My Blog__ When I Grow Up…
I’m in my late 20s and have just started to go for my degree. I decided to major in something practical that will take me far in life: creative writing. I know there are a lot of things I could’ve chosen that may have given me more opportunities, but hey—money is like fire: it grows as it burns, right? I love my classes, the work, the experience of “bettering” myself. So, why do I still feel like such a failure?
I remember being eight years old and being so excited to grow up. I had an Aunt who I looked up to and I desperately wanted to be exactly like her. To me, being a “cool”, successful adult meant that you had your own place filled with dried flowers, antique mirrors, old bottles, and just enough groceries and cigarettes to get you through one week. I imagined myself blonde and thin, playing guitar with my musician boyfriend who wore ripped jeans and had muscular arms. I wanted to write letters on old typewriters and mail them to my friends and family in little boxes filled with treasures. I wanted to have a huge collection of shells and rocks that I gathered at the beach on weekends, pile them into my stick-shift Honda Civic and drive home to make a vegetarian dinner for myself and my cats. I assumed life would be exciting and happy as long as I had those things.
In my early 20s, I started a band and got into a relationship with a musician. We had a little house together—filled with shells, bottles, dried flowers, antique mirrors and tins. I bought an old Chevette and we had a small black cat. I was thin and bleached my hair so much that it felt like yarn. I started smoking and collecting typewriters. I wrote short stories and cooked vegan meals for us. All of this without realizing that I had become everything I had ever hoped for. It hit me one day when I received a letter from my Aunt asking me how I was doing. I wanted to say, “great! I’m exactly like you,” but I couldn’t because I didn’t feel it. I considered myself an aimless failure. So many people around me were working on their degrees, getting great jobs, going travelling, while I was pouring coffee for business people in fitted Armani’s in Gastown and playing music in a band I didn’t think was all that good. I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy when it seemed that all of my dreams had come true. Yeah, they weren’t far-reaching, world-domination-type dreams, but they were simple dreams and they were mine.
As my 20s wore on, I rejected many of these ideas because they hadn’t made me happy. I reassessed and started fresh at 25—single, with a new apartment, I got a higher-paid job and started going to University. I had goals that extended beyond mid-century furniture and well-fed cats. My life looked completely different and I believed for a minute that I could “make something” of myself, but part of me missed my modest dreams. Trying to catch up to everyone around me, while fulfilling my (and what I thought were everyone else’s) expectations was hard and it wasn’t making me happier either. No matter what I accomplished, it was never enough. I started thinking that maybe success was just some imposed idea, injected into my bloodstream via other people’s lives and the comparison-inducing effects of dirty, evil social media. So, I abandoned most of these ideas too and started trying to make myself happy no matter what it was that made it so.
Now, when I look around my classrooms, nineteen year olds fill my cataracted vision and I weave in and out of them, hoping to trip them with my cane. These kids (yeah…I’m old enough to call them kids) sit on their phones sexting their boyfriends/girlfriends looking perfectly porcelain, while I take impeccable notes and think things like “oh, my achin’ back” as I sit as close to the front as possible so I don’t have to talk to anyone about the latest Ke$ha video or how exciting it is to finally be out of high school. I’m jealous of them. I’ll admit it. How can I not be? There are so many years between us, yet we’re at the same level in so many ways (namely, educationally). It makes me feel pathetic. But should it really? Are they just there cause Mommy and Daddy expect them to be there? Are they really living their childhood dreams or are they just doing what they think they have to do? Maybe I’m better off than I think I am. Maybe people aren’t ready for school and careers at 19. I guess I just wasn’t. And so what, right? I love school for the most part now. I feel ready to be there and I appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow as a person. I know that’s an old person thing to say, but I don’t care.
By the time I get my degree, I’ll be in my 30s and that scares the shit out of me. It’s hard not to play the comparison game when I see other people’s bands doing really well, European vacation photos flooding my Instagram feed, and newly trained twenty-two-year-old professionals getting real jobs. I don’t know exactly what I should expect of myself at this point in my life. My new band is pretty good, I love my friends and family, I have an amazing, empathetic, smart, passionate (muscular-armed) musician boyfriend, I’ve dried more flowers than any person ever should and yet, it still feels like it’s not enough.
What is success, really? What does it look like? Because it’s hard for me to imagine being proud of what I’ve accomplished if it doesn’t fit into my pre-conceived idea of prosperity. So, maybe success is being able to take pride in the fact that you’re alive and have chosen to do with your life what you feel is right for you, no matter what. Maybe I just need to shut the fuck up, stop expecting so much out of life and just be happy with what I’ve got. If my eight-year-old self had envisioned the endless competition, jealousy and feelings of inadequacy she would experience, she probably would’ve just given up on dreaming. I’ll probably never get paid to go on tour or save enough money from my rad job to go to Europe, but when I die, I’ll have so many rocks, shells and dried flowers, they’ll be able to repopulate English Bay. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe success isn’t even a feeling, but just some stupid childish idea that can never be attained. Or maybe I’m just a bum, wandering aimlessly, feeling like a failure despite my successes. When I grow up, I hope to figure it out. Oh, shit. Better start now…