Arrested Development: What to Do When You Stop Growing.

2020 has undeniably been a difficult year for everyone. Whether you’ve lost someone or been sick, whether you’ve been laid off or had to put plans on hold, had to take classes on zoom or graduate online, this pandemic’s effects have been far reaching.

In some ways, I recognize I’m lucky. I’ve kept my job and was even got paid to stay home for two months in March and April. I have health insurance and food security and a roof over my head. I have this blog. I got a kitten this year. My dad, stepmom and younger sister all had Covid and they’ve recovered. But in other ways, it feels like my life has been put permanently on hold.

Prior to the pandemic, I spent a month in the South of France every summer. I lived abroad. I was always putting together my next trip. And while it seems like a relatively petty thing to complain about – especially compared to other people’s hardships – it’s hard having nothing to look forward to. My writing conference was moved online. Bookcon was canceled. My writing group, which I attended religiously every week, hasn’t had a session since February.

After a year living at home last year to care for my sick mother, I’ve had to put off moving for yet another year. I’ve been applying for a better job for the past two years with no success. And while, last year this time, I was excited for my book, more setbacks with agents have left me feeling more discouraged than ever.

I feel stagnate in my art and in my life.

I want a reset. I want to reaffirm my vision. I want to find the strength to start over. To keep at it when the going gets tough. To make lemonade with lemons…or whatever.

I thought I’d put together some tips for myself and hopefully for you – to get over the massive hump that’s been 2020.

1. Play the Long Game.

Success takes time and it’s impossible to achieve meaningful success without failure. It’s all about how you get up and dust yourself off after falling down. Going forward, I can adjust my expectations or change my approach. Or just recognize there’ll be more bumps in the road before I reach the next exit. Life is long, there will always be more travel and more opportunities. Sometimes, it’s just about timing.

2. Learn Your Lesson.

One way to not live with regrets is to realize that everything that happens in life is a lesson. Bad relationships are a learning opportunity to reevaluate what qualities are important to you going into your next relationship. Bad work environment? Or a job that you hate? Both teach you what to look for in your next job. With writing, some agents won’t see your vision or be the right fit for your book.

3. Recognize How Far You’ve Come.

Give yourself credit for the things you have accomplished. Be empathetic towards yourself for the things you’ve already had to overcome on the road to your dreams. Re-list your accomplishments. Think of a time you prevailed when you thought you’d fail. Or stuck with something to the finish. Don’t measure your successes against others. Everyone’s path is different and no one is better than any other.

3. Reaffirm Your Vision.

What drew you to your calling/work/art in the first place? Was it as a way to express yourself without judgment? A way to escape the pressures of adult life or a lonely youth? A way to combat boredom? What did you love about it? Trying to work in a different medium in art or write “fan-fiction” instead or regular fiction. Find a way to fall back in love with your work. Or work out what’s not working and what you’ve been afraid to admit to yourself.

4. Let Go of Your Ego.

We can only receive the rewards of growth when we are strong enough to handle constructive criticism or deal with setbacks. Taking a moment to grieve is okay. But then, we must find the strength to keep going. We must detach from our ego and surrender our need to control the outcome of every moment. Forgive and let go. We are not our art or what we can produce. We have inherent value because we are a person in the world.

5. Try Something New.

Push yourself to go outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Visit a new coffee shop or museum or Instagramable pop-up shop. Try that food you’ve always been wanting to try. Cook a new dish. Dye your hair a funky color. Take up a new hobby. Doing new things makes us happy and gives us confidence in ourselves and our ability to change.

6. Get Outside.

Fresh air and sunshine can have an amazing effect on our outlook. Sometimes what seems doomed or impossible looks different in a brighter light. Walking will get those ‘happy’ endorphins flowing and looking at scenery can activate different parts of our mind.

7. Talk It Out.

Whether meeting with a career counselor or therapist or just a trusted friend or relative, talking about your problems can help you immensely. And having someone else’s perspective can help us clear up our vision of ourselves. Often we’re harder on ourselves than others and a friend or family member can remind us how wonderful and worthy we are.


Hopefully this post helps anyone who’s been feeling similarly.

What were your setbacks in 2020? What plans did you have to cancel? How did your life change? Have you felt stuck as well?

Leave me a comment and let’s chat!

Until next time,

6 thoughts on “Arrested Development: What to Do When You Stop Growing.

    1. True. Your comment makes me think of the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes.

      “What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?”

      Thank you. x

      Like

  1. Hang in there, Leigh! All bad times have to end! And granted, this one seems long and universal, but we’re still here, so that must count for something 🙂
    Good luck with your endeavors!

    Liked by 1 person

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