Recently I have shifted my mental well-being to the forefront of my brain, whereas my work and education have always been my main focus. I knew that if I did not make this adjustment, my mental health would infringe on my professional life and the goals that I have set for myself.
The current discussion about mental well-being is a growing one, however, when it is combined with work, things fall short. There is an overwhelming amount of toxic work culture within our industry. With my switch to focusing on bettering myself and my mental state, I have questioned if this affects my worth as a designer. Does this make me a less valuable team member if I am not putting 110 percent into everything that I do?
I will answer this question for you – no it does not, and I know that it does not make me less valuable as a professional. Neither does it make me less capable. In fact, I think it makes me a better designer. There is an advantage to being self-aware and in tune with feelings and our experiences because those abilities lend themselves to sound design, music composition, and other creative and artistic endeavors.
Some days I feel as if I do not have any creative energy in me. Or that I no longer enjoy the things I once loved. A void has opened up and swallowed everything that makes me who I am. However, I have to remember that this does not equate to the real me. I may experience these feelings, but the creative and intelligent being I am still exists. My ability to do excellent work as a designer, engineer or teacher still exists.
Fear resides in me that if I cannot separate my working life from everything else, then I am on a one-way train to failure. My professional life must remain anxiety-free and the depression stifled. What we forget to remember is what that initial fear represents; a crack in the facade that we create. This kind of perfectionism is so fragile and dangerous for industry and work where things are changing and adapting every minute.
One of the best abilities I have trained myself in is how to be flexible. How to be adaptable and calm under pressure. It certainly was not easy, but I recognized it would be one of the most serving things I could do for myself. I work with directors, choreographers, artists, producers, and they all have an idea of what they want. Then, there is the actual production team which can vary in size and mind. They all have an idea of what they want. To think things won’t change and adapt is easily the most naive idea you could have. Some people may have an easy time being flexible under pressure, however, as someone with complex anxiety it is something I have had to work hard on.
If you are to remember anything from this article, please take away this statement. You are not your work. You are a valid and beautiful person no matter what work or the amount of work you do. You may feel like you have to do more, but ultimately you have an obligation to yourself and your health. That always takes priority.
I can recognize that this time that we spend on ourselves is what makes us worth so much. The idea that it makes us worthless is a misconception. There is also a lack of understanding of how long that process will take because it varies for each person. Our industry is not at all patient. It took Van Gogh a year to paint his famous Starry Night and that is an excellent example of what can happen when you are patient. You cannot get back the time you spent burning yourself out at your craft and I certainly don’t like thinking back on the person I was then. Hopefully, someday our industry will adopt a more patient outlook, but until then we have to be patient with and for ourselves.
As we come to a close in 2021, with everything going on and all of the uncertainties, I am thankful that I am working on this and that it can be one of the more stable things in my life. I think of it as my foundation and I know it will make me a better individual. We all have goals and dreams and taking care of our mental wellbeing can only help us achieve that for ourselves. I hope you all have a wonderful end of 2021 – you will see me in writing next year.
Special thanks to Quinn Schuster and Tyler Quinn for contributing to this writing.