How To Get it Together when Things are Falling Apart
Image courtesy of Melissa.

How To Get it Together when Things are Falling Apart

Written by Emilie

Topics: Goals, Guest Posts

This is a guest post by Rebecca Louder.

Every now and then, I seriously consider throwing in the towel and taking a horrifying minimum-wage job involving a uniform and name tag, just to quell my overwhelming, inaccurate self-judgment of being incredibly lazy and ineffectual.

I partially blame my present bout of McJobitis on a combination of reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s The Worst Years of our Lives, a fantastically jarring collection of essays on the Reagan-Bush years, and Cracked writer John Cheese’s musings on having spent most of his life under the poverty line, not to mention having been an abused child and severely alcoholic adult. They’re really putting my first-world problems onto a whole new level of “shut the fuck up”.

But again, I only blame these partially. And it’s a small part. Because the real culprit is that old familiar demon that dream-hunters will encounter time and time again.

I am speaking, of course, of Success Stress, a.k.a. Succstress.

There are so many factors and stages to this condition, but I can pretty much sum it up for myself as – “I’m so close to this actually happening and being real, yet so far because factors beyond my control hang in the balance. What the hell do I do?”

Unlike an existential crisis or allergies, it does not happen periodically, but only when approaching the possibility of accomplishing a long-term goal which I usually set for myself in the flight of dreamy fancy. In this particular case, it is finally having a real opportunity to move to Iceland, which I have been trying to do for the past two years.

I started splitting my time between Montreal and Reykjavík in May 2009, exploring the various options for getting an extended visa or residence permit and researching the rather difficult process. I had a few false starts and failed an attempt to get into the dance program at the Iceland Academy of the Arts, which, as you can imagine, caused both stress and disappointment.

Then one month ago today, I was finally accepted to the University of Iceland to study English. It’s fantastic and exciting and I can’t wait to start studying!

But excitement can go sour and mushy like an old cucumber.

Getting into school hasn’t really made things easier. If anything, it’s greatly increased my stress levels. The visa application process is rigorous and complicated, made even more so by Canada’s striking postal workers (even though I fully support a union’s right to strike and would never dare cross a picket line).

One of the most migraine-inducing parts of the process has been the financial requirements to get the visa, upwards of $8000 Canadian dollars, which is no joke considering I declared personal bankruptcy within the past year and there is a severe short-term job shortage in my current city. Freelance writing isn’t bringing in the monies right now.

To help with the cost, I launched a crowd-funding campaign but with only seven days left now, I’m far short of my goal. It did have the unexpected result of generating a story for the Icelandic online press, but the coverage actually yielded very little support.

And it’s only getting worse…

To make matters immediately worse, while writing this post I sadly had to give up my apartment in Iceland. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say I wasn’t given much choice in the matter. And it really sucks.

I now have two weeks to find a new place to live and get the landlord to sign a housing agreement form for the department of immigration. Bureaucracy is a bitch.

Frustration doesn’t even begin to cover it!

Remember at the end of Titanic when the boat has sunk, Jack couldn’t share Rose’s piece of scrap-metal so he’s sunk and she’s starting to reconsider all that “holding on” nonsense? It’s kind of like that.

The closer I get to this goal the harder it seems to make it happen without losing my shit completely. (Or maybe losing ones shit at some point is necessary to regaining composure. I was hoping it wouldn’t be!) I am not only falling prey to resistance but to overpowering fear: what if I don’t find a place to live in time? What if my background check doesn’t arrive in time? And even if I do get all those things in time, what if they flat out refuse my application!?

And what if it does all work out, I get my visa, I go back… and everyone suddenly hates me!? I’M NAKED ON STAGE AT MY BALLET RECITAL AGAIN! AAAUGH!

It’s right around this point in my thought process that I contemplate giving it all up for the most basic, blue-collar, minimum wage, service industry job out there. You know, honest, noble, under appreciated work that allows us the privilege to live our daily lives.

But I have more potential than that. I am not above that work – no one is – and I have done it in the past with pride. I just know there are bigger things on the horizon for me. After all, another ocean liner eventually came by and gave Rose and her precious necklace a lift to NYC. I’m at least as lucky!

