Apparently there is a January funk phenomenon. I never knew this! I am actually kinda sorta mad that I am a "fully grown adult" and I am only just learning about being miserable in January. The funk I am talking about has more to do with the calendar than the weather.
I like Christmas >> hymns, family coming together, remembering the birth of our savior, joy all around, but the social norms surrounding Christmas and the over-abundance of activities during the end of the year both overwhelm and exhaust me. So this year, like every other one, I braced myself for this period. Then time passed and I realized that it was the 11th of January, I was recovering from a bout of malaria and the flu, yet what bothered me was not my physical state, but that emotionally, mentally and “ethereally” I still hadn’t settled into my normal self. There was malcontent, lack of gratitude, not wanting to pray >> everything was just dissatisfactory and the normal act of living was hard for me. I was just off. I didn’t know what the issue was. I had to force myself to find gratitude daily just so that there could be an abundance of pleasure at living (and this is the polar opposite of who I am).
A long time ago, I stopped forming resolutions. I will spare you the details as the counter-culture around this is almost as cliché as the culture that it seeks to debunk. However, this year I learned that however much you may want to see the new year in a regular way, i.e. as only the passage of time – which clearly happens daily, there is just something about 2017 becoming 2018 that causes you to reflect, even if subconsciously. That makes you measure and evaluate your progress. And for most people, when this is combined with a self-imposed timeline for accomplishing certain things, the result cannot be good. By all accounts last year was a phenomenal year for me >> I got my dream job, moved back home and I am closer to the people I love (which means: I am centered, content, alive, passionate) >> however, 2018 says to me, well, all that was accomplished in March, I am here and you are still unmarried, childless and unable to buy a car or build a house, so tell me again, what did you do in 2017 and all the years prior.
There is much that is wrong with January 2018’s attitude: for one, this measurement of achievement is not in line with my values, but it is the easiest and most glaring way that society measures. Never mind that in 2017 I was there for myself, my family and my friends in an infinite number of big and small ways and I put my energy and resources into making my society better (this is my definition of a fulfilled life).
The good thing is that once I spoke to a number of people about the way I was feeling, I understood that I wasn’t alone, and although the people I spoke to had different experiences, insights and feelings (about January), I was eventually able to identify my problem and once I did, I could come up with solutions that would work for me.
Here are the different things that helped me:
1. Gratitude: The gratitude thing really helped >> and I am not going to tell you to start a gratitude journal. I promise you that I am naturally grateful – I constantly randomly remember acts of kindness done to me, even from 15+ years ago. But I found myself in a place where I had to choose and use gratitude as a mantra. Typically when I’ve had to count blessings in order to surround myself with joy, one mini-session where I focus on a couple of the countless miracles that have happened in my life can last me months. This January, I felt like I had to remind myself every 4 hours!!! Which can be a scary thing if your natural disposition is “sunny and a dash of bubbly”.
2. Do something (real): I realized that the recurrent things that were bothering me had to do with money, ensuring that I was on the right path in terms of life fulfillment and the lack of starting my own family. Clearly there are some things on that list that I can’t (won’t?) really do anything about, the resolution of some other things can only be in the long run, but I knew that the one thing I could tackle immediately was money.
There is a certain standard of living that I hope to be able to maintain through my life, one which I’ve always known is not going to be accomplished by one stream of income, particularly not in a salaried position. I do have investments, but even with compounding interest, in US$ terms, average yearly returns in the long term are typically about 3% for fixed income and 8% for equity, that’s not going to cut it for me. And if we think about naira denominated returns, which are currently high, we also need to think of high inflation rates and FX devaluation risks.
To borrow from Nigerian parlance, I felt the need to hammer and so I decided that I was going to have to create multiple streams of income and cash flow generating investments (something my parents have been drilling in us since we were teenagers and they were trying to get us to read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” – wish I had listened). In plain words, I needed a side hustle. Then to make it concrete, I set a deadline (more like rules of engagement), which is that: I cannot go on any trips if my salary is my only source of income – as from 2019 (hahaha… chill now, let’s not get carried away, there shall be travelling this year). But if I do want to travel next year, I gotta make some money moves.
And this is an important point, if you don’t set (and be mindful/focused on) your own goals for the day, week, month, year then you are going to be guided with what society tells you that you should have accomplished and should be striving for.
I also set many other (non-money related) plans in motion, i.e. wrote a To Do list of all the small things that I needed to accomplish, but constantly push away. You know those things that pop up in your head while driving and you are like dam, got to get on that, I’ll do it later. For me it included things like: set up direct deposit for recurrent expenses; handle those important subscriptions; schedule various doctors’ appointments; sort out the mess that is e-dividend warrants etc.
3. Do something (“frivolous”): On any typical day, I am your resident raggedly Anne doll. I would be the wrong girl for a guy to have notions of sending a text saying: “send me a pic”. Erm, blank stare: “dude, I haven’t done my eyebrows in 2+ months, my hair in 4 weeks, no makeup on my face, you are gonna have to manage this one random great picture from 3 months ago”. But then, I decided to switch things up, which means I got a weave and did my eyebrows. I figured a change in vibe could help me escape the rut. I was already emerging out of the funk by the time I decided to go in this direction >> but the whole process of looking for the hair style to do was exciting and the final product gave me a pep in my step and the feeling from the time when I was younger, when anytime I was dressed to the nines, I would enter a place with this hook playing in my head (i.e. like a soundtrack – LMAO) Eve’s lines: “they wanna know, who’s that girl!”.
Self-care is not frivolous, it is necessary, essential and healthy.
In addition to switching things up, I really wanted to find time to go to the spa, but this didn’t pan out, so what I did do was give myself mini-facials with at home face masks >> and I tried to ensure that the whole process was relaxing and felt special.
4. Do something (for others): Let’s just agree here, that I shall always be honest with you my reader. Truth be told, I didn’t do anything charity related, and this highlights for me the urgency surrounding something I have wanted to work on for a long time. What I did do in this respect was agree to facilitate a mentoring session in early Feb. (mentoring is one of my favorite ways of giving back). I also committed to doing more of the same on a consistent basis.
5. Find your joy: We all (most people?) know what brings us joy, I think. My joy comes from communing with people and also from serving people. So I did that, went to the beach with my friends and their sons >> the beach is my happy place, my friends’ sons are my joy >> there is no better combination for a perfect day for me. Needless to say, the outing over-delivered in spades.
Also, I realized that while I can’t afford to have a job that deals with social impact and my daily work can’t be about helping people (manz gotta eat + manz loves finance and business) I can ensure that I allot time every other week to do something (meaningful, not just in passing) that helps someone that has no relation to me and from whom I can expect no reward (beyond gratitude) >> this is the only way for me to sustain the feeling of a meaningful existence.
How was the month of January for you? I hope it was full of highs and limited lows, full of learning and living and growing and enlightenment. How do you feel about January? Do you have any tips? I would love to hear from you.