how will I know?
Question for my lovely readers: how did you figure out what you wanted to be when you grew up?
I find myself, yet again, in a gloomy puddle about my career. I don’t know what I want to DO with my life. I’m not really sure I ever did. I had some vague notions in secondary school about teaching and journalism, but I never had my sights set on anything specific.
So off I went to college with my vague notions, and proceeded to be quite shit at it. I’m smart enough, but without the constant feedback of teachers invested in my results (and, embarrassingly, the praise for being a good student) I found myself not really caring. The only person I had to do well for was myself… and I didn’t value my own approval highly enough to make the effort.
So I did terribly in my coursework but quite well in my exams, repeated a few times and eventually had a complete meltdown in the run-up to my finals where I stayed in bed for a couple of months trying to pretend it wasn’t actually happening. My then-boyfriend (that poor bloke) could clearly see something was wrong and made an appointment with the counsellor for me. The minute I got onto campus I had a panic attack and had to be physically dragged to his office where I couldn’t speak for crying.
I was persuaded by him and the student advisors to sit my finals anyway and give them by best shot, despite having missed months of coursework and not having a balls notion about most of the subjects. I passed one course but failed the other.
As luck would have it, I had a job offer for after college anyhow. Of course by “luck” I mean I could avoid the whole failed-my-degree thing and just go and do the job instead, which suited me and my denial perfectly thankyouverymuch. After coming clean to my parents about my depression and my exams, they moved me home for a couple of months to have a break. And then I started my job.
And after that job, I was offered another job. And after *that* job, I got another job. People continued to employ me to write, which astounded me. I felt like a fraud for the most part, having people pay me to do something that comes as naturally to me as speech, if not more naturally. But of course, the recession struck (bam!) and that was the end of the writing jobs for me.
I’m a good writer, yes, but a passionate one. My writing comes from my heart, not my head; and so I have trouble motivating myself to write about things that don’t capture my interest and fuel my soul. Sounds awfully romantic, I know, but in reality translates to “makes a shit journalist”. (Not to mention a shit blogger.)
Almost two years and a string of jobs I was (excuse my ego) vastly overskilled for later, I am… lost. I don’t like what I’m doing. I don’t know if I can go back to writing after such a long break. And I’m fucked if I know what else I’d like to do instead.
Along with this lost feeling comes a whole heap of shame, guilt and self-flagellation. There are thousands upon thousands of people who would have killed for the opportunity to attend university and wouldn’t have fucked it up like I did. There are thousands more who’d have had the tenacity to make themselves invaluable enough to hang onto a job during the recession – I count my bevy of extremely talented journalist and writer friends amongst these. And still there are hundreds who’d give anything to have the job I have right now.
But instead, here I sit, unsatisfied, unmotivated, unhappy. Uninspired. And all because I can’t decide what I want to do. I think about this time ten years ago, when I was waiting for my Leaving Cert results. I was pretty much guaranteed to get my course, having exceeded the points I needed in my mocks and every other school exam I’d taken. I was confident in myself and my abilities. It never even crossed my mind that ten years later, I’d be looking back and pining for that self-confident schoolgirl and those easy schooldays.
Of course, it wasn’t all gold stars back then. I remember one teacher giving me a spate of B/As (“but that’s not a real grade, Miss!”) on a series of essays… something wasn’t *quite* there, she would say, and do her best to help me improve. My best friend (who, of course, always got her A) would laugh at my frustration but spur me on to do better next time. It used to infuriate me, not reaching that elusive A. It wounded me that there was something I was doing wrong, but couldn’t seem to fix.
I think in some ways, I might still be searching for that A, everywhere in my life. I want to be top of the class, always. The best girlfriend, the best daughter, the best friend, the best employee. And when I can’t, I blame myself, even though it’s not my fault, or it’s something that can’t be changed. And because it can’t be changed, because I CAN’T even with the best will in the world, reach that A, I feel crap about myself. I’ve never liked doing things I’m not good at. And it’s this need for perfection – not even a need, a basic requirement – that has me feeling so utterly lost. I’m not good enough at anything, or so my head tells me. If I was just brilliant at ONE thing, I’d do that thing, and I’d love it. I know this is not true for everyone, if anyone. But neither do I know how to shake the conviction that unless I’m doing something perfectly, I’m doing it badly.
Typically now, I can’t even remember what my final Leaving Cert grade was in that class. One thing has stuck with me though. The teacher, my favourite to this day, was talking to us about what we thought our careers would be. We all told her our plans, and she told us – the most interesting people I know are those who are in their mid-forties and are still trying to decide what they want to be when they grow up.
So at least if I’m not successful, I still have a crack at being interesting.
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