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5 Signs That It’s Time to Recast Your Life

You probably don’t need an itemized list to tell you why your current conditions are sadly inadequate for the work you want to accomplish as a writer or artist.

But I’ve made one anyway. Just to keep things tidy.

Here are 5 signs that your life needs to be melted down and remade.

1. Work that used to intrigue or challenge you now feels dull and pointless.

You got into this work because you’re remarkably good at just about everything.

  • You’re darn smart, but also open-minded enough to know you don’t have everything figured out.
  • You’ve got a nice balance of right- and left-brain thinking: you can handle words and images as well as numbers and computers.
  • You stick with a problem until you solve it, and you take your responsibilities seriously.

All of this makes you a fantastic employee or consultant.

But that doesn’t mean that the work you’re good at lines up with your values or plumbs the depths of your creativity. Once the thrill of figuring out a new task is over, it stops engaging you and starts bleeding you dry. But you’ve got seniority or student loans, so you stay.

There were times when I loved my job as a technical writer and editor. Mastering a software program, learning to follow a new documentation style, giving feedback on user interface design. But when all of that became old hat ~ bleah. I would end the day exhausted from forcing myself to pay attention.

2. You resent the people you mean to be helping.

Yes, you want to make the world a better place. As an artist, you’re sensitive and empathetic, so you really feel what others are going through. And you don’t want them to be deprived or to suffer.

But when you’re not meeting your own creative needs, even doing useful stuff makes you feel exasperated and put-upon. You can’t stop thinking about all the other things you’d rather be doing.

I spent three years as a university residence manager, and I loved managing and training the student staff. I could see I was making a big difference in their lives. But I was so overworked and starved for personal time that I started to fume whenever the phone would ring. By the end of my term I couldn’t wait to escape.

3. Your indulgence in the finer things no longer comforts you.

You are unwilling to live on rice and beans, so you’ve made sure that you’re well-provided for. Yes, there are artists who go the sacrificial route and get by on a pittance, but you decided to get established first: nice apartment, new-to-you car, money in the bank. You don’t want to pinch pennies.

But the extras now seem hollow when you consider the freedom you’ve traded for them. Freedom you could have used to pursue your creative interests.

Around the time that I was working two not-right-for-me jobs, my husband and I decided to spend a few thousand dollars on a stereo. We had the money, we loved listening to music, and we needed a replacement for the broken old ghetto blaster Shawn had since high school. But that purchase became an emblem for how out-of-whack my priorities were. All I could think about was how I could have traded that stereo for a month off work to write my novel.

4. Saying “Yes” to others is increasingly painful.

You are unfailingly polite. Your first impulse is to make people happy and keep up your end of things. You have a strong sense of civic duty.

But when you agree to what’s asked of you, you can feel a part of yourself dying. And you fear you’ll never get it back.

My schedule used to be packed with extra-curricular and volunteer activities ~ Ultimate frisbee games, music rehearsal, cohousing committee meetings ~ because I just couldn’t bring myself to say “No.” I enjoyed all of this stuff in the moment, and I loved my friends, but taken as a whole it meant betraying myself.

5. When you do have time to create, you can’t access the flow.

Certainly there are days when you assert yourself and carve out space for your personal projects. After all, your artist’s identity is important to you.

But either you’re too tired or distracted, or you doubt the worth of what little you can accomplish. And since creating is no fun, you avoid it all the more.

Even when I was working two jobs, I had mornings off to write. I did manage to complete a few stories and start a novel. But I was so disconnected and depleted that the writing process was frustratingly slow and difficult.

Oh, my dear reader, life is too short for you to stay in this state. You have so much to offer.

When you’re ready to enter the labyrinth and (re)design your life to revolve around your commitment to art, I’m here for you.

Tell me, where is this hitting home for you? I know you’re a joyful person with great things in your life, but where have you gotten hemmed in?


