Is The Hard Way Always Worth It?

“Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” - The Fray

“How you gonna win when you ain't right within?” - Lauryn Hill

A couple weeks back, I wrote about trying to not bankrupt myself in the present while investing for the future. Then I wrote about the trailing twelve month period where I did just that. I've tried to deal with each challenge as it requires, but stepping back, I don't think it makes sense to handle them all in isolation. The fact of the matter is I'm having a rough time. It would be fine if each setback were the only thing on my plate, but instead, everything is coming toward me at roughly the same time. I'm fighting battles on numerous fronts, and my army is limited in size. I have to learn to fight more efficiently and reduce my exposure.

I have not been able to contain these blowups and my emotions. It has been challenging this past year to compartmentalize each fight. My therapy drained resources from my ability to work and to support my wife. Work got busier and borrowed resources from my health. My poor sleep made me crave sugary food, and my overall available energy was reduced for facing all these challenges. The lines between my struggles are blurring. The struggle is real.

I often choose the hard path in facing my demons, therefore, isn't it my fault when the walls start to crumble? Couldn't I have simply chosen the easy way out instead? Shouldn't I have left some things alone at the time and dealt with each problem one at a time? If only it were that simple. It's like the cycle of poverty. You can't earn enough money, but they're threatening to shut off the electricity, but you spent too much on a car repair because you need it to get to work, but then you have an unexpected medical expense, but then you need to eat and feed other mouths. Life is a multi-dimensional optimization problem, and each dimension is interconnected with others. Counselling requires a lot of energy, so should I just stop that? Instead of engaging with my emotional problems and insecurities, couldn't I just bottle it all back up inside? I've tried before, but the valve won't close. Carrie is a huge source of strength for me, so if I have marital problems, then energy would be taken from my ability to work. Should I have sacrificed stability at home so I could keep working? Could I have handled my day job in a different way? I was going to have a new manager and a bigger workload to juggle, and being in a learning position within a rotation program, it isn't good for your career when you refuse to do the work given to you. Should I have taken the hit to my integrity and work ethic just so I could keep my job? How long before I got reprimanded or fired? Is it easier to quit a job or a marriage to get your life in order? When I look back on my year, I don't really know what I could have changed in order to optimize for maximum success.

Living on our own can be tiresome with all the chores and responsibility, so why don't I stay with the in-laws? I have done that before, for a week at a time or so. It is a nice little break, but home is where almost every single variable is tuned for your comfort, convenience, and pleasure. The Wi-Fi is faster at my place, it's quieter, and the TV is set up the way I like. Verily, there is comfort in not having to take care of yourself and letting your parents do it, but it actually becomes more stressful than helpful after a time, for no fault of my in-laws. You add in extra travel time back and forth both places, the laundry setup is slightly different, their neighbourhood doesn't have the shops I like although it does have a McDonald's nearby. With the surgery, it's better to be in my own home because there are fewer stairs between everything. Staying with the in-laws isn't really the answer to my problems.

Drinking and partying are ways of coping with emotional unrest. The plan was to drink until the pain's over, but what's worse, the pain or the hangover?

I wrote before that it felt like publishing my initial sexual abuse post last year was like rolling a rock up a hill and finally pushing it off a cliff. It did feel that way immediately after, but it depleted my energy almost entirely as I received support and messages from friends and family. I was so tired I had to take vacation from work. The few months following, I wrote every weekend. On the one hand, I limited myself to writing just once a week, but on the other hand, I had to struggle to write each week. I didn't know much about how to write or what topics to choose, but I slowly hit my stride and people started responding. Through each week, I would sometimes receive crazy comments, offensive ones, and the occasional heartbreaking one.

Why did I need to write anything at all in the first place? Why do I write every week? Many people go through this silently, and they don't have to worry about running a public blog. Couldn't I just do that too? What if I just stopped writing? To me, that would be like not taking out the trash anymore. I have a very obsessive mind, so thoughts tend to repeat themselves a lot and for a while. Getting them off my chest allows me to create room for new thoughts, just like taking out garbage bags creates room for more garbage collection. If I stopped writing, the garbage would just stink up the place. Every once in a while, it's nice to splurge and hire someone to clean your place. That's what it's like going to counselling. They have experience on getting that deep clean. Writing is like my free counselling. It keeps my mind tidy and creates room to think new thoughts. Sometimes success is simply shifting your problems. My recovery progresses faster because I write, but is it worth it?

Has it all been worth it? I don't know how I could have handled everything any other way. There were easier paths which would have given me more breathing room in the short term, but I don't see how it would have helped even in the medium term. Suppose I simply did the bare minimum at my job, but at least I would still be getting paid. I could have stopped attending counselling, recovered slower, but regained energy in the short term. How much longer could I have lasted at work if I did that? Is getting paid the be-all and end-all?

Carrie is a big reason why I made it this far. She's working full-time while in full-time school, so that created an option for me to actually quit my job. She's been carrying me since I started therapy, and her work experience in counselling and her studies have taught me a lot about what I'm going through. She tells me to not be scared of the future, that it's okay to take a break for myself. She listens to me anxiously describe my feelings of failure and the difficulty of not knowing how to heal. She gives me time to prioritize myself, even though we're both struggling.

I think it's too early to tell if this hard way has been worth it. I'm getting by, but I still don't feel great. I'm still in the middle of it. I can't look back and say that it was better to go this way than any other. I went with my gut instinct at each fork in the road, but those choices haven't paid off yet. I'm not necessarily overjoyed at being where I am or being on this particular path. That is, I haven't recovered or healed enough yet to see clearly. The pain is still quite miserable, and I still feel vulnerable to getting hurt even worse. I don't regret making the choices that led me here, but the price I paid still hurts my emotional wallet.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le