I’ve got a failure complex. I thought maybe it was my battle with depression, but I’m starting to win that war. Yet, still I feel a failure. A failure at work. A failure as a father and husband. A failure as a man. A failure at life. Failure with a big, fat capital F.
I understand feeling inadequate as a parent or even a spouse is a natural thing. I can live with that. I don’t like it, and I’ll always feel like I should be doing more, but my best will have to do. The rest of life, however, keeps me awake at night. It’s what I think of before finally falling into an often fitful sleep at night and the first thing on my mind as I prepare for another day at work.
To understand, we have to go back. Way back. Twenty years back, to be more precise. I was a dorky, unathletic senior in high school. Awkward, introverted and lacking confidence. I had one thing going for me though. I was pretty damned smart.
As it happens, my intellect is the one thing I really like about myself. I’m not bragging. I’m certainly no genius. There are scores of people intellectually superior to me, but I’m still on the high side of average. This is really where things start to fall apart.
I graduated high school near the top of my class, had one of the higher SAT scores in the state and was told the sky was the limit. Except it wasn’t. The limit turned out to be my attention span. I went to college and changed majors as often as people change the batteries in smoke detectors. From pre-vet med to elementary education to criminal justice, I just kept shifting.
I functioned at a high level. So nobody took notice of how difficult it was for me to keep on task. To be fair, I didn’t notice it myself. I found it impossible to pay attention to anything not relying heavily upon theory. STEM type classes were my nemesis, and I avoided them like the plague. In theory classes, you can get the gist of an argument and fill in the holes. STEM, however, required a person to understand the entire process.
Since I often spaced out, giant holes were left, and I struggled. I thought maybe I was just lazy, but I still couldn’t will myself to change. It wasn’t working, and so I had to adjust to a focus and major that suited me. That’s where the constant major changes came in. Now, I have a master’s degree in criminal justice and make my living as a salesman. It’s not me. I don’t like it, but this is the hole I dug for myself.
A few months ago, I finally began seeking therapy for depression. Part of that process was also seeking the help of a psychiatrist to fully diagnose my condition and to find a treatment that might help me cope. The expected result, of course, was a full on major depressive disorder diagnosis. Toss in a little generalized anxiety disorder, and you have absolutely no surprises. Seriously. Tell me something I don’t know.
“Oh, hey. By the way, do you have trouble following conversations? What about finishing things? Do you often struggle just to follow along to a television show? What about household projects? Are some of those laying around waiting for finishing touches?”
“Yeah, but what are you g….Oh. Oh Fuck.”
It was like a sledgehammer to the back of my head. As soon as the doctor began asking the questions, I knew where he was going. It was the surprise that shouldn’t have been. Attention deficit disorder (ADD). I was shocked, and then I wasn’t.
Just that fast, everything fell into place.The natural reaction, I think, would have been to be grateful there was finally something that may result in positive change. The depressive jerk in my head had other plans. Now, I lament 20 lost years. Two decades of wasted time. Somewhere around 7,300 days lost to an endless abyss.
Now, instead of just disliking my job, I have an intense hatred for it. Walking in the door becomes the epitome of wasted years. The small talk. The lack of a challenge, of a mission, of having any real impact at all. It is the symbol of my failure, like a giant billboard reminding me of 60 grand in wasted education and 20 years of spinning my wheels.
I should be happy. I should be relieved that a weight chained to my ankles for so long will soon be released. I should be able to look ahead and formulate a plan. Nope. I can only see the wreckage behind me, the shredded remains of 7,500 days and each new day only adds to the shame.
I don’t want to wallow in my failure. I don’t want to constantly look over my shoulder, ashamed at the wasted potential I’ve left behind. Yet, here I sit, hammering away at my old laptop, getting ready to post to a blog few people read and submit another piece of writing, of my art, for free to any website that will publish it.
I used to say I was just smart enough to realize I’m not quite smart enough to do anything great. Now, I’m not so sure this is true, but I’m also of the opinion it may just be too damn late.
I can sit in my chair and think my life is barely half over, and there is still plenty of time. But the great question is time for what? I’ve spent so much time dabbling in so many things that I’m left with no idea of what’s next. Like a swimmer pulled underwater who is unsure where the surface is, I just don’t know which way is up.
Oh look. A squirrel.
Image via Thinkstock.
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