{ 30 comments… add one }

  • Marla March 28, 2011, 6:57 pm

    Alison – excellent post and very true to exactly how it feels. I have such great memories of working with you – you really helped me and I thank you for that (and I may be back for more). Your new website is lovely (and nice author photo for the site and Twitter too) – well done! Go get ’em!

    • Alison March 28, 2011, 7:52 pm

      Marla! Glad to hear I’ve got my finger on your pulse. You are one of the people on my mind as I write this stuff. So I’m happy to know you are still around!

      • Debra M. April 22, 2018, 8:56 am

        I am an Interior Designer. Own my own firm. Divorced 6 years. Slowly, nothing is working for me anymore. I have clients who I turn away because I feel it is not worth the effort anymore. I wake up very often sad and wondering where I am headed. I usually am a cheerleader for others. Very joyful! But, when I am alone, which seems to be more and more often I feel my sense of myself fading away. I need to reinvent my life possibly? It just seems so hard. Also, I have just
        left, again, a four year relationship with a man who I was engaged to. The relationship was a total rollercoaster of highs and lows. I couldn’t take it any longer and feel I wasted so much of my life on it.
        It is so hard. I also have children in town who I barely see and the rest of my family lives far away.
        I have a few hand picked friends and they are lovely.
        But, still I’m lost…..

  • Sarahsomewhere December 9, 2011, 10:45 pm

    Thank you Alison! I am soon to finish up a career that I ‘fell into’ that was fun and provided great experiences, but ten years on I feel like it’s leaching the life and soul out of me! And to top it off, I feel like there is something wrong with me for saying that. You have helped me to see that it is ok to feel like I need to leave, in fact I owe it to myself to be true to my internal voice, and not label myself ‘ungrateful’ for wanting to exchange something good for something truly great.

  • Brenda March 15, 2012, 3:06 am

    @ sarahsomewhere- that’s exactly it- exchanging something good for something great.
    @Allison- love how you can articulate these feelings so well. Sometimes they just seem like a jumble of string to me… Thank you.

  • Dedi McHam July 15, 2013, 3:19 pm

    I’m at a point where I don’t know what it good for me. I am still creating, but
    there are times when I just want to sit and be numb. I don’t drink or use
    any mind altering substances, but there are few times when I feel happiness
    and know I much to be happy about. I live alone with my animals and go out
    to see friends, but rarely have friends at the farm. I could really use some help.
    Not just any help, but help from someone who knows the creative mind.

  • ronald Ferrell jr September 6, 2013, 5:30 pm

    i have let my gf down again and now she feels so far away .i sleep non the couch and everytime i go to say anything to her she just cringes and looks mad and answers like im stupid in a very degraing voice//so the rents a week late..i wont let it happen again i told hger sorry and shes still mmad..i feel like im here in the way she says she is better by herself but if i say im leaving she says not what she is saying

  • ronald Ferrell jr September 6, 2013, 5:33 pm

    i wanna just go jump off a cliff or drive into anm oncoming car..i cant live without her..i made a mistake and didnt make enough monbey this month so what next month it wont happen.but i just wanna kill myself so she cabn be free from me..im a nice caring guy but its a one way love relationship.thiu sucks i wanna die now!!help what do i do

    • Meane November 30, 2013, 1:54 pm

      I don’t know where Ronald fit into this discussion, but I do feel sorry for him. I found this website today and was interested because of the terminology “walking depression.”
      I’ve never heard of the term before but it surely fits my life today and others that I know very well.
      What is the opposite of “walking depression”. That’s where I want to be.

  • Amanda Gatton June 6, 2014, 10:05 am

    Did you write this for me specifically? Finally, something caused a spark in my head. Thank you.

