Watching Yourself Fail

It’s a horrible thing.

The thing you think about when you’re trying to calmly drink your coffee and watch The West Wing, and you realise you’ll never, ever, be as awesome as C.J. Cregg. You’ll be lucky to be 5% as awesome in your entire life as C.J. Cregg.

The thing you think about when you’re about to pay for something in a shop, and the assistant asks you “How are you today?” and you open your mouth to reply and say “Fine, good, yes, ” but your brain is capslocking I JUST SUCK I’M SO SORRY PLEASE HELP because it’s had a little flashback to that horrible thing.

Failing.

It’s such a strange word these days, is failing. It can be epic, comedic, brave, brilliant, and pitiful. But the real failure happens in the mind of the failee, the repeat-play, the billions of interconnected, miserable strands of story that weave and knot themselves into that one awful moment where you look around you and realise that you are, right here, right now, not just not doing what you’d hoped to be doing, not just not projecting who you wanted to be, but that you are actually, inside and out, not the person you thought you were.

At worst, you don’t think you’re going to fail. You don’t do anything you know, 100%, is going to fail. And if you do, it’s so something else will succeed. No, you do things – write a book, ask someone out, pitch your dreams, get dressed in the morning – either without hope or agenda because you must, because it’s Tuesday, because you can, or you do them to get somewhere. Learn something, Be something. Move forwards.

I’ve spent ten years of my life thinking I was moving forwards in a very specific sense. I did it because I could. I did it because I was learning. It was hard. I didn’t earn any money. I did have a lot of time. Time to read and write and learn, and to earn what little I could from strange, strange side projects that came and went like the tide, leaving me washed up and exhausted, but glad to have seen the sea (metaphors are weirder in the morning, huh?).

It didn’t work out. It hasn’t worked out for years. I should’ve seen it. Should’ve called it. You can start to see those strands here, in these words. Thoughts and regrets and misery and panic, if I’d done this back in 2007, if I knew what I know now, if I’d tried harder with this, taken that trip, gone for that job…it’s all in there.

It’s taken about nine months (as so many things do) to kick out of that amassed failure. To take steps to move, to try again, to go, as it happens, home, and as that happens, to my childhood home, which is not the cute east wing of our sprawling Surrey mansion, no, it’s my crammed, dusty, 5ft 8″ square old room, and I’m 5ft 8.5″ so, yeah, and yes, I’m an only child so I have ~issues and entitlement and massive, massive privilege in a certain sense, because hell, it’s just me, and my parents are amazing, wonderful people. But, a hideous situation because it just doesn’t work. My parents are old, they’re settled for the first time in their lives, they’re pretty happy, which they weren’t when I was growing up. I am actively spoiling everything they worked for, everything they’ve struggled for. I never wanted to be this…selfish. It’s why I left home at 18, it’s why I didn’t come back any of the times things were at their worst, it’s why I wake up every morning swimming in my own failure, and it’s why there’s a huge clock ticking in my brain every moment I’m here, get. out. get. on. keep. moving. it’s pretty tiring.

I was supposed to be great. Not objectively. Probably at something. I have attributes. I have odd attributes, sure, but there are things I am brilliant at. They’re strange things. Planning. Strategising. Criticising. Advising. I can be wicked enthusiastic, driven, dedicated. I can see things, fix things, think not just outside the box, but outside the whole sodding system. I can’t sell myself though, much as this paragraph might look like I’m trying to.

I had a job interview last week. I used to be so damn good at job interviews. I loved interviews. I got every job I applied for, for years, whether I wanted it or not, whether I should’ve got it or not. I was just so sure that I would be worthwhile. I could convince anyone to take a chance on me.

So last week I sat there and tried to answer standard questions and all I could see whilst I was doing it was a murky flood of misery and anger and missed years and missed opportunities and I was not prepared, not at all, for all those feelings. I watched myself fail to get a job I’m not, tbh, sure I ought to have had, because I couldn’t do what I used to be so good at doing, pulling myself together and being honest and explaining why I could do things and being right about that. I started out that interview thinking of myself as well-dressed and bright and full of possibility, like someone who was in control of themselves and was going somewhere, was taking the right steps…and I finished up with a bright smile and a handshake on the outside, as my insides dived into a bucket of woe.

