We could explore space, inner and outer, together, in peace. So much brain power used to make people click on ads instead of trying to cure cancer, so much spent on a short-term solution instead of taking the time to think before acting. I’m sick of all of this at so many levels, I am sick of the state of this industry and the norms we made out of surveillance, and I am sick of my inactivity in the face of all that.

Multiple time I have considered dropping all that, doing stuff that matter instead, going to teach yoga and drink tea, going to volunteer on place Humans actually needs me. I literally don’t care about earning money. I have paid for stuff I never did or used because I wanted the author to continue doing that. But I can’t seem to stop computering. Thus I can’t stop to see how we are going right into a dystopian world, where all freedom is lost. I do see all that is good in this world, all of that is changing for the better. The simple existence of the whole universe is a wonder, and the fact that in this quasi-infinite structure life did appear is mind-blowing. But it does not feel it could overthrow everything bad that is happening.

I am not sure what I expect with all this. I realise how lucky I am, and on paper my life is wonderful. I have a really nice job, I live in one of the richest countries in the world. I don’t have to really care about money as I don’t have a family to sustain. And it’s not like I am not taking care of myself, I go out walking, try to have regular yoga, two times out of three I actually cook my meals,…

But so much is off constantly in my mind…

I can fully relate to this story. Anyone else out there who feels the same?

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No apologies necessary for walls of text; it’s exactly what forums are built for!

I definitely identify with a lot of what you describe.

To be honest, I know for myself a lot of the mental push-and-pull is an effect of being told (internally + externally) through my health journey that “Others have it a lot worse.” The juxtaposition that somehow there is a scale or range that negates others’ struggle, y’know?

I have been lurking on this forum for ages, but I signed up today after reading this post. This is just… wow. I can also fully relate to this.

I fear that simple “procrastination” is what everyone anywhere will tell you that this is, but I suspect there is more going on. I too struggle tremendously with the world/system in which we find ourselves, have for as long as I can remember. It makes no sense to me that the majority of people don’t seem to have any problem operating in it. If I was asked to design it, it sure would not look even remotely like it does!

I too find myself in a situation which others would no doubt call comfortable. But it doesn’t feel comfortable. And any projects I start in my spare time, I struggle with the prospect of “how is this going to pay the bills eventually to get me out of this?” or more importantly: “why do we spend 99% of our times playing this system, instead of understanding what it wrong with it and putting in place a new one?”. My focus is mainly on finding a way to be “left alone” in this current system, i.e. game it sufficiently the way the system is designed for, so I am free (= financially independent) to think about ways to try & tinker and improve it.
As you might have guessed, my projects don’t get very far. If it is procrastination, than I feel I can only shut it off by lying to myself. Focus on this tiny little thing, step by step, don’t worry about the bigger picture. But subconsciously, something continues to gnaw away.

I am currently at work (go figure!) and unable to put this into more elegant and/or deeper words, but for now I just wanted to show my support.

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I don’t have any complete solutions for how you are feeling, but here are some things to consider:

  1. It seems like you’re pretty hardworking and productive as part of your day job. Maybe you are getting tired and burned out at the end of the day, and just don’t have the energy to keep working afterwards? Personally I’ve found that I can only do about 4-6 hours of solid mental work in a day and then really need to take a break.
  2. I would really encourage to keep up your meditation and aikido practice. For me, things are always better when I’m meditating, eating well and exercising regularly. They help clear my head, and give me a set of activities that are completely separate from the usual mental activities that are a part of my work.
  3. I totally get the feeling of just barely holding on, even if I’m presenting an image of being competent and capable to the outside world. At times like that the best thing I can do is just to take a day or two to myself and get myself on solid footing. I close the door, turn on some music, and clean my room, or do my laundry, or some other chores that make me feel like I’m in control of my life.

Hope that helps somewhat.

There is so much more I did not touch yet. The constant feeling of how absurd everything is in this world at the scale of the universe, and why nobody else realises that? We could explore space, inner and outer, together, in peace1. So much brain power used to make people click on ads instead of trying to cure cancer, so much spent on a short-term solution instead of taking the time to think before acting. I’m sick of all of this at so many levels, I am sick of the state of this industry and the norms we made out of surveillance, and I am sick of my inactivity in the face of all that.

This! We were all told we’re exceptional when we were kids and we would believe that, we all thought one day we might change the world, create a brighter future. And here we are, adult and de(v)pressed, having 99 problems and weird syndromes. Trying to work for progress and dreaming of technological singularity (I also play EVE occasionally) but actually doing stuff like adding another yellow button to the screen, another row to the database etc.

Thank you all for the kind words and advice! :slight_smile: I was really low when I wrote the post, so this may be a little more cheerful than previously!