  • CK September 28, 2014, 11:43 am

    Im reading all of these comments and can identify with them all. Im recently asking myself “whats the point, my present condition is a result of my childhood and past, it will be too painful to address this, for me and my family. The road to recovery is too long

  • Patricia McDaniel October 13, 2014, 10:32 am

    I am not an artist but somewhat artistic. Defiantly walking depressed- when Im moving. Thanks for the great blog- so unhappy in my marriage, I feel paralyzed. Please think of me- thanks.

  • Mr T October 31, 2014, 3:32 pm

    I believe a lot of this is my life long problem- depression, but situations which have led to depression. I was a music teacher. I eventually got kicked out of the profession. It was too much being put on a pedestal so you could be knocked down by politics. They want you to do more with less and less and you become a figure in a school board ledger book. Also, if some parent complains to Uncle Harry on the school board, you’re toast. Music is a creative business, even in education, often overtaken by the “business” of it, the organizing and the ass kissing. I always enjoyed the kids but not the other crap. Never mind the thrill of seeing a student progress or their eyes light up when they finally “get it.” Now I work jobs I can’t seem to keep. A lot of it is being older and unwilling to take shit from people when you used to be in charge. It’s not creative and you don’t have the control you want or deserve, as well as the respect. I used to be called “Mr.” now i am called by my first name. I am sick of working. Then there is the family and spousal pressure. I play in an oldies band twice a month because I enjoy the guys’ social company (old friends) and the creativity. I have toyed with the idea of of giving private lessons in the house but the spouse discourages because you can’t make a living at it. spouse has had trouble too at these non profit agency jobs and the treatment she has gotten. We are in our late fifties. Change our attitude? What a joke. They all say that to excuse their behavior toward you, so what a joke. Not only is there depression but generally a feeling of “Why bother? I’d like to do what I want.” And I have little motivation to bust my as for anyone anymore. What kind of stupid ass life is this anyway?

  • Zig Zag February 16, 2015, 11:57 pm

    It’s like you were living my exact life. I hope your happy now! Here same old comfortable rut!

  • erin April 2, 2015, 7:27 am

    As a living, I perform home care. I also live with a family member that has MS. Because I have never focused on myself and for years been taking care of family and patients, I am so resentful taking care of everyone. I feel unfulfilled and unsatisfie because I haven’t taken care of myself.

  • Bonsai May 15, 2015, 3:28 pm

    I’m sad too. Got into relationship 3 years ago looking for love and acceptance of me just as I am. He started out acting like I could do no wrong and then like in other previous relationships, after a while he became critical where all I do is wrong. Even though I try hard to be a good and caring persoN. Other people think I’m nice and special. He picks on me and at times is verbally and even physically abusive. I left him again and I’m trying to stay way but he owes me money that I really need back and many of my possessions are still on his property. I want some of them back. They are things that I cannot replace. I don’t care for material things but some of them are sentimental items I had before meeting HIM. I hate to give in and have to call him and make arrangements to get my things. I don’t want cops involved.

  • Andrew June 27, 2015, 11:41 pm

    After a failed attempt 3 years ago, I seem to have reached the same point again in my life. I am turning 22 and have been classically trained ballet dancer for over half of my life. I can remember the happiness I felt when I was growing up. I can remember the the first time that I had truly discovered my passion. As a male dancer, I’ve also experienced a great deal of bullying. It didn’t affect me when I was younger for whatever reason. I was too happy dancing maybe.

    Now, most of the bullying is done by adults twice my age and even my own university professors. I feel hopeless. I haven’t enjoyed dancing since I was 13. I feel like I have nothing to live for. I feel my energy spent in energy wasted. I believe it doesn’t matter how good I can be or become because every outcome is rigged. I never stopped training and now have received many awards and praise for my dedication and performances. I have so many people who look up to me and who love me, but I don’t know why I don’t love me just as much? Where do I begin to look for happiness again?

