Ok, soul-searching time. Writing helps me to think.
Failure: not living up to my potential
two questions: why am I so terrified of this? -and- what exactly does this mean?
I’ve been exploring a career-fulfillment website lately that talks a lot about failure and encourages thinking about it in a whole new way. One of the suggested activities is defining failure for yourself. That’s just as important as defining success. And visualizing them both, but that’s another deal. I asked myself, with just myself, what’s the REAL definition of failure for me, what i’ve been afraid of my whole life, what i’ve been terrified of, ironically, because the fear of NOT doing this (living up to my potential) is hindering me from livng up to my potential! So — why is that so scary? Is it because you’ve been blessed, and feel obligated to give back? That’s part of it, but in a horribly contorted way – it’s not like volunteering will make me feel i’m “living up to my potential -” I feel i OWE the world, and it’s a burden. My parents sacrificed for me, I was born in a country where everything’s possible, I have plenty of great education – but what will I do with all that? There are several factors going on here – guilt, yes, but also pride! I’m smart! I’m way smarter than most people. There, I said it. How do I know? because of GPA’s and class rank and results of standardized tests and because when I read other people’s work, besides the classics, I find TYPOS!!! Most people don’t even have a good grasp on grammar. Most people can’t learn languages as thoroughly and as well as I do… the list goes on. … Actually, no, that’s it, really. But those are some good proofs that I’m smarter than most, or at least smart! So why can’t I make my way in the world? It’s because I suck at working the system, and I’m humble. That might seem a bit of a non-sequester, after all that about being smart, but what I mean here is, I’m humble enough to be happy doing jobs that DONT actually require education, like cake decorating and esl teaching… well, now that I say that, cake decorating is something I do because it’s fun, I like it. It’s artistic. I wouldn’t call it a PASSION, but I do enjoy it very much. I’ve had two cake decorating jobs, in supermarkets, minimum wage. Here’s a girl who has a master’s degree and knows several languages, working at the grocery store for minimum wage. But I’m o.k. with that! But I’m not o.k. with being o.k. with that. I should be doing something STUPENDOUS… shouldn’t I? And teaching esl – no, that doesn’t technically use my education, but it does indirectly. In order to teach esl part time for full-time money the way I do, you have to live in-country, where it’s really in demand, and I probably couldn’t do that so successfully for so long if I didn’t know the language. Hmmm. So it turns out that I haven’t yet “settled” – or settled without reason – but the fear remains that I might someday in future.
P.S. – about sucking at working the system – I do. I have no “career” because I don’t know how to go about doing that. It has something to do with my unique personality, although I can’t put my finger on it. For example, people say they often find contradictions in me. I’m not glued to social media because I find it boring. I’ve realized that most people are crazy about it, but I can’t possibly care about people’s pictures of their dogs or kids, complaints or boasts. BORING! Why the hell do people find twitter and face book so fascinating????? I’ve also realized that most people have successful careers by specializing in something and pursuing it for decades. They often have a job or series of jobs in the same vein that require doing the same thing every day, all day, for years!!! I can’t fathom that! I need enjoyment, enthusiasm, change, new challenges! My husband works at a bank, been doing that for 3 years. How??? My dad worked in sales at the same job at the same company for 30 years. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?????? I would die. Or go insane.
Anyway, back to defining failure. So, there’s the burden of guilt, the sin of pride, … what else? Why is the idea of not living up to my potential so horrible? Ah, yes. Greed. I figure any respectable person of my intelligence, experience and skill should be making at least $60 grand, but I usually do jobs for half that. I want to start a family! I’m gunna need some sustenance. Actually, now that I say that, wanting to make 60,000 dollars a year is not greedy. It’s pretty standard!
What else? I also really, REALLY don’t like that idea because, it means not measuring up. Yup, competition, comparing myself to others, caring what you look like in others’ eyes. Wow, so not me. Why do I care? Truthfully, there are very few people in the world whose opinions I give any concern about whatsoever, on any level. I don’t mind asking questions in class. I don’t care if I let on to the whole auditorium that I don’t get something. That’s what class is for. I’ve also noticed that most people sit in the back at places like school and church. Why?? I can’t imagine being there and then not participating actively. You may as well stay home. Huh. I’ll never get most people. Guess I’m very different. But everyone likes to believe that, doesn’t he? Part of the reason it MIGHT actually matter to me if I fail to live up to my potential (still speaking in the future tense, so I guess I haven’t yet, as if the jury’s still out, present and past activities will be taken into consideration only at the final judgement, at which time a pass/fail verdict will be issued) is because my family on my father’s side is a bunch of big-shots. Lawyers, doctors, rich people… ouch. Kind of makes the “I’m not playing” option… not an option. I guess I’m just not strong enough to ignore what THEY think of me, my aunts and uncles, and one great uncle. Oh, well.
So, we’ve endured a thorough psychological investigation, and come up with some painfully truthful facts about my fears and motivations. What have we learned here, what conclusions can we draw? What is to be done? (A very Russian question, by the way : ) Stop feeling obligated to pay the universe back for my “privileged” life circumstances; stop caring what relatives and strangers think (friends and family are already on my side); it’s o.k., you’re not greedy; pride to some degree is a good thing – be proud of your accomplishments and believe you can achieve what you want to; Stop being afraid of not. Get over it. Don’t let it rule you. Think of “living up to my potential” in new ways, open your mind, brainstorm. Create your happiness.
More concretely, living up to my potential at this point means not settling for a minimum-wage job, or even a $35 grand one, and using my education in some way in the workplace, not letting it go to “waste.” But there’s another thing. (It’s a good thing I wrote this blog.) Can education every really be a “waste?” Doesn’t it carry intrinsic value? Plus my education was very theoretical, at every step. And I loved it! So I’ll stop sweating that, too. So far, God’s given me manageable loans and the means to make my payments every month. Thanks for that.
So, what does happiness look like? What does success look like? TBC!