Monday, 21 February 2011

Not quite where I thought I'd be: Revisited

I wrote this post back at the beginning of November last year and was surprised by the number of comments it generated. It appeared that I wasn’t alone in feeling like I was losing the race of life. And I have tried oh so very hard to practice what I preached in that post, desperately repeating to myself “You are happy, you are happy”, in a bid to stop myself from throwing myself in front of the next wedding car that crosses my path.

I think the problem is my ridiculous levels of competitiveness. Who knows where it came from but I was born with an unfortunate desire to WIN. This led to many a board of snakes and ladders being thrown across the room when I hit just one snake too many and countless hours standing in the corner because of the tantrums I invariably threw when people didn’t let me win. This inbuilt rocket ship has come in handy at times – you wouldn’t have recognised me on a hockey/netball/rounders pitch at school (but not running remember?). And the only reason that I got decent results at GCSE and A-level and got into university was because I thrived under the intensely competitive atmosphere that private schooling seems to produce (we were regularly told that we had to try and beat last year’s grade performance and that we were in competition with one another. A tactic which worked well for some but most definitely had a destructive edge to it.).

When you consider this quite frankly bizarre behaviour then it’s no wonder I’m feeling the burn as everyone around me buys houses, move in with boyfriends, get good jobs, have amazing life experiences, get married, have children. I am losing the ultimate game. That of life. I think of how incredibly rageful I can get over a quiet game of Monopoly, of course I’m throwing a fit about the way my life is turning out – this is just my ugly competitive edge coming out.

This is what happens when we feel the need to conform. I can sit here and repeat “I am happy” until I’m blue in the face but the awful fact is that we still judge a person’s success in life by whether they;

1. Own a house
2. Have a decent job
3. Are married (children optional)

Anyone outside of this we might admire, but we admire them because they stand out and you can admire someone all you like but it doesn’t mean you want to be like them. I’m happy to conform to be honest, box me up and ship me out with the rest of the clones – instead I feel like a square peg in a round hole.

I can’t even say I have any great life experiences to fall back on – look at The Curious Cat. I love that girl you know. She’s gone and done some travelling and experienced wonderful things. The furthest I’ve gone is to the other side of Hull unaccompanied (clearly I’m exaggerating but you have to allow me that at this moment in time I’m afraid). If marriage and houses and job that I love never happen to me then at least I could have had the option of saying “Ah yes, but this one time when I was trekking up the Andes something rather marvellous happened...”. Nope. Not for me.

I repeat “I am happy” and I do believe it deep down inside. But the mantra only works if I don’t think about the things that I want and don’t have – then I become unhappy. And I’m pretty sure the mantra “I am happy, apart from the fact that I suck at life” isn’t one you should be repeating 20 times a day in the mirror. I guess that’s the thing about inner peace – it isn’t just bestowed upon you, you have to really put the effort in. I have to really really believe that I’m happy for me to be happy and although I’m pleased with my efforts so far, I have to be honest and say that I’m failing.

I was doing a pretty good job until 2011 dawned. In 2011 I will be attending five hen dos and two weddings (if that ratio seems a bit off it’s because one wedding is in Israel, one is in Thailand and one is in Italy. I love my friends but unfortunately friendship can’t buy plane tickets or book hotel rooms). In the face of all of the joy and happiness of other people, I am struggling to keep hold of my own.

One of the first of my group of friends here in Hull got married at the end of November last year. I have been roundly mocked for my total inability to keep my emotions in check at her wedding. It’s no wonder people found it funny, I’m not known for my overly emotional side, I’m the one making inappropriate jokes and laughing in the face of mush, yet here I was completely unable to stop the tears from streaming down my face. I had no idea at the time what was the cause of it and put it down to my extreme happiness for her. She has just announced that she’s pregnant with their first child. The tears came again.

But I have to be honest. I don’t think I was crying because I was happy for her. I think I was crying for myself and the fact that life as I knew it, with my group of friends, was about to irreversibly change (married people, you may not know it but you do change when you get married, who knows why, but that gold/platinum band seems to make the world of difference. Protest all you want, I’m telling you the truth) and I feel like I’m getting left behind, watching everybody climb up the ladders whilst my throw of the dice never seems to come up with the right number.

This is a disgustingly unpleasant and selfish side of me that I feel ashamed to reveal to you but I say it in the spirit of honesty. Standing and watching people get what I would like in life is hard and deep down I know that it’s not a race and I know it’s not a competition but it’s easy to say that when you’re winning said game.

I’m sure everything will all work out, some people aren’t as lucky as others, and for whatever reason I have not been chosen to win this game as quickly as others. It could be that I’m the unlucky person who never gets to go up the ladders, but instead rolls and rolls the dice and avoids the snakes and gets there in the end.

So I carry on repeating to myself “I am happy” and try not to worry about the milestones that I’m not (and may never) reach and eventually I am sure I will find my inner peace.

