Why Isn’t Anyone Disappointed in Me?

Lately I’ve been thinking about all the support and encouragement given to me by friends and family over the course of my life. My family never held me to their own preconceived notions of success and supported me when I wanted to be an actor, when I quit URI 1 year short of a degree, when I moved to CA, when I moved back to RI, when I went back to school at RIC, then at UMD, then left the program after my Master’s instead of staying for the Ph.D., when I quit two subsequent graduate programs, and even when I had the crazy notion to go out to New Mexico and be a writer even though I had no clear plan of action or income.

At no point did anyone say to me “are you really sure you aren’t taking the easy way out and selling yourself short and we are kind of disappointed that you haven’t taken responsibility for finishing much of what you have set out to do and you are capable of much more if you just put your nose to the grindstone and submitted to the path you’ve chosen instead of going down every other footpath that you come across.” Nobody said these things because I have a facility with persuasive arguments and can be very good at convincing myself and those around me that a) I know what I’m doing and b) that my actions are rationally considered and will bring me happiness. Since my friends and family want me to be happy, whenever I make a life decision and bring up reasons x, y, and z demonstrating how this particular action will make me happy and move me forward to something like contentment, they think I’m being brave and making choices based on my own personal rubric for fulfillment; that I’m moving to the beat of my own drum and living life by my own rules and such a life is to be admired and supported.

Of course, I’m within inches of turning 40,1, I’m working at a temp job that uses about 5% of my brain but that I stay at because they keep extending my job assignment, and it’s comfortable in a soul-deadening way, and with the economy the way it is I feel too afraid to let the job go, and it’s only 5 miles from my apartment. The problem isn’t this job per se, but the fact that I have consistently narrowed my options in life rather than expand them.

And, quite honestly, I am disappointed with where I am compared to where I would like to be. The actuality of my personal, professional, and artistic lives simply does not match my potential. So, yes, I do think people ought to be disappointed in me, at least in some ways. I’m not asking for a mental or emotional flogging. I don’t think my failings make me an awful person or someone deserving of punishment, but at the same time, I think a small dose of disappointment and frustration might not be such a bad thing for me to hear from those whose opinions matter to me. While the onus of my life lies entirely upon myself and my choices, having someone else express disappointment when my decisions are counter to future success and stability might allow me to voice my own reservations and would at least validate some of my own feelings about my life.

Just a thought.

On this day..

  1. ok, so a year and inches []

7 thoughts on “Why Isn’t Anyone Disappointed in Me?

  1. On the other hand my dear LtL, some of us live vicariously through your stubborn determination to live the aesthetic life of a struggling artist. Some of us have tremendous respect for people like you who are willing to eschew the easy life, material rewards, and what we are told is “security” to travel another path. I personally don’t agree with all of your decisions and choices, but I have incredible respect for what I see as dogged determination to realize your dreams. Take the sci-fi article, sure they may have rejected the first draft, but at least you did it…no one can say you didn’t follow through with writing the story. What about my book? What about my article? I’ve done fuckall, but you’ve sent in the manuscript.

    Should you quit your temp job and seek out a “real” 9 to 5? Maybe. There is definitely something nice about bringing home a living wage and having a little left over to buy nice things and go to nice places. But it also definitely restricts your time to be creative. And how many people really find that job that they are so passionate about that they love what they are doing and wake up in the morning dying to get to work to get started?

    It is always easier to dispense advice than to live by it. I would love to quit my job and make a living as a freelance writer, living wherever in the world I want, as long as I have access to the internet for research and deadlines, but I have a job…and it’s hard to give it up as you make more and more money and get more and more responsibility. I envy you for not giving in to what is expected by our culture and continuing to pursue your dreams.

    Anyway, I’m working on very limited sleep (the launch scrubbed, so we were up 1/2 the night), so forgive me if this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    Now, get back to the grindstone and write something!!

  2. Dear LTL, I am in much of the same mind as the other comment. I do not believe that you have taken an easy road, I know that sometimes your life is hard, but I respect your trying different roads, rejecting what is not working at the time, yet keeping a roof over your head, you have an independence that is not easy to see in this day and age. Thoreau would be proud of you. Keep working, keep writing, keep believing that your friends and family want the best for you, and that might be in your searching as well as your finding the answers.Yes, you have talents that may not yet be fulfilled, look at all the great men who started living their dreams well past 39!