  • A.P Ghosh August 5, 2015, 2:26 am

    To whoever you are. Trust me no one feels more than this article then me right now. I’m still up at 5:21 am because all I’ve done for the past 8 hours is drink my scotch whiskey and listening to music with my door locked. I feel as though my life is just in a hole. And feel like this has happened before I thought I knew what I was doing this time. But I still have to drink or smoke in order to feel some sort of emotion since my they’ve been drained and beaten to the point of exhaustion. What do u do and please done ask me to purchase anything. I was hoping I could comment on this without getting sold anything. And from a smart phone sales rep I no the diffrence. But even still when someone doesn’t know how to work thier phone even those the take is so simple I still take the time to show them so please tell me wtf I’m doing wrong.

  • Dee August 22, 2015, 11:55 am

    I’m a full time artist and have been for 19 years
    I was with my ex husband for 17 of these. From the very beginning of my career we grew together and helped one another . ..we were close until he was unfaithful and we separated then divorced.
    Although I have dated ..I remain single after 5 years. I have struggled terribly meeting someone who is compatible
    I am heart broken and confused. I create and paint but the main purpose seems absent. My passion seems lost.
    I am successful and love to paint and blessed to make a living from it. However I have never felt more alone, isolated and unhappy. I am unsure how to get out of this rut and find genuine relationship again. I feel this is what what I require to be fulfilled and happy once again.

  • Nick Cartwrighr September 13, 2015, 10:53 am

    I am 44, male and married with 2 kids. I have been self employed for the laSt 15 years and a few years ago decided to set up my own company. I am now so bored of what I do that I don’t know what to do. I hate getting up in the morning, think about death alot and the utter joylesness in life and just feel the need to do something entirely different but I am stuck as I have to earn a certain amount each month to pay rent etc that I can’t see any other way of earning. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  • Soph October 18, 2015, 12:02 pm

    It was really moving reading your post, so I thought I might just take the chance in explaining my situation, and finding out any relatable or relevant suggestions that may help me. Basically myself and my boyfriend have almost been together almost a year now, and it’s been a eventful journey. We started off relatable, happy and compatible , but since there it’s been a whirlwind. During our relationship’ together my boyfriend has failed to take me out and/or use insinuative to properly get to know me. Don’t get me wrong he is a beautiful guy, but he has hardly ever shown proper interest, I have also brought this up with him but he always hits me back with ‘why don’t you find somewhere’ but in my defence I put in a lot of work into the relationship e.g I visit him, he never does me or I’ll get most things he needs for his house blah blah. on my side and give him money, all I have asked properly from him is to take me out. I promised that I would never leave, and I don’t think I have it in me to do so. Recently now I did the dishonourable act and cheated on him. And I take full responsibility for that, I also told him which caused havoc and he physically abused me, it was not harsh but he still touched me. This guy is really genuine and very smart but I don’t know if the love is lost and can be found. Or if I end it how do I, I’m scared of getting hurt again and hurting him. Please help

  • Jen July 14, 2016, 6:26 pm

    I can relate to this completely. I work with adults who have intellectual disabilities. I hear the standard comments from people when they find out what my job entails,” You’re a special person! I really admire someone who helps people the way you do.” You would think this would be flattering and motivate me, but it means nothing. It makes me feel nothing. Nothing good, just resentment towards the person who said this because they must have a better, less stressful work experience than I do. I care about these people I am helping – I have cried about situations that I felt helpless to change. I also know that I have changed some things for the better for many people. I can also say that, if I ever leave my job I would say goodbye for good and probably wouldn’t really miss anyone. What does this mean? What does it say about me as a person? I feel such stress about going to work that I hate getting up in the morning. I used to draw and paint during my childhood and through highschool. I waited to start college for nearly 2 years but when I did go I wanted to be an art major. I never really decided on a major officially but took art classes and even went on a trip to Europe. I never finished college because I was too afraid to be away from home for that long. I never really had good friends all through school and felt insecure. I didn’t have the confidence required to accomplish anything. No romantic relationships. Ever. I started working in this field as an aide then moved into more supervisory type roles and this is where I have stayed for 18 years. I took online classes and got an associate’s degree in digital graphic design. I have a school loan now and no job in that field because I don’t feel I can take a chance and leave my better paying job to pursue a different career. I would struggle greatly. I already do some to pay for everything at $17/hr. I am 42 years old and I feel like I’m nowhere. I am alone. No spouse, which I also feel foolish about. I am scared to live what might even resemble a normal life. I have always had a weight problem, which compounds my inability to gain confidence. I can’t even keep my house clean or yard trimmed. I get by doing the bare minimum to function, laundry for work clothes, run the dishwasher, take out the trash, care for my pets. It is all tedious and tiring. I see my sister and my mom nearly every Friday. I have a nephew who is turning one soon. I see my Dad sometimes but he works a lot. I love them and want them to be happy so I don’t talk about being sad, but I believe they suspect. They don’t know the depth of it though. That I have Christmas gifts like a beautiful digital camera that I received from them last year that I haven’t even opened the packaging on and now it’s July. I just go through the motions and don’t know what else to do.

