Monday, February 02, 2009

Pity Party

Yes, my friends. It's time for a recurring feature on this blog. It's the Monday morning pity party!!!!

An ex-boss from one of my first jobs (back in college) found me on Facebook and tagged me on an old picture of the store staff. I absolutely loved that job and seeing the picture brought back good memories from a time before my father died and I made a mess of my life. The picture also reminded me of a good friend and coworker whom I lost track of after college. He was quite the brain, studying Physics in college and very much into Astronomy. Well, I looked him up on the Internet and it turns out he got his PhD in Astronomy, is quite an accomplished professional, artist and even appears on TV on a weekly astronomy segment.

I read about all his accomplishments with much pride. He was an awesome person and it is amazing to see how much he has succeeded in life. Good things come to those who work hard for what they want, and it is good to see that this proved true in his case.

At the same time, after reading his profile I can't help but feel like a loser (once again). I wondered how would I tell such a person the story of what I have done the last twenty years of my life without sounding like a screwup.

Um, yeah. I dropped out of graduate school three times (including two stints in law school). I spent my twenties in a haze of depression, unhappily married, working office jobs that did not require to push myself too hard in matters academic. Even today, after having some success in the business world, I still hesitate and am uncertain about pushing for more power/responsibility. I have been divorced. I gave up on my dream of writing after publishing a few mediocre stories. I keep a blog, but it is lame and I only have a handful of readers. I can't even get hate comments. I am lazy and fat and a bad mother.

God, I am hating this midlife crisis with a passion...


  1. I hate this post. Here is a hate comment.

    Now, in a more honest comment. You are only looking at the parts of your life you hate or dislike, comparing your life to the professional accomplishments of an old friend. Midlife crisis, what about the next half Ingrid? What about being a mother, remarried and having your own home? Professional accomplishments mean nothing when one that has not yet accomplish or got what you have longs for these things. Comes a point in which one starts resenting the professional life.

    I can pity party here but then I will be kicked out for writing non-stop hahaha.

    Anyway, this is your party and do what you want to (singing) and believe me I can relate to how you feel. I have felt it, or actually do but for the opposite reasons. I would give up my career to have what you have now. Still, I know as you do, that your life could have had other outcomes and I wonder, why not pushing the limit? Why not doing it? I will push mine, maybe not to get those things I longed before but to find peace of mind which is what I settled for at this time.

    hahaha I am pitying myself too. I am going to create the pity potty group on facebook and I might pity potty often :)

    I am not in any way undermining your reasons to pity party today ... I just wanted to show you another perspective of things.


    PS. I don't have an account and was too lazy to open one at this time. I will later I think ;)

  2. But Uqui, that's just it. I do not necessarily know that my personal (non-professional) life is that much better. I am inadequate in social settings sometimes. I know tons of people, but I don't have that many close friends. I have had the wonderful opportunity of finding Gabe and rebuilding a family, I know. Other women have issues finding a life partner and having children. But as a head of family I leave a lot to be desired. My house is always an unmitigated mess, which impacts my family's ability to have a social life. I have an incredibly short fuse and I can be quite horrible and mean to the people I love the most. I let the stresses of work get in the way of my family life. I am glad I am able to telecommute as needed, because I have definite hermit tendencies. I am way too dependent on outside approval, and when I do not get it, I fall into paroxyms of despair.

    So, you see, I am not sure I have much to be proud of. My kids will hopefully turn out OK, and if they do it will be despite me, not because of me.

    Monday, February 02, 2009 10:44:00 AM

  3. Negativita, José Martí dijo: grandes desgracias son grandes escuelas...

    un beso con mucho cariño,

    tu sobrina

  4. I was thinking the other day of how badly my life has turned out compared to other people I know. I have battled depression for so long that I feel it's all I've done and it has prevented me from doing what I really wanted to. Yet it all comes down to perspective, doesn't it?

    We have raised children, worked and been productive members of society in spite of the obstacles put in our way. We have survived. I think that is a great achievement. We are both going to come out the other side better for these considerations. I just know it. There are probably people out there who look at us and think how much we've done in our lives. You just never know!

  5. I have battled depression for so long that I feel it's all I've done and it has prevented me from doing what I really wanted to.

    I have felt this too. I lost a decade of my life in a sense, and feel like I am playing catch up.

    But you are also right, it is a matter of perspective. Gabe tells me not to be so unforgiving. He says I have a good job with a good salary and benefits, we have a house and a family.

    He also says getting a graduate degree would not be the end of my obsessions, unless I change my way of thinking, because then I would complain about my grades, or the school I get into, or not making more money after the title, or any other thing. I guess he is right, and I am not sure I want to go to graduate school so badly. But I am hung up on not having had the guts to stick with it.

  6. "I wondered how would I tell such a person the story of what I have done the last twenty years of my life without sounding like a screwup."

    Oh boy do I know THAT feeling all too well.

  7. May I suggest a book that totally changed my life and the way I look at things - "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz. This allowed me to take charge of my life and reaffirm that I wasn't such a bad person after all when things had seemed their darkest. It's not for everyone and in some ways is a difficult read, but if you haven't hear of it please give it a try.

