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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?


{ 20 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!

  • 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

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