But you might just have to bear with me for a while.


  1. I do understand what you mean about comparing every else's happiness with your own. But over the last several years I have wailed about not getting married etc and have been to so many weddings. But I have also had to pick up the pieces when the divorces happened. Getting married doesn't mean you become happy, it just means there is more paperwork when it goes wrong. It isn't an automatic seal that life is good.

    Just remember that in a few years time those friends may look at you in envy that you are not trapped in a loveless marriage with young children to worry about. Lives always seem better when you are looking at them from the outside.

    I know it is really hard to not compare yourself to others and the "life goals" they have achieved, why don't you try working out what you have achieved that they would be jealous of - will that help your competitive streak???

  2. Not nonsense, but I don't have a magic answer either. On some criteria, I'm very lucky - I'm another of those weddings this year (so, so many), and yet, on others, it just hasn't happened yet. All I can suggest is plodding along and putting the work in the right direction - I'm hoping it will pay off in the end. (wow, such a cheery first comment! sorry! how about competitive misery?)

  3. Be my friend. I never ever judge people's worth/success in life by whether they own their own house, have a good job or are married. I'm not just saying that to sound all holier than thou, I just don't see those things as particularly important.

    Home ownership is increasingly not going to be an option for single people and I don't get the big woop about being married or coupled up. Having a ring on your finger and a couple of kids often creates more unhappiness that we might think.

    As for the job thing, what do you class as good? Is it that it's well paid or that you're happy doing it? I love my job - I won't ever earn much doing it but that's fine by me. Anyone that wants to judge me for my lifestyle choices and decisions can fuck off. Either accept me or don't.

  4. Thanks for such an honest post. I think everyone goes through a stage where all their friends seem to be getting married and then having children. However, neither are a guarantee of happiness. Your friends' lives are probably not as perfect as they seem from the outside.

    I'm older than you (37) and although I'm not married, I've got what could be regarded as a 'good' job (pay is rubbish, but it's a professional post) and I own mmy own home. I can tell you that I don't feel happier or more successful than I did before I had either of those things. I thought buying a property would finally make me feel like a grown up. It doesn't.

    I'm very competitive too and, like you, I feel I'm failing in the race of life (and I'm further along than you as well). As I get older, though, I'm learning that the only success that matters is feeling contented in yourself. I'm working on that.

  5. When you're a competetive person you're never winning. Sometimes you win, briefly, but then you just move the goal posts a little further along and you're back in the race again.

    I've got some stuff in life (well, tonnes of good stuff in my life actually) and though I appreciate it (and fear losing it) constantly I'm never thinking ***I WIN!!!!***

    And, after all, you've now got the one thing that everyone in the word judges as winning. You're thin!

  6. Firstly - big hugs from me to you.

    You sound exactly like me back in November/December last year. I had got to the point where I was fed up of smiling and putting on a brave face and thinking that everyone was having a better time in life than I was. My self esteem and confidence had gone to rock bottom and I thought I was a failure. I gave up wanting to do the things I enjoyed like cooking and crafting and that was partly the reason why I stopped blogging.

    Admitting to family and friends how I had really felt was a turning point. Once I'd admitted how I was feeling they could help and support me and their love and friendship has been invaluable.

    With the help of counselling and medication I have started to turn my life around by forcing myself to think more positively. I am on the road to changing career and whereas before I was stressing that I didn't own a house, I've decided that it is better to have a comfortable cosy home than own the bricks and mortar of something that is horrible.

    You sound like you are a very headstrong girl and I know you will get there in the end and be happier for it.

    If you ever need to email chat, you know where I am. x

  7. Yep yep yep, the grass is always greener bla bla bla isn't it?!I know how you feel, I'm always comparing myself to other people (as per my post about Boyfriend's sister), friends etc. But at the end of the day, it's your life, not anyone else's, and that's what you have. Either do something to make it better, or just enjoy what you have! We live in such a materialistic society, but it's not all about how much money you have in the bank, or how many bathrooms there are in your house. Travelling to a poor country like Cambodia has reminded me how lucky we are to live where we do. Look at you, you're an attractive educated young woman, you're independent and driven, you've got a support system around you (family and friends) - that in itself is much more than so many people on this planet. If you're going to compare yourself to others, put it in the grand scheme of things and think of people as a whole, all over the world. Maybe not what you want to think about right now, but really, it's not all so bad. There'll always be people better off with better jobs, supposedly better lives etc, but who gives a shit!! I'm saying this for you as much as for me too, it's something I feel too, but anyway, I'm babbling now.

