Am I Failing at Life?

You’re not trying hard enough. You make stupid decisions. You take too many risks. That’s the voice in my head sometimes. Okay, a lot.

Life would be easy if I had moderate expectations of myself. I worked for years to become a professor, and now I’m an associate department chair. My own parents did everything they could to dissuade me from majoring in English. My friends and relatives mocked me for going into a PhD program. Now, I make just as much money as my dad did at my age. The problem? That salary doesn’t quite go far enough when you have student loans. I’m trying to solve this problem.

People envy me. And yet here I am, pissed off that I’m only getting 200-400 hits on my blog every day, with occasional spikes of 500. I just paid $300 in taxes. It’s the first time in my life I’ve never received a refund. I’m in a different tax bracket now. It seems unfair. I have some money saved up. It’s hardly enough to make a down payment on a house. Barely enough to raise a child. I’m not even sure I want kids. My spouse does. So I’m sorta stuck here.

I’m insane, right? This week, I turned down invitations to grade GRE tests for $400 and an invitation to grade another standardized test for about $1200. I’ve been doing that for years. I’m sick of it. I would literally rather jab pencils into my thighs than grade GRE exams for the fourth fucking year in a row. I’m done with that kind of work. I’ve got too much else to focus on. If I didn’t care about my blog, my tweeps, my department, then I would take these jobs. But I do. I’d rather keep writing on the side than these grading gigs.

The most miserable time in my life? For about six months, I tutored online for about 14 hours a week on top of grad school and fiction writing. It was nice to get that check every month, but I knew I was sacrificing too much for it. My sleep, my peace of mind. So I gave up. It seemed reckless at the time. But, hey, I actually wound up in a far better position. Now, I’m at another turning point. Even if I’m not quite where I want to be in life, maybe I shouldn’t take the safe route. I’ve never taken the safe route, now that I think about it.

My 1st grade teacher once told me that I would wind up as a cracked out waitress in a back alley. Why? Because I didn’t listen and follow directions.

I’ve always been terrible at listening and following directions. Through the end of grade school, it was the one box in my report card that always had an NI–Needs Improvement. That was the death nail of kids when I was growing up.

One time, I managed to get all Es–Excellent–on my report card. And yet, I managed to fuck it up. My parents were ecstatic when I brought home those grades. They planned a pizza party. Feeling my oats, I enjoyed a wild afternoon with my friends. We trashed the garage. My friends broke a couple of things. Some of my dad’s tools disappeared. We destroyed my mom’s flowers.

So, a happy afternoon turned into an hour of lectures about responsibility. Instead of Pizza Hut and movies, we ate fried ham in silence. And they made me work ahead in my English textbook as punishment. I went to bed alone and depressed. But whatever. In the end, what did it matter? I didn’t get the pizza party, but I did enjoy a kickass afternoon with my friends doing whatever the fuck I wanted. The lesson here? I actually did celebrate. In my own way.

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Am I Failing at Life?

  1. braddahr

    Being fed any kind pig parts is a terrible punishment!
    Sounds like you have a struggle going on between meeting others expectations/gaining their approval and the natural and necessary need for unconditional love and belonging.

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  2. mazikeenblog

    Turns out that what makes you content (I think the word happy is a bit overused) and what you have constructed in your mind will make you happy can be two very different things. After 7 years in the military (family pressure), I used the GI Bill to do what I thought I wanted to do – go to college and study history-which I did (family had a fit). I discovered, however, that making a living with such an interest meant going for the PhD and there is nothing like dealing with a PhD program with the faculty and the politics and the fragile egos of other PhD candidates to suck any love one might have for the discipline itself right out of one’s brain. Then you get the degree and, in my case, the reward was 5 years of adjunct hell where one gets less professional respect than a farm hand who just crossed the border. Then-the miracle! You get a full-time teaching position, where you believe the love of your discipline can finally flower. And while one can point to specific individuals who have been inspired by the love you so desperately want to share, you also discover that it is true – academia is different than the real world – its worse. Fierce battles over nothing much; colleagues whose sense of entitlement would put a Austrian Graf to shame; and an institutional system that makes the Soviet Union look like a Prussian military camp. Overtime, it gets you down, mostly because you believed you achieved your life goals and you should be content. But you are not, and you get very pissed about it over time. I allowed my unhappiness to sink me to incredible depths of depraved excess until I finally figured out at least a small part of the puzzle-true, you have to pay the bills-but, honestly, if you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. And if you want to focus on Twitter, your Blog, or whatever else pleases you, do that. Finally, as the father of 5 kids, if you are not sure about having children, do not allow yourself to be pushed. I love my children dearly, but they will continue to put unwanted demands on my life until the day I die. That’s the part of the deal of parenthood no one mentions. Goodness, I didn’t mean to write so much but I do enjoy your Blog and you sounded a bit down. I guess to answer your original question: “Am I failing at life?”, I would remind you that you had no chance to study for a test you did not know was coming.

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    1. That Wilder Girl Post author

      What a great comment! I think you described academia perfectly. And I can already relate to unwanted demands. I think one kid will happen. I’m going to have to adjust to increasing demands from work and family. Right now I find myself longing for my early 20s, even though I was poor and had no respect. 😜

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  3. 18pcgrey

    My comments are only going to be some borrowed words..some recognisable and perhaps not so recognizable quotes
    “Life is inherently meaningless. And the only meaning of life, is the one that you choose for yourself.” …and as far as others are concenred “Love all, Trust a few, (but) do harm to none”… and for yourself a bit of Robert Frost…”Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…..,..and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference”
    But again…”If you do not know where you want to go, any road will get you there”…and yet don’t despair because “Not all those who wander, are necessarily lost” 🙂
    Cheers

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  4. steve dockeray

    you are funny smart well educated sexy , ponder where you are — as Styx said
    They show you photographs of how your life should be
    But they’re just someone else’s fantasy
    So if you think your life is complete confusion
    Because you never win the game
    Just remember that it’s a Grand illusion
    And deep inside we’re all the same.
    We’re all the same…

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