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17 years at N/A.

This may just be it, you know. My turning point. The bit in my personal movie where I suffer a blow that motivates me to face down my personal demons. One of those is a tendency to wallow in perceived failure. It encourages me to hide my pain from others, and then lashes me with it when I’m alone. So let me speak the truth and shame the devil, however small and slight this event may appear in the grand scheme of things.

Last Saturday night my husband showed me a notification from a networking site inviting him to congratulate me on ‘17 years at N/A’. I laughed with him and a friend at the time but inside I was curling up, mortified. I realised I had never completed my profile properly, planning to return to it ‘later’, that magical time beyond the horizon. And now the whole world, okay, the handful of contacts in my network, know I have been at N/A for the last 17 years, whatever that means. It got to me because for most of those years I have been in that other place beyond the so-called real world, known as full-time parenting, where strange creatures live in lands strewn with all manner of quests, trials and adventures. Some parents, like me, are fully immersed in this other world and emerge only occasionally to engage with this dimension (which I’ll call working-world, for the sake of simplicity if not accuracy, for work is abundant in that other world too). As my children grow more independent, I am beginning to travel between dimensions more often, but this computer-generated reminder that there was no category for me in working-world made me feel like someone had pulled my skirt up in the playground and then run away.

I heard the usual song from my internal bully about being a failure and having no trophies to show the good folks of working-world with the addition of a new verse about this now being public and how embarrassing and everyone’s laughing at me now… (think Morrissey). I cried along to that later, thinking of my amazing accomplished peers and how poorly I compared. I hadn’t heard the song of failure for a while, though like anything you learn well enough, you never forget the words. It felt like coming home, because this is where I lived for years even before having children. Before I was even old enough to have a chance to try, let alone fail at anything. That thought alone sat me up in the dark.

In the movies this would be the moment of searing revelation just before the montage showing repetitions of sweaty workouts or study or physio or pirouettes as the main character transforms from zero to hero. This song of negativity took me backwards. It reminded me of the past. It didn’t relate to my life now. This was an epiphany because I realised I’ve already been doing this sweaty working out/study/physio thing – though no pirouettes, if I’m honest – in the strange land I mentioned earlier, learning all manner of resilience, resourcefulness and stamina as I facilitate childhood in glorious technicolour and four times over. Who knows what use I’ll put it to, or what I’ll end up doing in working-world, but I know that with God’s help I’m more than equal to it.

For I know the plans I have for you, Says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29 v 11

Time for a new song. And a profile update. 😉

7 thoughts on “17 years at N/A.

  1. Thanks one of my accomplished peers! I was amazed by your comment, and moved by the Brene Brown talk. Thanks for leading me to it. I wonder how many people feel like this but never admit to it. I think I can only do it now because I don’t see any other way to be authentic. Blessings to you too!

  2. There’s another talk too, on shame, which is equally good. I think a lot of educational techniques – in the school and the home, unfortunately – involving shaming. So we grow up with it automatically: fear of failure, fear of not being XYZ enough, etc. etc. When the reality is that, as she says, we just ARE enough. Whatever anyone else thinks. The correct sense of self worth – Romans 12.3 – comes from what God thinks about us and then from what we think about ourselves. Not from what others may or may not think about us.

  3. You may or may not know (can’t remember if I ever told you?) that I was twice interviewed for a position as lecturer at the higher education institution we both used to frequent 🙂
    I have a recurring dream in which I’m due to go to an interview there but am late, try like mad to get there but am confronted with an endless series of obstacles and in the end finally manage it, but too late: the job has already been given to someone else. We all struggle with the fear of failure somehow, in some way, at whatever level.
    Anyway, here’s the link to the other talk, which says it all far better than I can:

  4. Just watched this one too. She’s good, isn’t she. Funny you should mention education and parenting, because that’s where my thoughts went watching this…I know I have some work to do (or undo) here at home. Thank God, as you say, that our sense of worth is rooted in what He says about us, not even what we say about ourselves as that can change with circumstances, blood sugar, weather, etc…. I was hesitant about posting this but in fact your comments and these ted talks confirm the sense of relief I had after I did. As for dreams, don’t get me started…!

  5. Thanks for posting; I appreciate it. I’ve decided that living vulnerably – authentically? – is the only way that’s worth living. “It was a frigging spiritual awakening”, etc. Better hold on tight then, I guess!
    Take care, andih94; and God bless

  6. Pingback: Sorry? That’s it? | Due South

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