  8. How do you measure success? What do you want?
    I was like you when I was in my early 20's. I had been going out with my boyfriend for 5 years, we even had bought a house (but not moved into it). I more or less pushed him into gettting married - only to divorce after 7 years of a bad marriage. However Ive lived to tell the tale and am happy now. Start by being kind to yourself and taking small steps to achieve what you want. Easier said than done, but a new job might be tyhe push - and perhaps a new town! (but I know thats a big step! ) xxxx

  9. Sorry to hear how you have been feeling. I was very moved by your original post, and the comments (such lovely people in Blogland!) Does it help to hear 'we feel the same' from so many quarters? Its a little depressing that we're all in a similar boat, I had no idea that the 20s were going to be such a difficult time for so many... no make that MOST of the people I know! Its never spoken about, and you look forward to it in your teens, as a time when we get our lives started *positively*. It really isn't how people would have you believe! (I'll be warning my children). In the midst of the gloomy thoughts and downright sadness, its a tiny bit reassuring to know that we're not alone...
    Thinking of you! x

    PS, hard for you to believe sometimes, I suppose, but I'm gonna echo some of the other ladies: you really did the right thing starting again, in the pursuit of the kind of happiness you deserved. Keep doing what you do- we're all gonna be FINE.

  10. I make cake and dance around a bit.

    Sometimes it helps.

  11. I can't really comment, I have nothing constructive to say because I feel pretty wretched myself at the moment.

    There's a quote I like to think of in times of crisis: "Everything will be OK in the end. If it's not OK, then it's not yet the end".

    (But in my low moments I think knowing my luck I'll be one of those people who die alone and are discovered three weeks later half eaten by her cats).


  12. Oh hun, I totally feel your pain - even though you are very sweet to you use me as an example of something positive - despite travelling etc I still feel just the same as you!!

    I am trying to reconcile these feelings by simply looking at it as a rite of passage or a time of transition and remembering it is not a race. It is the mid 20's crisis. It is larger anxieties but it is sort of on the same level of early teenage years when everyone has snogged someone except you. I remember feeling wretched every time a PTA disco came and went and some other girl I knew had a snog and I hadn't. In the end I fabricated a situation and ended up snogging this god awful boy in the cinema that I really didn't fancy just to get it over with.

    I really should have waited a couple of months more for my first snog to be with the cute guy I then dated who I actually liked! I think people still make the same mistakes in their 30's and get married to the wrong guy - which is a much bigger mistake than a snog!!!

    Anyway...just know that lots of people do feel like they are in the same boat but often older people say 'I wish I hadn't worried so much about it and just relaxed and enjoyed it.' and I think we need to try and remember this and have a little faith and the whole living in the moment is my sort of way of dealing with it...

    ...that said I am freaking about my 3 best friends all having mortgages and one of them speculating about babies...and they are all 2-3 years younger than me as I went to uni late. My school friends are even further along! Oh well...I think we'll all get there eventually...all in good time. Just need to be patient and optimistic!

    But if you feel you need to chat about this more -tis the topic of the moment so get in touch or blog and I'll be there with thoughts and opinions etc!

    PS I hope you do sort the job situation out eventually, earn some more money and take yourself off on a good holiday adventure!!! It will happen for you - I know it will! And you will have certainly deserved it and will know that when it comes round. xxx

  13. Oh no my lovely - marriage isn't everything!! Loads of my "friends" from school have been married and I know at least 2 have broken up already. I couldn't care less if I never get married and have kids. You probably have loads of things in your life that your friends envy you for... honestly! I don't think anyone is ever 100% happy, no matter what they say. It's a hard one, but just try and live your own life the best you can without worrying about keeping up with the Jones'... xx

  14. Everyone's already said it all so I'll just add some (((((((hugs))))))) and a big old hand squeeze xx

  15. Yeah, I get that. Which you may laugh at seeing as I co-own a house with my lovely life partner man person and have a career that I enjoy, but I always thought that at 30 I'd have kids and a couple of dogs and be a lot more capable generally, rather than being reduced to tears when, yet again, stupid health problems mean I have to choose between a social life or a functional house.

    And even though Tim and I agreed long ago that we're not getting married, there's still part of me that's a little bit jealous when yet another friend gets married or engaged (3 weddings, 2 hen nights and 3 further engagements with no set date yet so far this year) because they at least get that one day of celebrating where they are in life and how happy they are.

    We're hard to please aren't we, us humans?

  16. I'm only just catching up on posts so I'm probably a bit late with a comment here, but anyway...

    I felt exactly the same in my late 20s. I was single, renting, trying out one 'career' and then another and basically getting nowhere. So I started again from scratch, did another course, completely unexpectedly met a man who I'm still with (and as you know, just popped the first sprog - in my 40s) and whilst I wouldn't say life's a breeze, it's definitely better than when I was having 20s angst.

    The problem is you never know what's going to happen in the future so it's difficult to put a positive spin on things sometimes, and difficult to believe people when they say it will get better. But it will!And I'm sure you'll get there a lot quicker than I did. PS Still renting by the way...


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