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Emotional State of Matt #7: OVERWHELMED

As I sat on the kitchen floor crying, picking through every slimy piece of trash one by one, it hit me: I may have taken on too much... 

It's Monday morning and I'm settling into my Airbnb in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The house, a quaint 1916 bungalow, hasn’t been updated in a while. The furnishing and decor is...vintage, the kitchen sink has no water pressure and the shower only goes up to warm, but the price is right and it suits my needs. Staying here is kind of like housesitting for your grandparents.

I booked this one because it has a dedicated office space. I’ve worked mostly at kitchen and dining room tables since I started this trip, so the thought of working at a desk in a comfortable chair with a view of a sunny backyard was heaven. 

I unpack my office kit and set everything up, connect to the Wi-Fi, and...nothing. There’s a signal, but nothing’s coming through. I move my laptop to the living room and it works perfectly. Okay, so the Wi-Fi router in the front of the house isn’t strong enough to reach the workspace in the back of the house.

I move everything to the kitchen table. It’s suboptimal. The chairs are too high, the table’s too low, and there’s a slant in the floor which, after many hours sitting there, will wreak havoc on my back. But hey, I can get through today then figure something else out. 

I grab my second cup of coffee, but the warmer of this circa 1995 coffee maker has been on the whole time and now the coffee’s burnt. I can deal with a lot, but do not mess with my coffee.

It's meeting time. Slurping bitter coffee, I fire up Microsoft Teams. Nope, it connects and my browser works fine but my audio stutters and the video keeps freezing. I turn off my camera - doesn’t help. The Wi-Fi router barely forty feet away with a direct line of sight can’t handle a video call. I take the meeting from a rocking chair in the living room. 

I don’t have a good solution. I can’t move the router, I can’t pull the desk out of the office. I could probably get the kitchen table close enough, but only by placing it directly in front of the stove. I can’t work on any of the living room furniture without sitting cross-legged on the floor and spending five days completely hunched over. I can’t take sales calls from a coffee shop. Hmm...put a pin in that for now.

It’s April 15th, so I have to pay a testicle-twisting amount to the IRS and the State of Oregon because my employer didn’t deduct enough from my checks in 2023. I’ve known this day was coming for six weeks, but that doesn't make it hurt any less.

Meeting Number Two: My boss’s boss’s boss decides that today is going to be one of the three days a year he attends our weekly sales meeting. He starts Monday morning quarterbacking my deal, second guessing the work I’ve been doing for nine months without any context. You know, standard corporate bullshit, but I’m already in a mood over the Wi-Fi and taxes and he's getting under my skin.

Yes, and… Close my eyes. Count to ten. Deep breaths.

I take a walk to cool off, but the pollen in Arkansas this time of year is so heavy it leaves a yellow coating on everything. After two blocks my eyes feel like I rolled them in sand and popped them back into my head. I’m sneezing, my nose is running, my eyes are bloodshot. I look like hammered shit and feel worse. 

(no, I haven't been smoking anything, officer)

Back inside, I get a notification that eBay has sided with a buyer that returned my comics damaged, refunding all of his money. Two increasingly tense calls with script reading, robotically cheerful, overseas customer service agents with laughably American names like Brenda or Jason, and I’m nowhere closer to getting my money back. File an appeal they tell me, but their site isn’t working right so I can’t upload pictures as proof. I’m pacing like a caged tiger, but trying not to unload on these people who are probably getting paid $3 an hour. 

(look at all that pollen!)

My ex texts me. She's back from her trip and have I gone over the divorce paperwork yet? This day is starting to feel personal. 

Yes, and… Close my eyes. Count to ten. Deep breaths. 

I go to the gym and hit the rowing machine until my arms feel like they’re going to fall off. I do some light grocery shopping. I’m in rush hour traffic and I’m still pissed off, but at least I’m no longer a blind rage monkey ready to snap at the next person who tells me to have a nice day. 

I go to Best Buy, pick up a WiFi signal extender. I’ll solve the Internet problem in time for tomorrow’s workday. It's a good investment in case this happens again. 

