Life’s disappointments (Part 2)

I wrote the first part of this post back in March 2014. Thought it was about time I finished it off!

My career has been an endless succession of ultimately unsatisfying jobs

In the late 1980s, I left a series of bank jobs and temporary employment, and got myself university edumacated at the ripe old age of 26, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts. I wanted more from life than just temping and working in banks and bought into the hype believed that a university education would help me embark on a fulfilling and productive Career (note the capital “c”). I finished my Arts degree, and as soon as I graduated, with my trusty parchment in hand, I…

…landed a temp job in banking.

(Right back where I started.)

I only stayed in that temp banking job for a few months (and I never ever ventured back into banking when I left) and subsequently spent the next 20 years floating around in the education space (in my early 30s, I went back to uni to do a Graduate Diploma in Education because I realised that an Arts degree rendered me practically unemployable), with some minor(ish) dabbling in marketing communications (in my mid 40s, I went back to uni to do a Master of Arts in Communication Management because I mistakenly thought I would end up with a Career in communications).

Let me make this clear: I have never had trouble finding work, but I have perpetually struggled staying in jobs. You know that person who has been in the same job, or the same organisation, for years, decades, even? Well, that’s not me, although I wish it were. I wish that I could have been satisfied, content even, with the working environments in which I find myself, instead of the dissatisfaction and discontent that is the dominant theme of my employment history. If I had to pinpoint from whence this discontent and dissatisfaction stems – and which has increased with age rather than diminished – I would say that the idea of working – and all that that entails – is certainly attractive. It’s just that reality has never ever lived up to the theory.

If I had my time again, I would concentrate on writing. And building a career in writing, possibly as a journalist, but more likely as a screenwriter, a novelist, an essayist, a playwright, a poet. My disposition is certainly suited to it: curious, insightful, analytic, slightly introverted, good with and at words. Writing, or thinking about writing, leaves me happy and fulfilled and obsessed and wondering where the time went. I am disappointed that it has taken me this long to realise how important and essential and integral writing is to me and my spirit.

I have never really had a best friend or group of friends I can truly, absolutely rely on

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have people in my life, some of whom have been with me since my teens and twenties off and on, and I am certainly not lonely. Work and groups like MeetUp ensure that I have an active social life, and I participate in the activities and events and goings on of my choosing. I “catch up” with people regularly, all though there are only a few whose company I actively solicit. These few are people I feel are my intellectual, spiritual and emotional equal, people who “get” me and I them, and who energise and inspire me, rather than drain my battery. I could have many more people – friends – around me, but I choose not to.

This approach to friendship is totally my fault, but it’s learned.

I learned from an early age – thanks to my mother and her particular brand of programming – that relationships come with obligations. If someone does something for you, then generally speaking, they will want something in return. Quid pro quo. No one does something for nothing. There is always a price to pay, and sometimes – most of the time – the price is inflated. I learned therefore, because I didn’t like to be obligated and all that that meant, or have anyone feel they are obligated to me and all that that meant, to be self-reliant. I don’t want to feel tied to anyone. I don’t want anyone to feel tied to me. I don’t want to owe anyone anything. And I don’t want anyone to owe me. I want to be free to come and go as I please, unencumbered. That doesn’t fit with what I’ve experienced people’s view of friendship is: constrained, obligated, transactional, routine.

But more than the lesson of obligation I received as a child, I learned that people – friends – are ultimately unreliable. Often they will promise something, and won’t come through. Often they say will do something, and they don’t. Or they’ll forget about something that’s important to me. Or not show up. That’s ok, because I get that people have a lot going on in their own lives, and their world doesn’t – and shouldn’t – revolve around me. It’s just that (for my own mental health and well-being), I don’t need unreliable, flaky people in my life. I have my family for that. And I don’t even have them.

I admit that all this must be confusing and possibly disappointing for people who seek my friendship, and wonder why I don’t reciprocate, or only reciprocate up to a certain point.

I will never have the unconditional love, approval and support of my immediate family

At about the same time as I broke up with the lovely, delicious Penola farmer I was dating when I was 17, I moved out of the family home. After a particularly vicious fight with my mother, I realised that I would never be able to win with her. Or win her over. And by winning, I mean her loving me as I saw other mothers loving their daughters.

And from the age of 17 until well into my 30s – after I had my own daughter at 29 – I struggled with this: how can a mother choose to not love their daughter? Actually the word struggle implies a physical tousle, which is not really what happened. This is because the people I fought with did not know I was railing against their paradigm. I was involved in active rebellion, then rejection. That’s not to diminish the physical tousles I did have with my mother before I moved out, it’s just yet the mental conditioning has had a longer lasting and more profound effect on me and the way I have lived my life.

I knew from an early age that something was wrong with my family, and more pertinently, that my mother didn’t relate to me like other mothers did with their children (there’s that “other mother” thing raising its ugly head again). For the longest time, I thought I was adopted until I had an epiphany about adopted children being chosen – and therefore wanted – by their adoptive parents. I had to face the facts that my mother – the person who carried me for nine months and gave birth to me – wavered between ambivalence and loathing. This was mainly due to who my father was. She managed to excise him out of her life, but unfortunately, could not do the same for his children. If physical withdrawal wasn’t possible, emotional withdrawal certainly was.

Couple this with the knowledge that my half-sister shared my mother’s ambivalence towards me and you have the recipe for me trying, and ultimately failing, to win the love and approval of my mother and half-sibling. After many disappointments – which culminated in the realisation that the dysfunction I experienced was their dysfunction, not mine – I more or less gave up bothering in my mid-thirties, and now have a non-existent relationship with most of my immediate family, other than one sister. I experienced much angst getting to that point, but once I did, I found myself in a much better place, although the damage echoes and ricochets around my life to this day.

Last word

I have started writing my memoir as a semi-autobiographical novel over on my creative writing blog. I would love you to stop by and have a read if you are so inclined. I’m also pleased to report that I’m about to my Career as a Writer with the publication of Love & Other Stuff. I’m on track for my release date of February, 2015.

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