Yeah that’s one of the things I can’t yet overcome, accepting that there is no such scale, and that an issue is still an issue even is the rest of your life is nice.

I may not have been clear on the work part, since I work part-time (and I stopped freelancing since ~4 months now), I actually have 2 to 3 days of my week that are free. My issue is that during those days I am totally unable to advance my own personal projects or tasks. There were phases during which I did work on personal’s project, and I think most of the time it was the novelty of it, but it goes down after a while, even when I really feel that it is something I would like to achieve, I can seem to put me back in.

The days I work for $COMPANY I do avoid any brain/mental activity afterwards, I generally read, cook, catch up on my RSS feeds, or do small tasks that are not code/sysadmin related. I avoid social network as much as possible (more on that at the end), sometimes I play video games but right now it’s something I really avoid, as I know, it is a trap for me.

I also see these advantages when practising, but the weird thing is that even knowing those are real, after a while it is like I need too much energy to move me to go to practise. I have been considering trying something new around that which is to write down (with an actual pen and paper, as I prefer this form of writing) the benefit/feeling after an activity to try to make it more concrete.

Do you have or use strategy to keep your activities going?

It’s funny because it is also something I was considering doing. Like a mini-retreat on a regular basis. I’ll be sure to give it a go :slight_smile:

Again thank you all for the kind words, I also wanted to write a little about some “solution” I am trying or doing for sometimes:

  • Avoiding social network: since almost half a year I have stopped accessing social networks in read mode (I only use Twitter in write mode, ie: I only send stuff, but don’t actually read my feed). This helped me a lot in 2 fronts:
    • First, since I don’t have any client on my phone anymore, wasting time is harder, and it helps to not even having the option to waste time.
    • Second, since I was following a lot of activists/political subjects, all of that was putting my morale down, so now at least I don’t have that much bad news coming at me.
  • Meditation & physical activity definitely helps, but in my case it is hard to keep it up on a regular schedule. Anybody got strategy around that helps to keep doing?
  • Recently I am really trying to avoid any screen after 21:00 (9pm), so that I can go to sleep sooner. It is hard sometimes, but that does help a lot.
  • Finally, as I say previously, I am considering trying journalling to stick and reflect on the benefit of the activity I am trying to pursue. I’ll see if that help. Any of you are using that as a tool?

Take care,

I can’t advise on meditation, but as for physical activity - try to set smaller goals. Don’t overdo it, or you’ll end up hating moving. There are thousands workouts on Youtube, some of them are only 15 minutes long but you’ll still feel refreshed (and proud!) after doing them. And here’s a simple fact proven by practice: if you get exercise regularly, you become more effective at work.
As per type of activity. In my case, running is the best, but it takes more than one hour daily. I can highly recommend taking pilates class sometimes (in order to learn how to breathe) and organise yourself to perform short pilates workouts in the morning.

There are two ways I’ve found that are helpful to keeping to an exercise or meditation routine. First, have a set time and place to do your exercise, or meditate. For example, I meditate in the morning after breakfast, but before I’ve showered and got dressed. I go weightlifting every MWF right before lunch. I’ve found that if I have to always make a choice or decision about when to work out, I will just talk myself out of it. By having a fixed time and place, I can remove the chance to talk myself out of it. Second, I use a habit tracker. This can be an app or just a calendar. I have a small set of habits – exercise, meditation, programming, reading – and I do myself to tick a box for each one of them. Just the act of looking at the calendar makes me want to fill it out, even if what I have to do is convenient.

As for journaling, I think it’s a great tool that has helped me a lot. Just today I managed to snap myself out of a funk by writing about it. However, I would also be a little careful—if you’re prone to ruminating, or getting stuck in your own head, your journal can turn into a extension of that: you just write about your problems over and over instead of making progress towards solving them. Just be careful that you’re using your writing to actually work through your problems and come up with some action items at the the end of it. You don’t have to solve all your problems every time, but if you find yourself writing the same general entry every day, that is a warning sign.

Actually, you have inspired me to give that a go myself. I read it a thousand times, but finally decided to actually do it. In my case, every day I try to list 3-5 positive things that happened during my day. Sometimes it is difficult to come up with anything, anything at all. But most days it isn’t that hard.

Early results are that the past few days aren’t just one big blur, it actually seems to help you remember the semi-good stuff. It helps to keep things in balance.

This. I tried that many times before, and this is why I never felt it worked for me. I think it could work out differently with my new approach. Our memories are not reliable/objective anyway, so I feel there is no harm done in focussing on the positive things for a change and letting those memories linger instead of the problems. There’s this old cliché that whatever you focus on, grows / becomes bigger. That works either way. Maybe a year from now I look back and think what an awesome year I’ve had :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: