Updated: Jun 11, 2021
Have you ever had the feeling that you weren't enough? Not good enough. Not working hard enough. Not making enough efforts. Not eating enough, not drinking enough, not smiling enough. That no matter what you do, it will never be enough.
This is learned behaviour, it’s something that has been subtly hammered into your head all your life if you live in our Western world. Except perhaps if you’re a white Christian cis man whose heterosexuality was never even questioned. If that’s the case, good for you, now please be quiet and learn what it’s like to part of the majority of the population, or what you would call “minorities”.
It happens quite often lately that I feel like a failure. That I don't write enough, I don't make enough art, I don't apply to things enough. That I don't make the efforts I should be making in order to succeed in my professional life, or even in my personal life. I'm 29 with no husband, no kids, no stable job. I don't even own a place. I have nothing to my name. Hell, I barely even use my name. I failed in everything I have attempted. I failed in attempting enough things.
I should have tried harder in school, shouldn’t have left this guy or maybe that one, or should have picked a side between men and women (that’s not how it works, biphobes, get out of my blog post), I should have continued after those first 3 months of University despite the money issues and the mental health issues and my dad being sick and my not being able to focus. I should have kept the baby. I should have...
Yet I forget all the things I have managed to do.
I had a career as an assistant for 8 years. I helped many people and companies and I was good at my job. I created tools for those who would replace me to use, to make them more efficient. To make their job easier and more comfortable.
I bought an apartment at 25. I had to sell my half of it later, true, but for a while I did own a place. I tried to make it better. I tried to make it a home.
I have 173 designs up on Redbubble. Pictures I took with a phone and learned how to enhance all by myself, art I made without any formal knowledge about art. I watched and learned and failed and tried again for many years, and will never stop. And as a result I could create things that people enjoy having on a hoodie or a postcard.
I wrote stories of all kinds that resonated with a lot of people. Short stories, comics, poetry, flash fiction, in all genres, in different styles. I even founded an indie publishing house to try and help others bring their stories out to the world. It didn't work out as I wanted, but I did it nonetheless, and even though I’m no longer part of it, it’s still going.
I helped friends and strangers understand the world and themselves, I helped them get help when they needed it, I gave some of them hope and a boost in their career.
But it's never enough.
I am still failing in the most basic tasks. I have done all those things yet I still can't clean the place I am renting. I still can't make a phone call. I still can't remember to send emails or make folders full of paperwork we need to make our lives easier. I fail.
Every day I don't brush my teeth, I fail. Every walk I don't take, every message I don't send, every smile I don't fake, I fail.
I could have been great. I could have been so much more than I am. I could perhaps even have been a fully functioning person who doesn't feel the need to create a damned hashtag to warn people when I'm dissociating. I could have been anything. An archeologist, a geologist, a scientist, a singer, a dancer, a lawyer, a politician, a mother, a teacher, a success story. But I am a failure.
I don't feel any joy in the sight of fresh snow or the sound of a baby laughing. I don't feel deep sorrow for the loss of a life. I don't feel wonder at the flight of a bird or excitement at the start of a new day. I am numb and broken and my teeth hurt but I don't even feel the pain. I don’t know if I am fixable. I don't know if I want to be fixed. What's the point after all to spend that much time and effort on a failed person? We have more useful things to do.
And here we have the core of the issue. Usefulness. Who the fuck decided that I wasn't useful? Who the fuck determined the criteria of my success? Who wrote those stupid rules?
Not me. Not you. Not anyone struggling with those thoughts. The people who decided who would be useful and who would be failures didn't contribute a third of what I gave to society or individuals. They just happened to have money and power, and taught all those who had money and power what the rules should be, and all those people agreed. But we, the simple people, were never consulted. We the low income, we the disabled, we the people of a different skin color or religion or orientation than those wealthy sons and daughters of dogs, we were never asked what success could mean to us. That's why I'm a failure.
I tried to play by rules that were never made for me.
Ask any of my friends if I'm useful. Ask my mother if she's proud. Ask my partner if I am worthy. Ask those who have read my stories if their hearts have been touched by my words. Ask those who have seen my art if they have been moved. Ask them all if, by their rules, I have failed. For they are the ones who truly matter.
I don't care for wealth or power or fame if I can make one child feel seen. Money doesn't buy the relief of knowing you have someone to rely on. Power is empty if it doesn't bring hope to someone who is struggling with addiction or abuse. Fame is useless if it only brings joy to the one who is famous. What's the point of a clean house if it is filled with silence and shame? I'd rather live a messy life in a messy place with messy people and give them safety and care. Those are my rules and my standards. And by those, I have not failed.
I am not a mother but to many I am a mom or an older sister. I am not a wife but I am a good friend. I don't own a place but to some people I feel like home.
What is conventional success compared to that?
I am a failure and I don't do enough, but in my book, I have touched my dreams and that makes me a star.
Shine on, whoever you are. You don't have to play by rules that were not made for you. In my eyes you are the sun, and you bring life to a world of shadow. Shine on and fail, that doesn't define you. That doesn't lessen you. That doesn't make you, you.