The New Year prompts us to take stock, however arbitrarily. Sometimes, but not more than I can help it, I think about my career. When I was little I assumed, against all evidence, that one day I would be beautiful, just as my mother and grandmother were. Never mind that I didn't have my grandmother's symmetry of feature or the elegant, modern lines that nabbed my mother a series of high-profile 70s boyfriends. I just assumed it would happen, like it was my due. I might be ugly, I would think as a teenager, but by golly, one day I'll be a beauty. And then one day I realized that I would never be beautiful, and that I was in fact on the plain side of average. The acceptance of this fact was somehow liberating, and I've long since come to a similar realization about my professional life.
When you're young and precocious and doted upon, you assume the world will inevitably understand this, too, and you'll play some major role in the proceedings. But then adulthood strikes and, quite apart from any question of talent, one needs to be realistic about one's capabilities. I can turn a phrase and write quickly, but I've come to understand, probably since college, that I won't ever be really successful in the professional sense: I am not good enough, for starters, but I also don't have the drive to overcome that. And, worst, I'm content to be that way. I realized as soon as I took my current job that, while I could do a workmanlike job, I'd never really distinguish myself: I was too soft, and too mindful of my own psychological self-preservation to really commit to it or become a strong voice, and that was a compromise I was willing to make. I'm not really proud of it, but there you are.
I think having such trouble with depression through my 20s has changed me a lot, of course it has. I'm probably less fun, I'm certainly less funny. I could have been a better blogger, for sure, had I not collapsed in on myself in the way I did, and not incidentally opted out of professional life for a few crucial years. I mean, I used to have big ideas! I had dreams, so silly as to be kept closely-guarded: I wanted to be the "Lucky Girl" one month, and I wanted, one day, to tell a story on "This American Life."
Maybe I can, some time, do something I am proud of. If I could write one line as funny as Barbara Pym's, I'd be happy. And I'd be unsatisfied if I were not working, and working hard. But I think the real happiness in my life is probably destined to come from other things, and there's nothing wrong with that. I'd hate for my father to read this; he comes from the school of Wasted Potential Is The Greatest Tragedy. But what's "wasted," anyway? Is this all very dreary? I know it's solipsistic. I'm sorry about that, but it's something I've been wanting to get down for a little while now. And I'm happy as I do so, too.