Lost Your Motivation? Ask Why.

Ah, well, here we are. Short winter days and a lack of motivation.

How do I get it back?

Maybe a better question is why did it leave?

Last year around this time I was gung ho for eBay. I wanted to grow my store and make it to the big time. Over the year I slowly crept up towards that goal. But, it wasn’t the money—though, don’t get me wrong, that is important—it was the joy.

The freakin’ joy of it. I loved eBay. I loved hunting for free things to sell on eBay. I mean, I was on fire and I couldn’t get enough. It was honestly a bit scary at times. I was obsessed. I went out at night in pajamas with a head lamp in search of late night freebies. I dragged the kids all over town from one free pile to the next (just one more, I promise!). I yearned for higher sales and more inventory. I couldn’t wait to organize it all. To me, it was a magical world that I couldn’t believe existed. Even cleaning shoes was met with excitement. Cleaning shoes! The sultry smell of leather cleaner! I love stuffed animals, or ‘plush’ as they are referred to, particularly photographing them as their eyes looked into mine. Shipping plush was even more fun as I made my kids laugh when I wished the furry creature—aloud—”goodbye and good luck in your new home.”

It was somewhat maniacal.

I miss it.

What happened? Did I just lose interest?

Maybe not. No, it wasn’t just that. It isn’t that. My lack of motivation comes from a number of sources. I had to sit and think about it but before long, the reasons shone just like sun on a mirror. There was more than just burnout to blame. There were Reasons. The Reasons were holding me back.

Before I get too far, I want to add that I watched an interview on YouTube with Rachel Hollis. In that video she describes her personal success. She explains how ‘finding out the ‘why’ behind a problem is so important towards moving past and around a problem.

This message stuck with me. When confronted with my own inertia I idly wondered why I was feeling this way, but it actually took a bigger, unlikelier event to provoke me to follow that advice, which was, ironically, the only piece of concrete advice I knew of.

The Big Event was one that everyone else met with giddy glee: the reopening of school.

School was opening back up. There was a date this time. March 15. This was real.

A cold chill ran through me. It’s time to go back. The words sunk in like a low, dark whisper. I’m an oddball. Everyone wants this but me.

Is the truth darker? I have loved this year. This quiet year of low expectations and sleeping in and my kids at home, sometimes driving me nuts, but full of color, movement, life. Yes, there have been moments of paranoia, fear, and the contemplation of my own and my loved ones’ death. Mortality. I have been lucky up until now. I have not been touched by a real event. I am lucky also, because I’m not prone to anxiety. I am also lucky to live in a small town where I can avoid the problem almost entirely.

But, along with those negatives, there has been a relaxing of rules. Do you remember the animals coming out of hiding in the beginning as towns shut down? Inside, I felt this freedom from the bustle of ordinary life.

How far do I go with this. I hate school. I am an adult with two kids and school, to me, is something to get through. I was a teacher before my kids and I agreed by the nod of my head that we’d be better together at home. I worked part-time at the school down the street up until the Coronavirus. I didn’t miss a minute of that campus the entire year of 2020.

Not one minute.

This is not to say that I didn’t appreciate the human element inside the institutional construction and structured minutiae of the school. There is something appealing and cheery about a school. Yes, I’ll say yes to that. But, there is something forlornly industrial and cold about it as well.

My home is cheerier by far.

When that announcement came I had a decision to make. It wasn’t obvious on the surface, but there was now Choice. I’d been getting unemployment for a number of months because of my work at the school. It was fair. I was now at home teaching my kids and unwilling to leave them high and dry all day. It was and still is the right thing to do in most cases. But, that will be ending and though we opted to continue the remainder of the year virtually—at home—I could technically apply for a job at the school.

The icy claws of a job I hate, but one that has provided me with so much. The sharp teeth of payback. That sad and dismal decision.

The truth is that I should have picked another career path long ago. In 1985, there seemed to be little to choose from. I remember meeting my old roommate. We were both around 30, single, and living in a house with an older woman. I was astonished to learn that my roommate had a horticultural degree. If only I’d known there was such an option! Ah, the life I would have led. Or art. I didn’t think that was a ”marketable skill.” I would have loved to learn art. I almost jumped over to Humanities but I was on the last year of my B.A. in math. Too late. I was fed on ”available jobs.” Math teachers get hired. End of sentence. Period.

In the end I became an elementary school teacher. I like kids. Probably more accurately, I relate to their excitement over almost everything. But, as a teacher you are required to hold down the fort—be the iron fist in the velvet glove. It wasn’t me.

Guilt.

There is an element of guilt to my lack of motivation. I feel conflicted and torn between the eccentric lifestyle that suits me and the conventional career that has provided for me. Had I not been a teacher, I would never have been able to buy my home.

So, when do you let go of fear and guilt?

Logically, the answer could be when you are able to do that financially. At the same time, how do your really know where you could be financially without taking the risk?

In the end, I realized that my answer was with me and my family. It was different in 1985—I needed to prepare myself for the world. But, now my family created a push and shove. My husband, wasn’t too keen on this ”eBay” stuff. My accumulation of sales items was starting to ‘show’ around the house. My motivation was dropping as he came home and looked around the house. It got worse at one point, when he wanted to actually get rid of my things. My immediate response was dismal. I felt attacked and even worse, not encouraged. He did like the sales though and once in a while he asked me to sell things for him. My own optimism was catching. He could see me jump out of bed in the morning to check Facebook Marketplace and eBay. I told him I was high on life.

He heard me. But, it took a while for him to come around. My mood dipped during those points and that conflict between conventional and unconventional career reared up and threatened to swallow me. I wondered if I should get rid of everything and go back to teaching. I started to winnow down my own belongings like an anorexic loses weight. It felt like my joy was falling off like dead leaves.

Amazingly, the opening of the school ended up being the key, the answer, to my dilemma. My kids were staying home the rest of the year because we had chosen ‘distance learning’ when the school district had requested a choice on this back in November. As I honed in to ‘why’ of my dilemma, I drew a mental picture of how my options would look if I did go back to work. I even asked my 11-year-old daughter and she said, surprised, ”you won’t be home?” Immediately she said she wanted me at home.

Unlike me, she didn’t equivocate. It was such a relief.

It’s where I belong. It’s where I can contribute the most. It’s where I’m happy.

My motivation has slowly been coming back. I see my reasoning clearly again: working from home allows me the freedom I need to do the unpaid work that is most important. I spent most of February slowly cleaning and organizing—I understand my husband’s perspective. Really, who wants to come home to chaos? He encourages me in his own quiet way. But, in all honesty, I don’t need to please everyone on every level. It’s time for me to follow this path and see where it leads.

There’s an inkling, a hunch, that I may know what I’m doing after all.

Have a great week,

Andrea

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