I feel like such a failure. I am sure I have some sort of failure complex, although I don’t even really know if that’s the right term. But sometimes, this sense of being a complete and utter failure comes over me in waves. It is something I struggle with more and more these days.
I was reading the blog of an acquaintance, describing a weekend with some friends of hers. I clicked on the links and found myself on the friends’ professional websites, I was blown away. Here were a pair of 30-somethings, much like me, with two children the same age as mine, but with a list of accomplishments that just made me want to weep. Published in this, editor of that, blah-blah-blah. The more I scrolled down, the smaller I felt.
I was born with bags of potential. My bio-father was an atomic engineer and, by all accounts, brilliant. My mother was a gifted athlete, gymnast, and a professional dancer. I was always a clever kid, precocious, a quick learner. Everyone always told me how brilliant I was, how I would be this or that, how very very clever I was. My potential was enormous, and the expectations were sky-high. I grew up believing that great things lay in store for me. I also grew up believing I was a natural at most everything and these great things would come easily to me.
But here I am, in my late 30s, living in a rented house that’s too small and in a state of perpetual disarray, with barely enough money to see us through each month even though I’m living as tight as I know how, a stay at home mum whose biggest day-to-day accomplishments are tidying the toys away and remembering to get the laundry out of the washer before it starts to stink. I look back on my working life and I see a directionless, unfulfilling string of jobs instead of career.
I am deeply deeply proud of my children and of the people they are becoming, and I give myself a lot of credit for being a big part of that. I do believe that there is nothing more important I could be doing at this point in time. But I wish I could look back and say I left a stellar career to do this. I wish I could say that I had left my career at the point of my own choosing and that I’d left it at a high point.
Most of all, I wish I hadn’t been brought up to believe I was so special, so brilliant that everything would come easily to me. I wish I’d realised how hard it was really going to be, and put my nose to the grindstone and worked for it. I wish I hadn’t had quite so much self-belief and a little more determination. I wish I hadn’t taken on everyone else’s expectations and made them my own.
It is very hard now to see where I am and compare it to where my cohorts are — what others have achieved and what I have not. I am young enough yet to change that, and I hope I do. But first, I’ve got two small babies to raise, and raise well. I will not be instilling in them a needless sense of their own potential. And I will keep my great expectations for their brilliant futures to myself.