Success / failure

(Long, perhaps self-indulgent post follows — I’m in that mid-life crisis time of life, where we take stock of ourselves… Feel free to skip!)

I was talking to a friend yesterday, and she mentioned that a friend of hers had decided to unfollow me on Facebook because my posts made her feel bad about how little she was accomplishing. Which I was so sorry to hear! That is never my goal with posting, and I spent a while talking to Jed last night trying to figure out if I should be doing something differently. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard something like that.

I’ve been blogging since 1995, so more than twenty years now, which is sort of surreal in and of itself. If you go back to my early blog, you’ll see a lot more emotional train-wreck kinds of posts; my love life is fairly stable at the moment, so there’s not much of that going on. Thankfully. I know how lucky I am.

I also spent almost a decade in terrible jobs before I managed to find a career track that worked for me — I used to wake up in the morning and cry for a while before hauling myself to the bus stop to go work a crappy temp secretarial job, and not too infrequently, I just didn’t go, losing the income and sometimes the job. I racked up $40K in credit card debt at one point, and my jobs and finances were pretty much an utter mess for years on end.

Aside from the cancer (bah, cancer!), I’ve been very lucky to be a physically and mentally healthy person, which makes a huge difference in one’s ability to deal with life’s hard times. We all respond differently to circumstances, though — I had a terrible time dealing with infants, and was just miserable in the kids’ early years. They honestly felt like a nightmare that wouldn’t end. Some people love babies, and are happiest snuggling with them. Not me.

Life rises and falls. I think, mostly, people are responding to the fact that right now, I’m in a very good place. Career is ticking along (though I’ve now spent a decade writing three novels that have failed, and I’m not at all sure that I’ll be able to write one that will work, which makes me feel quite panicky when I stop to think about it).

Kids are in the 5-12 age range, the sweet spot of maximal pleasure and minimal work. And thanks to a supportive partner and a supportive long-distance sweetie, I’m lucky enough to have some time and funds for indulging my cooking, gardening, home decor, craft projects. My garden looks as good as it does because I can afford to pay students to do most of the weeding, for example. Money helps a great deal.

I wish I had good advice to offer, for those who look at what my life looks like right now, and wish theirs looked a bit more like this. I think I’ve mostly been very lucky.

But I’ll leave you with one comment, I guess, that my friend made at the bar last night. She said (paraphrasing, because I don’t remember her exact words), that she thought the main difference between me and a lot of other people, is that when I want something, I tend to just try to do it, whereas she, and lots of other folks, would waste a lot of time dithering.

I think that’s probably accurate. And I could try to unpack why that is, why I don’t tend to hesitate, though I’m not sure I know. Some of it is base personality, some of it, I suspect, is cultural and class background — being raised in a comfortable economic situation with parents who trained me to work hard, but also expected that I would succeed at whatever I put my hand to.

That gives me a baseline confidence that makes it relatively easy for me to try things, and even when I fail (I flunked calculus, I failed my driving test the first time, I have messed up far more sewing projects than I’ve succeeded at, I have plants die all the time because I forget to water them, etc. and so on), it mostly doesn’t get to me. I can shake it off and either try again, or just move on to something else.

I don’t know how to transfer that skill / attitude to other people! I suspect the best I can do is try to instill it in my kids. Not quite sure how to do that either, though…

In the meantime, I guess I’ll try to spend a little more time blogging the failures. Perhaps they’ll be a good object lesson, even if they don’t provide Instagram-worthy pretty pictures.

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