I look at the last ten years and I can brightside it wonderfully, I can, I’ve been incredibly fortunate in so many ways and I am grateful, I am, but I don’t compare. It’s not that I envy my friends’ careers (although I do, from time to time, whilst acknowledging that I could never accomplish them myself), but that I have so much mess going on here, I don’t know how to explain it, I don’t know how to…get rid of it so that I can get on. I don’t know who or what I turned into, but it is not the girl I wanted to be. So I tried to take the leap. I jumped off a high thing, and I’m in mid-air, trying to straighten everything out at once, trying to find/make money so I can try to find/make space to find/make myself.

The failing keeps repeating around my brain, kicking my heart and pulling on my nerves, stamping on my chest and whispering in the middle of nothing, are you really this stupid? I am.

I did a lot of things for a long time for the right reasons, and I have come out of that time in one piece, yes, just about, but I left something behind and I need it back.

I am here, at home, trying again not because it is my only option, but because it is everything, everything I want. I am trying to make Plan A work, from nothing. I started with Plan C, went onto Plan B, and they were all pretty grim in the long run so here I am, going for Plan A, following my heart, doing all I can to bend this tiny corner of the universe into the shape I really, desperately want it to be. I have lived more of my life for other people than I can even convey or admit to almost anyone, and for the last month I have been working incredibly hard on the inside to live some of it back for myself.

This was supposed to be a vague blog, more non-disclosure, something that didn’t look so very, very typical and grim, and yes, I’m still vague on the important details, the things that make me into a whole story and not a miserable statistic because I have to be, because they’re not my details, but they are the explanation. I don’t look good from the outside.

The failure, though, the flashbacks and circularity of falling feelings, the web of missing parts and the way I never went for the things I needed, that doesn’t look good from the inside, either.

On the plus side, I can’t give up. It’s all too far in, now, and what I want, what I could have, with the confluence of just a couple of other things, with just a few more hours, days, weeks of trying, writing, working, being better, trying harder, digging up all the dirt inside myself and throwing it behind me, it’s too good. I know what my prize looks like. As much as the failure is pawing all around me, the carrot of dreams (yep, yep) is shiny and bright and just there, right there, so close.

So here’s hoping that in the next interview, the next transaction with another human, the next chance I get to move forwards, I am better prepared to be myself. It is much, much more pleasant to watch yourself succeed.

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2 thoughts on “Watching Yourself Fail

  1. Hello.

    Just got round to reading this (I’d bookmarked it).

    Firstly, you are completely not a failure, I hugely admire the way that you work out what’s right for you at the time and go for it, and work for it.

    But, also. Yes. This. Exactly. The constant worry of ‘is this what I want my life to be?’, coupled with ‘but really, what do I want my life to be?’. Everything in my life feels so much more by accident than design. Is this good or bad? I lean towards bad, but don’t know what I want to design my life to be.

    The constant fear of sending emails, of talking to people, sometimes of even being in the same place as people. The wonder of ‘I’m sure they don’t like me, but why? How can I fix it?’.

    And now I have no idea why I wrote this, and what it’s achieved. But I’m not going to delete it, because expressing it seems to be the important thing. And this week we’re being brave tigers.

    • It is time to start expressing all this stupid, repetitive, infuriating stuff. All the weird thoughts and fears and panics. It’s just…time, because we’ve lived with them for long enough.

      It helps a bit to know that other people have the same thing, although sometimes it makes me feel less special 😉 But the main thing is that it helps to see what’s next. Like, yes, I had this fear, but then I did this thing, and here’s the result of it. I find that incredibly helpful. So I sort of hope that, in talking about where I’ve got to, and, hopefully, being as honest as I can be about my tipping point and my choices and what I’m up to, I also get to write my own ‘what’s next’ things. Preferably sooner rather than later.

      Let’s keep being brave tigers. It’s nice to feel proud of my stupid self for a change, because I continued to be it, but did things I never imagined I’d get around to, certainly not this quickly. And I did them all whilst still being afraid and stupid and panicky and working about fifteen times harder than I ought to have had to keeping my panics on the inside and not asking people even half as many times as I wanted to if I was doing okay (I think I asked about five people about twice each.)

      It’s good to comment on things with feelings. I resolve to do it more. Talking is great.

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