Get home, unpack, eat a light dinner. An email comes in. The big important client that was supposed to launch today didn’t. It’s unclear exactly why, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still not live and somehow it’s my fault.  It’s a big problem with visibility all the way up to the C-Suite of our parent company. 

Yes, and… Close my eyes. Count to ten. Deep breaths.

I plug in the WiFi extender and download the app. It doesn’t work - of course. I try again. It almost works, then doesn’t. I try again. Now I can’t even connect to it. Reset it to default factory settings. Nope. 

I’m ready to throw the goddamn thing at the wall. Is it too much to ask to have functioning Internet IN THE FUCKING OFFICE!?!?!

Fine, I’ll return it tomorrow and get a different one. Pack it back up. Where’s the receipt? Oh shit, I threw it out. Gotta find the receipt. It's only in there with a single day’s worth of trash. Sit down on the kitchen floor, pull out the trash bag. Paw through it. Coffee grounds, the empty boxes from my Claratin and Visine, chicken bones, wrappers from the watermelon gummies I binged for a moment of comfort. No receipt.

I scream at the top of my lungs and burst into tears... 

I wasn’t a cryer in the past - I tried to push it down, be stoic, suck it up, rub some dirt on it - you know, the age-old macho bullshit drilled into the minds of American boys and young men. But I’ve been getting better at it, feeling less ashamed, appreciating the catharsis. So I let myself cry, as silly as it seemed at the time. 

But here’s the thing. That cry wasn’t really about my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It had been building for a while. 

It’s stressful packing, then unpacking my belongings every week. If I unpack as little as possible, I’m constantly digging for things I didn’t think I’d need. If I unpack everything, I'm creating more packing I'll need to do in five days. 

It’s disorienting going to the grocery store and realizing I don't know what cooking implements or spices are available at the house I just started staying in. I could buy everything I need for myself, but then I’d be carting around a small pantry. I end up trying to cook with missing ingredients, but I don’t know where the hell anything is in this strange kitchen. I feel like I spend more time in the kitchen searching through drawers and cabinets than I do preparing food. 

It’s challenging ordering anything online - where do I ship it to? Will it get there in time or will I be forced leave it behind in a city I’m not returning to? Getting a prescription filled is a runaround. Finding a local chiropractor is a crapshoot. There are so many little things I took for granted that I now need to think about and plan for. 

I haven’t had a lazy weekend in two months. I work five days a week, then drive two. Work five, drive two. Lather, rinse, repeat. I want to see as much and do as much as I possibly can while I move around the country, otherwise what’s the point?

Work’s getting busy again. When this trip started, we were still sorting out the politics and guardrails of our new corporate overlords, so many projects were at a standstill. I had time to adventure. The log jam at work is finally breaking, so the pressure of my job is ramping back up. People know I’m on Central Time, so I have calls scheduled first thing in the morning, but most of my team is on the West Coast so I’m booked on calls into the evening. And obviously, I can’t quit the job because I need to fund the trip. 

Then there’s the writing. I severely underestimated the time commitment of this blog when I made my plan, and I’m falling behind. I’m already in state 9 and I just posted about state 5. I’m enjoying the writing process, flexing my creative muscles and getting better (I hope). But I feel bad when I spend an evening writing rather than going out and exploring the place I’m in. With all the events I’ve bought tickets for already, I am committed to this pace for another month and a half. 

That’s what the cry was about. I’m trying to juggle work, a divorce, traveling, being present, having experiences, personal growth, and writing. I am feeling OVERWHELMED. 

I’ve decided to press pause and go home to Ithaca for a few weeks in June. I’m going to fully unpack, recharge, and catch up on my writing. Then in July, I’ll pick up where I left off. I have some family obligations anyway and the medical scare with my dad reminded me to spend more time with him while he’s still around - even if he can push my buttons.

I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished so far, and I’m absolutely not going to stop until this is done. I just need to figure out how to balance everything going forward without burning out and finding myself reduced to a blubbering heap on a kitchen floor, surrounded by trash. 

Yes, and…



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