  • Lisa August 17, 2016, 4:02 am

    I can to relate to each post here. The emotional disconnect that is truly draining. Life is too short for me to be struggling this way. I have the 22 year dying marriage, my boys are leaving the nest (emotionally healthy too!), lack of that “true” friend that you think you want but know you do not want to be. Feeling tired after 10 hours of sleep and wanting to stay in bed. Frequent crying and that annoying thought of , is this it? So I am doing therapy, I am trying a medication ( now 6 months) and the world still looks the same. What an awful, life sucking place to be. I miss my motivation, smile, feeling of accomplishment and life is great attitude!!!! I want it back. Thank you for your stories as knowing I am not alone stirs something inside. One step at a time. Small steps to getting out of this dark sad place takes work and with support we can do just that. I am trying and finding this site randomly so early this morning does inspire me to not give up. I am back to school and have 5 classes left. That is the first priority then who knows? I want out of this soul sucking, life draining pool of “I am giving up” language. Thank you and positive thoughts to each one of you. Life IS worth living and I am trying to figure it out. This was a nice place to start this morning.

  • Jane August 19, 2016, 9:30 pm

    Montana life I felt unloved my mom died when I was young my dad abandoned me and the people I live with just couldn’t wait to get rid of me I don’t know why and then I got tangled up in a marriage where the man was gay then I married a second time with my husband was always mad at me it makes me feel like a useless human being I’m separated now but he’s still in my life because I need financial support I still feel worthless I’m a very nice sweet kind person people even sound funny but inside I’m absolutely miserable I pray all the time but I’m still miserable at my age I don’t know if I’m ever going to get over it

  • Zella Turner September 23, 2016, 10:51 am

    i feel everything that was said i was always happy a hard worker love being oit door fishing 4wheeling camping doing all kinds of craft and i also love running a auction page put about 2 years ago my life was changed and turned upside down im a only child and i couldnt have children my daddy passed away with lung cancer 6 months later my momma also passed away with cancer and during through this my husband has cystic fibrisos has been very sick in and out of the hospital and has died on me twice and now all the things iloved to do i dont feel like doing i barely get out of bed to go to work and i dont want to be there i dont want to do anything i cnt even rember the last time i laughed and i am around alot of unhappy people alaways complaining how bad and stressed they are but thinks my life is a breeze im at th end of my rope i won to give up and dig a hole and never come back out

  • crazycat89 November 3, 2016, 6:19 pm

    Wow, I’ve never heard it explained in quite this way. I can really relate to this article. The feelings of emptiness, and of not being good enough, hit home for me. I’m not a writer, but it has been my dream since I was a little girl. I thought I would be an accomplished author by the time I was 13. I’m now 49, and have yet to make a serious attempt at putting pen to paper and creating a world I can lose myself in, and be proud of. I’m too afraid of rejection, and of learning for certain what I already fear to be true – that I’m just not talented. I feel as if I were cheated out of the life I should have had, and it’s nobody’s fault but mine. I keep wondering how my life would be different had I possessed the courage to take a chance, and put myself out there. I’m told it’s never too late – I pray that this is true 🙁