  3. Peter, (Hi there, we met last night at the Narrows) I too have a resume of not fulfilling my potential, as was foretold to me in grade school! Ha, ha. Were my gifts socialized out of me? Perhaps. Does it matter now? Probably not. Through out my entire life, my path has been with many many a corner and a turn that others would not have taken. A patchwork of educational institutions and a jobs. Little did anyone ever justify me and that I had “reasons” (my diagnosis: reactionary & sensitive to family dysfunction), but I was always the one with the problem. Was I brave enough to pursue all of the scenarios I have imagined? Or was I scared to death of finding happiness and dissolving my familys’ image of me?

    After I went to grad. school in Cambridge(for clinical psychology) I was unfulfilled because it was shamelessly easy (never attributed this to my intelligence or skill level) and I moved to California to enter a spiritual psych. program. After one month, my disillusionment with talk therapy, took me to Florida to study yet again. What revealed itself to be almost cultish and after much sacrifice, I returned to Newport with no more, or less, than what I left with a year earlier! I have spent the last year consciously practicing self-acceptance after my intense 3 years of self-imposed wandering, just around grad. school. What now? After reclaiming my misplaced self-acceptance, I have a perspective that is more gentle and I am no longer looking for how I am short on skills, intelligence and ability. It’s been tough for me to put down the bat that I have been beating myself up with. The same bat that my family used against me, albeit unconsciously. I am tired and I never “deserved” any of this so: “why me?” I have delved into the role of karmic patterns in relationships which also reflect the state of the relationship we have to ourselves. This insight has helped me understand that thing inside that keeps me from my self and my delivering my own happiness.

    I think that it is wonderful that your family has given you the peace that they have in not beating on you about your path. Maybe I had it good when others were “doing” it for/to me. Only until I realized that I had carried-on the family tradition was I able to consciously stop! Maybe you are in this with yourself and it is up to only you to determine the answer. You are being provided with little resistance to push against, whereas atleast I had a “tormentor” to battle. Good luck in finding an internal balance. This is a gift that only you can give to yourself. Your family, it seems, has given all that they can and they seem to trust you to find your truth. Your truth is whatever YOU decide that it is and then for you sustain that.

    It surprises me when I realize how much energy I expend by twisting and turning my path, when I also possess the ability for it to be easier! Take care, Meghan

  4. Thanks to you all for your thoughts – I did want to clarify that these reflections have less to do with my relationship to typical cultural expectations or norms and more to do with my relationship to myself: to my capabilities and desires and to my own potential. I think Meghan picked up on one of the key issues at hand when she mentioned “resistance.” Perhaps I’m not looking for people to be disappointed, but to provide a bit more resistance.

    Ok, had more to say, but there is a little mouse running around my room so I need to go try to figure out how I’m going to catch it!

  5. Perhaps there is a bit of selective memory going on as well? I know you have a “facility with persuasive arguments”, but I am pretty sure that when you told me about NM, I voiced some objections about city size, location, etc. Not to dissuade you, but perhaps to just bring up some caveats. As for actually being disappointed, I think that most people figure it is your life and if you want to do what you are doing, then go for it. I know the job is disappointing, but it seems that you have been doing other things that you enjoy. Theater, learning C++, writing, etc. Lack of disappointment from others may be an issue, but I think that only your own feelings can motivate you. At least that has been my experience.

    • I absolutely think you are correct that I sometimes don’t really hear other people arguments after I’ve convinced myself of the rightness of something (which is probably a rather common failing among us humans).

      I think what I was, rather clumsily, going for in this post was a sense that I have had a history of choosing temporary freedom (from the constraints of a grad program, a city, a job, etc.) over the long term freedoms that can come from sticking with something and seeing it through – whether that is being an office manager or a grad student/academic. Because my emotional schema seems at odds with everyone being so proud of my choices, I experience a weird kind of disassociation that I’m still, obviously, struggling to find a way to express.

  6. Peter, You are so right when you talk about the freedoms that are allowed when sticking with something rather than not. Yes, this has been also my lesson. Such truth! Hope you found that mouse and set it free. Maybe then you could do the same for your own self (whatever that looks like, it is available and just within reach!)

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