  8. I am among the "handful" of regular readers, but have never commented.

    I think the majority of people are not as judgmental as we consider them to be. Just think of yourself. How many "screwups" do you know? Do you know any screwups with two lovely children, a loving husband and responsible, decently paid job. Own homes? I don't know any and I bet neither do your friends. You are setting the bar extremely high, which is good only as long as it helps you excel. Don't let it discourage you. And besides, if anyone thinks you are a "screwup" it really says more about them, then it does about you.

    For the record I am pretty close to getting my Ph.D.

    Keep going!

  9. Thank you. Those are wise words, especially the part about high standards being there to motivate us, not to cripple us.

    I tend to forget that most people are too busy with their own lives to spend time thinking about others and judging them. I know I don't.

    Congrats on being on the cusp of getting your PhD. What is your field of study?

  10. Ingrid, I'm so sorry you're going through this. Having been through similar things in my life, I hesitate to say things like, "It'll all be okay," or, "Maybe you're just going through a rough time and it'll look better next week." Even when those things are true, they can often be difficult to believe at the time.

    When I divorced my first husband, I felt like that was just one failure too many for me. I've never been to college, I have problems that leave me unable to hold steady employment so I mostly have a history of personal projects and volunteer service, I have no kids and was looking at a medical likelihood of never having them, and then I had even failed at being a wife. I was almost 30 years old and the only thing I believed I was doing in life was sucking up oxygen a better person could be using to live. Then came the severe nuerological illness that mimiced a brain tumor and left me with the possibility of going blind. And why? For the same reason my hormones wouldn't allow me to have children and my blood sugar was a problem... because I failed at even looking after my own body and was fat.

    I'm 31 now. I didn't go blind, and my brain is doing much better. Part of that has been because I've made my health more of a priority. The scale says I've only lost twenty pounds. The scale doesn't know about the muscle I've gained. Better health has also brought changes that may allow us to have children one day. "Us" being my husband... who is so very much the man I wished I'd grow up to marry someday when I was just a little girl... and myself. I've still never gone to college, but I know a lot more than quite a few college graduates I've known because I've never stopped learning, even if I wasn't doing it in a classroom or getting a grade for it. I still am unable to hold a job that requires I go in at a certain time, clock out at a certain time, but I'm doing freelance work with the skills I have. I'm not wildly financially successful, but it's going well enough that I'm not unhappy with my work. I'm only a few steps ahead of where I was before, but my perspective changed, and that makes my life look completely different in a wonderful way.

    And I have a friend who has a doctorate in chemistry (he's an analytical chemist) who thinks I'm the coolest thing in the world because I can make my own soap. I carry on conversations with proffesors of anthropology who know I've never even been a student in a university, but they find my perspective interesting because I know my information from learning because I want to, unlike so many students (and sometimes proffessors) who learn because they have to. The truth is, no one who matters ever thought I was a failure except for me. I was the only person who thought my lack of an official list of achievements meant I hadn't done anything worthy in life. For a super-smart person, I can be a real idiot sometimes! But I'm okay with that, too, now. My flaws balance my strengths and keep me human. I'd just be creepy without them.

    Chances are, no one who matters is being as hard on you as you are. And it's sad, because you're robbing yourself of the chance to enjoy what a really cool person you actually are.

  11. Kelly, I wish I could reach out through the computer and give you a hug. You truly are awesome and inspiring. And you make your own soap! I would love to know how to do that.

    When I get these down moods I hate absolutely everything about myself. I do not know why I do that, I don't set out to do it.

    And it is really very tiring, this looking inward thing. There are so many interesting things out there, there are so many things happening that are larger than life, why can't I see beyond the tip of my nose when I get these down moods?

  12. My Ph.D. will be in finance. But I have to thank the financial crisis for sparking some real interest. Otherwise I just went through the motions, completed the coursework, applied my newly acquired statistics methodologies to any data I could get my hands on and seemed to do well, but did not feel that well.

    If you ever decide to attempt grad school again I am sure you will do well. You have a way with words I truly envy and an inquisitive, analytical mind.

  13. My dad was an economist. My education is in history. I sometimes wish I could combine both, study Economic History.

  14. I don't think such thoughts are necessarily a matter of age, or I wouldn't have started having them at 25. ;)

    I'm starting to suspect they are more of a reflection of the typical middle-class way of thinking throughout the world.

    Early on we are told, you have opportunities we could have only dreamed of at your age, make something out of them!

    At the same time there is a spoken (or an unspoken) belief that anything less than a higher academic degree would be a disappointment.

    It's kind of like calling someone a dummy all the time. Tell it to them long enough and they start to believe it.

    I still have my father telling me "you could have been anything you've wanted," in that sad, regretful little voice.

    It used to drive me crazy. I laugh now.

    Having a disabled child slowly changed all of that, because I was forced to redefine what "success" to me really means.

  15. I really hope I can get someday to the point where I can laugh at it. I am still haunted by a comment my mom made after I dropped out of law school to get into Comparative Lit. She asked what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to be a writer. She said then I'd better become the best damn writer there is.

  16. Are you an only child, Ingrid. Only if you care to share...

  17. No, actually I am the youngest of three. I was supposed to be the smartest of the three, through, so I was sent to private schools and told that it was my duty to do something important with my life.