And I’ve come so far. Why should I let a few setbacks stop me?

It’s famously said that nothing worth doing is easy. Adversity challenges our resolve and our determination to reach our goals, but it also puts into perspective how important they are to us. The self-sabotage demon is the test of making or breaking it. It’s just like muscle pain – when it begins to hurt, power through, because you are about to get so fucking ripped. When you wake up sore, the only cure is to work out until it doesn’t hurt.

You just have to close you eyes, grit your teeth, hope this is the worst it can get and trust it will get better from here.

One has to have faith that people will be supportive and understanding. We have to trust that if we ask for help it will be given. And it’s important to be grateful for the challenges we face in order to fully appreciate success when it comes.

Because it’s closer than we think. (I think.)

– Rebecca Louder (Writer, reviewer, renegade expat, self-discoverer, dream-weaver, multipotentialite)

Your Turn

How do you handle your last minute “succstress”?

Rebecca Louder spent her childhood training for a professional career as a ballet dancer and her adolescence as a goth. She holds a certification in audio recording technology and is beginning a Bachelor’s degree in English studies at the University of Iceland in fall 2011. Her current endeavors include writing, corpse-painting, reconstruction-based sewing and choreographing. She is a contributor at The Reykjavík Grapevine, creates mix tapes, and is kindly accepting donations for her Icelandic adventure. She has a cat named Nacho.


  1. Very true Rebecca. In the end, life is going to test us. We pass through perseverance and determination. It’s up to US, to stay focused, work hard and keep going. Because no one will BELIEVE in your dream MORE than you will.

    • Very well said, Jonathan. It’s really common to look to external sources when we begin to encounter fear and doubt, and it can be very helpful in some ways, but ultimately we have to look inside ourselves to find our passion and drive. Only YOU can make it happen.

  2. Tim Webster says:

    I always wonder how many people quit at 98% and don’t even realize it. The last few steps seem like they are miles long and you’ll never make it.

    I can’t help but think that the really awesome shit in life somehow has this protective barrier around it that creates insane difficulty for those who want to achieve those goals.

    The whole world, in all likelihood, lives a few tough steps away from a badass life that their grandchildren will tell stories about. But no one realizes how close they really are.

    I always remember when I’m about to lose my mind, ‘You can always quit, so why quit now?’

    • It usually boils down to a lot of the resistance thinking that Emilie talks about so accurately in her Puttyposts – the overpowering urge to stop working hard and just stick to what’s easy and comfortable.

      And you’re right, it does happen right around 98% that the frustration reaches its apex and the “Eff this, it’s not worth it!” wins. Either that, or we begin to doubt the authenticity of the dream itself and we give up on it altogether.

      Which ultimately means we lose.

  3. Mark says:

    Succstress! Love it. I really hear your journey, though I’m sad to hear that Iceland isn’t as perfect as it resides in my imagitarium.

    One thought: the god Morpheus was (a) the god of change and (b), the god of dreams.

    I think the thing is to stay in a state of “I’m here, doing what I love”–while maintaining this sense that “I will get by, thrive, and evolve.”

    “Perseverance” is wonderful; endless “striving” is soul (&art) killing.

    • That’s beautiful, Mark! I love it. Like Tim said above that it’s around 98% that people will give up, I think it’s around this point too that it’s important to let oneself fall back in love with their dream, in a sense. Take a moment to remember what it means to you, why you are working towards it and how important it is to carry on.

      Perseverance is key.

  4. Clio says:

    Yeah Rebecca! That was an awesome read, super funny and true and I really loved all your made-up words. they should exist because they nail those feelings/situations perfectly.

    Much love my dear!
    Clio xo

  5. Annie Andre says:

    I love your persistence. It comes in handy. Some people curl up and die while others use each set back to get stronger and be more creative.

    Good luck to you.. I know how you feel…

    • Thank you so much. Persistence is everything. The first time I really ran into this and pushed through was when I was studying sound engineering. My teacher had really taken me under his wing and when he saw me beginning to slip, he came by and handed me a piece of paper with this quote on it:

      “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge

  6. But you’re there now, and how happy for you and proud of you I am overshadows how much I miss you. And my gosh, I miss you a lot.

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