Loopy, Lonely and Lost

Units of Measurement

Posted on: November 12, 2018

How do you judge a life? By what means do you measure success, meaning or fulfilment? How do we know if we’re doing it right, or if it’s passing through our fingers like grains of sand, falling useless to the floor?

Whatever unit you use, wherever you set your benchmarks, I’m not doing brilliantly. If it was anything other than my life, I’d be tearing it up and starting again. But I’m too much of a cynic to believe that reincarnation is the answer.

I am either incapable of loving  or incapable of being loved. Possibly both. When I was a child I looked around at all the adults I knew and came to the conclusion that marriage was inevitable. I saw my parents’ miserable relationship and hoped for something better. In my teens, my friends started falling in love and I pitied them. It made them so boring. As my social circle expanded I realised that marriage wouldn’t be imposed upon me. I could do nothing, and avoid it.

That was fine with me. I was going to have enough on my plate with my career. For a long time I thought I’d be a teacher. It seemed perfect for a child with surprisingly little imagination, to dream of following most of the adults I knew into a career that would keep me in the same environment I spent most of my time.

As I got older I thought maybe it wasn’t such a great idea. Interested students were one thing, but I was afraid of the idea of having to engage, inspire and discipline the ones that weren’t so easy to teach. And I’m glad now, that it never happened. Some of my favourite times in my current job are spent training and advising people, I still have the love of explaining and demonstrating. But that’s small groups of adults, and not all the time. The thought of standing in front of 30 kids and teaching them every day makes me want to run away.

Then I thought, maybe some form of academia? I had so many inspirational teachers at college who made me feel like a genius. The one who compared my essays, at the age of 17, to those of a visiting PHD student. The one who told me all about Elizabeth Anscombe, and how I reminded him of her when I challenged people’s assumptions. The one who bent over backwards to get me on gifted lists because she couldn’t believe no-one was pushing me or offering me those extra opportunities.

But academia wasn’t for me. You know I messed up at university. I still enjoy a debate sometimes but I know I don’t don’t have the intellectual rigour.

So I find myself in a job I’m pretty good at, which I never dreamed of doing. I enjoy it often, but don’t feel like I’m going anywhere. I live in fear of redundancy, in a business that loves a restructure. I receive endless praise, but little in the form of progression or pay rises in line with my performance. I deal with beaurocracy and incompetence and I try to make things work. It would all be so much easier if other people cared and were efficient. I try because I can’t not, but it doesn’t fill me with drive or ambition or satisfaction.

I always knew that whatever I did, I was going to write stories in my spare time. I knew I was a writer. I read so much, and when I had to write for school it was always so well received. I would be a novelist. It didn’t matter if I was successful, it just had to be a part of my life.

It’s so long since I wrote anything. I have a friend who’s a musician, he says he can write music easily, but struggles with lyrics because they feel too personal and he’s afraid of sharing too much of himself. He can imply feelings through music but explicitly stating them us too difficult. When he said that, I could have cried. Would have done, if not for my own problems with disclosure. I have a heart full of feeling but the thought of even alluding to something that feels real somewhere associated with my name makes me terrified. Good writing draws on real feelings, and mine are buried too deep. Drawing them out is too painful. And what else is there to write about?

Professionally and creatively unfulfilled, then, but others in that situation still have purpose. Often it’s their children. They might have little else, but they have offspring. I never could decide how I felt about procreation. I’d hide behind politics (the world is overcrowded enough) or logistics (I didn’t have a home in which to raise a child) or, with people I could trust, personal history (I’m scared of turning into my mother) to avoid thinking about what I actually wanted.

I don’t even know if I can have children. My mum struggled to conceive and already I am older than she was when I (her youngest child) was born. I feel like all I have to do is wait and the decision will make itself for me.

It’s sad though, isn’t it? I know I’m not old in the grand scheme of things, but already my life seems to be filled with closing doors. I feel a fundamental biological yearning to hold my child in my arms. I know it’s just hormones, and I don’t trust it. It’s not a sufficient reason. However nice it might be to derive some meaning in my life from a new person, it feels selfish to even want it. I know I didn’t ask to be born.

It’s all moot though, really. I can think of it all I want, mourn the loss of opportunity, but it’s not like parenthood is exactly a likely thing to happen. We’re back to the unlovable thing again. I’ve always known I’m ugly. It’s hard to not notice that you’re physically unattractive. But plenty of ugly people find love. I’m repugnant in a deeper way.

My personality scares people. Too relentlessly logical, too much cockiness mixed with too much insecurity, and an unfortunate habit of delivering insults as jokes. I’m impatient, introverted, cynical, sarcastic. I talk in hypotheticals and puns and literary or historical references, anything to avoid dull small talk or having to express my actual feelings. I’m an expert in appearing to open up but not actually sharing anything about myself. I close off with the slightest provocation. I repel people without trying, and often I try as well.

There have been opportunities – brief, infrequent, long ago. Connections that, for a time, felt like they may mean something. But I messed them up. Groucho Marx said “I don’t want to join any club that would accept me as a member”, and I can identity with that. The more you like me, the less I like you – you’re showing poor judgement. I shut you out.

I don’t even know if it’s a problem, being alone. Just because I’m noticing it, feeling the empty space around me, that doesn’t mean I don’t need or want the space. It’s just another area of my life where I don’t feel like a proper person.

I know I should be happy and grateful. My health, my family, my home. And I am, truly.

But I don’t feel like I have any impact on the world. My life means nothing, and when I die no-one will look back on my life and think about me or what I did or what I meant to them.

I will be forgotten so easily. It feels arrogant to wish I wouldn’t. I have no connections and no narrative and no influence. The futility of my life makes me sad, but it’s how I’m made – there’s no alternative.

1 Response to "Units of Measurement"

i get that. i struggle a lot with feelings of emptiness & loneliness & dissatisfaction with my life & myself. one of my biggest fears is that i’ll live to old age because i can’t imagine a lifetime of this.

always nice to know i’m not alone. glad you’re still writing.

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My name is Laura. I was once told that I have cyclothymia. This blog is mostly where I write about living as a person with extremes and instability of mood, and the history of a life that led to the development of those symptoms.

I complain a lot, I'm very repetitive, unreliable, and I tend to contradict myself.

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November 2018
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