I Have Just Run Into Reality And Finally Said "ouch"

I have just run head-on into reality. I just realized I have been selling myself short for the last 52 years, well, at least 45 years, since I was 7. I say 7 because that's how old I was when my parents divorced and that's the year I stopped smiling in the annual school photo. Although I got straight A's in school and was a cute kid, my parents never complimented me. I inherited a lot of talents, singing, dancing, artistic talents, writing, crafts, but since I had (have) so many talents and nobody made a big deal out of any of them, I thought that was just normal and everyone was like me. Also, we didn't have any money to develop some of these talents, like music and dance. I did have 6 months of ballet lessons when I was around 7, but then they stopped because we really couldn't afford them. I was stunned. I do have a very high IQ, 150, but went to free public schools because we couldn't afford private schools. I didn't have to try hard at all or "compete" to get good grades. And I hate competing with others. I've had many hobbies and was very good at most of them - photography, singing, sewing, knitting, art when I was little (my Dad who's an artist said I had a lot of talent), did poetry very seriously for a few years, then stopped abruptly, there were several possible reasons (starting anti-depressant medication, boyfriend who was also a poet, night classes). But I never sent any out to publications, though they were certainly publishable. I showed my photographs to a professional NYC newspaper photographer once - he said he would give me some pointers, but when he saw the pictures, he didn't have anything to say, other than that I could become a newspaper photographer too. But I never wanted to commit to any one thing, it seemed so limiting. Just taking newspaper photographs. Or just specializing in ballet photographs, as he suggested, since I love the ballet.

After I put myself through college, I just didn't have the energy to put myself through graduate school so I didn't really specialize and ended up in an office environment, which I find mind- and emotion-numbing. At 52, I am not even at Manager level although people 20 years younger than I and with 1/5th my experience are Senior Managers. I just found out someone 20 years younger than I with 2 years' experience in the profession that I have 12 years' experience in, is two pay grades above me. That was the reality check. Then I went to Linked In to start looking for another job and all these average people I worked with years ago who are 10-20 years younger than I are Managers, Senior Managers, Directors, and VPs. Why aren't I in that number? Why couldn't I be like Wallace Stevens successful in business and do art on the side?

So here I am at this very uncomfortable but real juncture in my life in which I have not become great at some particular art, I have not succeeded in the business world, although I earn a comfortable living, I don't have a family or kids, so that is not my raison d'etre, and I am face to face with the reality that I have somehow "lived below my means" metaphorically speaking. It's an appalling thought, but a wake-up call as well.

I wonder where the next chapter will lead me. I've started looking for another job where I can have more respect, and more self-respect as well, and have thought about starting a travel related business. But that doesn't seem to address the larger issue, which is who am I and what am I supposed to do in this world? My Dad said that there is no meaning to living, other than living itself. But he is an artist and does have that additional meaning in his life. I recently picked up some pastels and did a drawing that he thought was quite good, and he is a very tough critic. Then I did an oil pastel and a watercolor, both of which he also thought were good. He encouraged me to do some drawing. But I don't really feel driven to do that. I love knitting these days and am compelled to keep knitting, knitting, knitting. Maybe things are working their way through my mind while I do that. I have even thought of doing knitted pictures, and my Dad thought that was a good idea. I haven't seen any really good, seriously artistic knitted pictures. And when I see the beautiful yarns in the store, I just want to buy a bunch of them and do something with them! A woman stopped me in an art museum to compliment my sweater and when I said I made it, she said, "You have a great gift." But I just picked out beautiful yarn, and then an appropriate pattern that wasn't too hard, and knitted it. I didn't create the pattern from scratch (although I guess I could and am planning to create one for my next project).

I have also done social dancing for the past 6 years and have become quite good but I freeze up when I have to compete, for example to get into a certain level class. However I love dancing in public (non dancers, or just social dancing) and am thrilled when people come up and compliment me.

And I don't smile a lot, in general. Kids picked on me a lot in school and I think I stopped smiling a) because I wasn't too happy and b) I didn't want to give away my emotions to them, good or bad. I don't smile when I dance, so I don't have too many good photos of me dancing. But I also almost never cry. I did have a jag a couple of weeks ago over how upset I let myself get over a pushy jerk at work, and I was shocked that I did.

For so many years, life has just been survival for me, and I think I just got into survival mode and stayed there - keep my apartment, keep my job, keep my little house in the country (which I love). I feel I haven't really been living although I do plenty of fun things. I have drowned my pain and reality in wine and TV and a general numbing and that has to stop.
zabette zabette
3 Responses May 6, 2012

Woo Hoo! I'm so glad to read this update. Good for you.

Thank you, wherethesky. That's a very good point about wanting my parents' (particularly my Dad's) approval.

Since I wrote that post, I got my *** in gear, got a new job as a consultant that pays 30% more, the people are much nicer and I feel much more respected and confident.

I think you put your finger on it about needing to act like a manager and make your own decisions. Sometimes getting angry and despairing as I did in that post is a good motivation for action - you want to end the bad feelings, so you do something about them.

Hopefully that will translate into my working on my travel business.

Thank you for your support!

It struck me that you are in your 50's yet still decide if something you create is good by whether or not your parent thinks it is. You need to set aside their judgement and rely on your own. Do some activities with people who enjoy the same things as you do. You'll find your creativity and energy begins to flow.

In order to be a manager, you must act like one and make your own decisions. When you do, I'm betting you'll be promoted. I feel as though you're creating an environment that is preventing you from doing that. Good luck.