Trying to not feel like a complete failure

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I’ve told this story in some other blogs, so if you’ve read my stuff and seen it, I apologize for the redo. After I graduated from college, a bunch of my friends and I met up in upstate New York. We were all probably 21–22 at the same, the NBA Playoffs were in full swing, and it was a cool weekend of beer pong, swimming in lakes, and general life discussion. When we got into the deeper, “What do you want out of your life” stuff — which admittedly didn’t happen a lot, but happened — most people said the basic stuff: Kids, marriage, good career, friends, family, no real health issues or death or anything. Some if it is standard issue, for sure.

We went back about 15 years — 182 months, give or take — later, and I wrote about it then. I was doing better income-wise then than I am now, and that part was semi-hopeful for me. But I was still the only one divorced, and one of two without kids, in my 37th summer. I understand that comparison is a thief of joy and I do try to maximize that approach to my life, although sometimes it’s just really, really hard.

The twin forces that I believe brought me here

Those would be:

  • Anger/sadness
  • Drinking

Those are not a good mix and recently I’ve been trying to deal with this better, although it goes up and down how effective I am. I’ve had a couple of stretches this summer and fall of not drinking at all, but I’ve had a few I am not proud of as well. Last week, for example, I drank 2–3x more than I wanted to. It made no logical sense, but I still did it.

I think the anger and sadness comes from not having a lot of close friends or relationships as a kid. I did a men’s retreat over the summer and had to make a life timeline, and one thing I realized is that I had huge pockets of time where I felt pretty alone. I was usually home alone on weekends. I just figured I was lame, didn’t fit in, etc.

I think sometimes that maybe I don’t understand relationships and how to forge trust within them. I feel like maybe I see the world in a different way, and how people should interact with others in a different way. I hate small talk and transactional stuff. I think it’s pointless. I think people should try to deeply invest in others, and I cringe about the “so busy” excuse.

But then I drink and I do stupid shit of my own regarding my friendships, so I can’t live in glass houses and throw stones on that.

My whole life sometimes feels like a quest to be heard, or for people to care about me. I feel like I’ve had a real hard time with that, from my parents right through the modern moment I’m typing this. I just don’t know if a lot of people are really interested that I’m even around, and I’m sure I have done some of that to myself. I haven’t invested properly in others. I probably drink in part because it’s a social lubricant. It eases those moments.

Honestly, I think I’m scared. I think I’ve been scared of relational failure since I was really young, and I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten over that. I’ve done OK in the face of it, but I’m just always terrified and sad about people not really liking me, or caring about me, or wanting me around.

I also don’t always make good decisions

I’m broadly terrible at this career arc shit. I’ve had some good years and made six figures, and I’ve worked for some good brands, sure. But I didn’t think smartly about the arc and progression of everything. I went and got this mostly-meaningless Org Development Masters when I was already into my 30s, which seems to confuse virtually every employer I interact with. I’m a good writer, but I don’t have any massively fancy clips (some big brands, yes).

I don’t think I ever valued the idea of a career, and now I’m about 13 months from 40 with a dwindling checking account and a dwindling savings account and frankly, the whole fucking thing is my fault.

I pipe up too much

… and most employers honestly like heads-down drones, so I’ve lost three jobs along the way because of it. In fairness, I didn’t like any of those jobs and the long-term fit probably would have been bad for overall mental health, but again, this is on me. I could probably be sitting in one of those jobs right now and at least be vaguely stable financially, which I am not currently.

Why am I writing about being a mess?

Because I think a lot of people, even if they have trappings of middle-class glory like a big salary or a pretty family or whatever, feel this way about something. And in a social era, I don’t think there’s a voice for this stuff, so I’m out here trying to talk about ways we fail and what we can do better.

So what can I do better?

I would say the big buckets are:

  • Therapy / Antidepressants and see how that goes
  • Reduce or completely stop drinking
  • Try to think through decisions more — they will never be perfect but I can be more nuanced and analytical about them
  • Look for jobs/gigs semi-consistently
  • Stop outward asking people for help, because no one seems to care or respond, and that just makes me more depressed
  • Join new groups or reach out to new people to find new relationships and friendships I can value
  • Continue to work out, etc.
  • Invest in trying to be the best version of myself that I can going forward

It’s hard to be almost 39 and feel like virtually a complete failure to this point, but that’s where I’m at. It’s time for a new chapter to begin, though. Hopefully this is the start.

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