  • S February 15, 2017, 1:32 am

    I am in a state where i just want to drop things for awhile but i cant. Im still young but i really care about my future now. Im in my 3rd yr of studying painting/ being a painter but i only got in because i just had to study college. It already felt wrong since day one. ive tried several times to go for a course ive always wanted but every time without fail something was always against it. imagine a golden ticket you have gets blown away by the wind all of sudden and you lost it. Some how same feeling. Right now im given the chance again to restart but im in doubt now if i should go for the course i want. Something is still against it in the midst of process. I dont know if i should take it as a sign that its not for me. I admit that this goal i used to have really kept me going but now i dont actually feel passinate about it.

    I also realized that i suddenly miss being a dancer and maybe at this point in my life i want to go on to this path. But
    my parents want me to finish my studies they wont probably allow me to stop. Ive grown really sad about studying and i feel like im in a loop. I tried talking to my mom and ive balled my eyes out but she still wants me to study. She actually said “sometimes its not being happy. Look at me i hate my job but it pays well. Your happiness will always be on the line” i really felt sad that she said that. I dont want to be like that.
    I just want to pause for awhile and think about which one am i taking.
    I just know i could do more things in something im passinate about.
    What would you actually do if things feel like this?

  • Sharie March 19, 2017, 9:44 am

    I think as humans everyone gets in a rut. Today is my 1 year anniversary. Me n my husband met 25 years ago. We reconnected 2014. I’m 51 I have a daughter who has her MA degree. I just got my AA n I work at a call center. I’m miserable. I went to school for counseling addicts. I’M at home didn’t go to church. I love God. I’M tired of this dark apartment. I’m making $12 per hour. I need a change. I pray God will hear my cries for change. I am normally up beat. I work out, eat pretty good, and use to volunteer at my church. I know things will get better. I plan on taking up new hobbies & hopefully the feeling of being creative will help me. It seems working to keep a roof over your head & food to eat is all I do. I’ve had thoughts of not wanting to live. Today I’m crying. My husband went to church. I’m home crying. I believe in miracles. I’M praying for everyone who seems life is meaningless. It will get better. We’re alive. God is still working behind the scenes when all looks dark & gloomy. God bless everyone.

  • Marjie March 24, 2017, 7:57 pm

    I lost my man of 10 years last January My daughter went to college the year before I moved and changed jobs this year rmto help my parents leaving my beloved friends and my baby kitty behind that I nursed to health from 3 days old. She was with my husband when he passed. Now my mother passed in January here at her funeral a lady at her church across the street handed me a prayer blanket making a remark about all the men at the house. My Fathers house! They were medical people between work n trying to help here I have barely left the house at all. I dont feel I can have people over here. My family is very conventional and unfortunately my life has not worked out that way. I call n check on everyone I am the oldest of four noone calls n checks on me. They all have children. I am devastated to top it off my daughters Father is paying for her college and has done everything he can to keep my daughter from communicating with me. Iused to be a beach loving fun loving live life to the fullest person and I am so low. I cannot belief how quickly my life has gone from kayaking and cruises to me myself and I and my workstation at home. Feels like I am starting from scratch

  • Doreen November 5, 2017, 5:02 pm

    I’ve read the posts I’ve read your discription of walking depression. My question is how long can a person stay depressed. ?? I live in sadness depression . Years!!! People around me have no idea. I hide well. But it scares me how long could I stay with this depression. How long before I sink so deep, there’s no way out. I sometimes think I really know the answer but I just can’t make the life change I need to. I feel like a coward for not. It’s terrible feeling like this. Anyway thank you for being awareness, and I appreciate it. Doreen

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