You know how, if people find out you enjoy something you have a talent for, they like to tell you to "follow your dream"? They give you this advice on the assumption that the terrible consequence of not doing that is that you will have a tedious mundane life in which you will always wonder if you could have made it. The dichotomy there is 'stay safe' vs 'challenge yourself', with a side order of 'you can always go back to being boring and normal if you totally bomb'.

Nobody ever gives you career advice for when the arts are your only option. I assume there was some at some point, but it was discontinued when 'circus freak' stopped being the only choice that won out over 'sidewalk match-seller' and 'homeless beggar' as the prestige career for the terminally different. Although, I seem to have accidentally run away from home and joined the circus already, so maybe there's still some merit in that plan.

I try not to post too much about 'normal is hard, guys, it ruins me'. I feel like I'm being childish. It's really hard for me to grasp the difference between 'this does not make me deliriously happy all the time' and 'this is physically ruining me'. It's similar to how some people describe being unable to distinguish between eating because they're hungry and eating because they're bored, I think. They're both unpleasant feelings that respond to food, so it's not obvious that they're not the same thing. Only in my case, they're unpleasant feelings that don't necessarily respond to anything, so I've trained myself to ignore them to the point where I run myself into the ground, and at worst, lose the ability to consistently do things like eat and sleep.

I couldn't really tell you why I'm like that. Broadly, it probably has to do with the fact that I seem to be the first person in my family to figure out what is actually wrong with all of us. Looking back, I can see every single blood relative on my mother's side of the family has gone through the exact same cycle -- great potential, the promise of great things when young, then a descent into anxiety and physical decline and general madness in adulthood. They're all women and it was a different time, so most of them coped by getting married, being financially supported by their husbands, and sinking into isolation and oblivion while taking out the emotional consequences on their kids. One of my mother's sisters didn't; she's struggled all her life, and my mother has done nothing but talk shit about her for it. The other sister managed to get a steady supply of Valium for her anxiety problem, although didn't do anything about any of the rest of it, and my mother's talked shit about her all my life, too.

I don't want any of that. I've never wanted to be married, I actively want to not have any children, and I keep trying to support myself the "right" way until I spiral into a nervous breakdown.

My roommates both have normal jobs. It takes up a lot of their day and they're tired when they get home, but they still do things. They make dinner and watch TV and have conversations, and in their free time they go places and see friends. They don't spend their entire days off in bed. The last time I held down a traditional job (relatively -- I coped as well as I did because it was graveyard shift and 90% of my time was spent alone), I did nothing. I didn't make fancy food. I stuck my eyes on a television but didn't care much what was on it -- I wasn't a fan of anything, and sought out nothing new. I didn't read. Not only did I not go to the library, I didn't even read anything that was already in the house. I had no outside friends and went nowhere.

I'm beginning to think that level of fatigue isn't normal.

I feel guilty doing things that I can do because, paradoxically, I can do them. I've written something every day for more than five years now. It's not always good and it doesn't always end up here, but I did write it. For about the past three, I've danced every day that I was physically able, and if the recent Hip Incident is any indication, probably a lot of days that I technically wasn't. I go to rehearsals and perform in shows unless I am objectively unable to stand upright. Clearly I have the energy for things I like. And I berate myself for it. Because that's... bad? Selfish? Childish?

It's occurred to me recently that perhaps I "like" these things because I can do them, and get some kind of decent results, without dying. And that I don't "like" regular jobs because I'm tired of hanging on by my fingernails until some outside stressor makes me completely decompensate. It's not that all of these artsy things aren't work; they're just work that happens in places and on schedules that I can adhere to. I get tired, but I also get to succeed at something, and then I get to recover.

I have to figure out how to file my taxes as entirely self-employed for the first time this year. I had to go re-jigger my insurance info when I went to the urgent care clinic, and I explained this to the lady at the computer, at least as well as I was able to explain anything while I was in pain and crying. She helpfully opened up some sort of TurboTax app on her phone and told me that the government would consider me an "Artist". News to me. I don't know what I was expecting to file under -- "Despairing Failure"?

I try not to make my inability to be normal anyone else's problem. It is clearly far more obvious than I'd like it to be.

The professional dancers treat me like I'm one of them. I keep trying to budget my time and not get involved in too many shows at once, out of the persistent feeling that I don't want to disappoint people when I get the "real" job and have to drop everything else. The "real" job is not happening. There are "real" jobs I can do, but they're the same jobs that students and parents and the chronically- or temporarily-disabled and anyone else with restricted time or mobility can do. There are not enough of them, competition is fierce, and a discouragingly large number of them turn out to be scams. Most people are suggesting I figure out how to write for money.

I'm having a very difficult time adjusting from "can probably supplement my income with these things" to "this is really my only viable career option, so I'd better fucking make it work". I have long since passed the point where I have any idea what I'm doing.