A tale of failure

Dearest Reader,

Not too long ago, I was about to turn 30 years old and took the opportunity to ask all the more mature, wiser people in my life for advice on how to manage this new decade. To my surprise, everyone simply responded: “You’re already doing all the right things. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

I found this very puzzling.

To me life continues to be a big, scary, unpredictable mess no amount of planning can prepare you for. I have countless memories of throwing myself on the bed theatrically and weeping into my teddy bear after life pooped all over my hopes and dreams.

Here’s what people don’t see – behind all the things I’m seemingly doing right, there are a lot of things I did wrong.

Let’s take work for example. Once upon a time, I was drawn to an exciting life in the media – journalism, broadcasting, public relations – you name it, I’ve tried it.

On the outside, it looked very glamorous.

But on the inside, I had to sit in disciplinary meetings and was literally shouted at for my attitude, my lack of interest, and my inability to cooperate. When they threatened to fire me, I apologised. Whenever I threatened to quit, they kept offering more and more money.

This disturbing bipolar relationship existed because both parties involved were clearly psychotic idiots. Despite my difficult attitude, my bosses didn’t want to lose me and kept throwing money at me because I was excellent at doing my job. And despite being abused on a daily basis, I didn’t want to lose my dream.

Unsurprisingly, I cried on the way to work, on the toilet at work, and on the way home from work. My career was supposed to be exciting and amazing, but I was failing every single day. I had wasted years of my life climbing this ladder, just to find a pile of crap at the top.

So what do you do when everything you worked for turns out to be the wrong thing?

You do the right thing by quitting doing the wrong thing.

My attitude, I later learned, was never problematic. But I was doing something that my attitude found problematic.

I was uncooperative and difficult to work with because I refused to bend the truth or twist a person’s words to fit an agenda. I showed a lack of interest precisely because I had no interest in increasing corporate revenue. And my loud and annoying attitude never shied away from arguing with its superior on these matters.

So me and my attitude packed our bags. While I am not particularly spiritual, I do believe we all serve a purpose. I realised this failure was simply there to tell me that what I was doing wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. All I knew was that I wanted to help people, and I wanted to make a positive change through my work. But in my cloudy mind, I couldn’t yet see how.

As I sat on the couch weeping into a box of tissues, it turned out that out of all people, it was my mother who cleared away the mental mist and reminded me.

“You’re a teacher,” she announced, patiently sipping her tea.
“Why are you so sure?,” I asked, narrowing my eyes suspiciously.
“Because I’m your mother,” she replied, matter-of-factly.
“Well! Why didn’t you tell me earlier??,” I snapped, childishly.
“Because I’m your mother, and you wouldn’t have listened. You had to find out for yourself,” she explained, surrounded by her oriental garden of wisdom.

Deep down, I always knew this. Because before I ever started working in the media, I had worked as a teacher and I absolutely loved it. But in my immaturity, I considered it too “unglamorous” to pursue as a career.

My punishment for ignoring my purpose? Years of fighting bitches and crying on the toilet. Since finally embracing my real purpose, my oh-so-difficult attitude has been sitting back, smiling, and peacefully nodding at the choices I’ve made.

So if you too find yourself doing a good old ugly cry over a missed opportunity, a broken relationship, a failing career – just know that this is simply a sign that you need a change, and deep inside you probably know what that is. Time to roll up your sleeves and do it!

I’d offer my mother’s in-your-face counselling services to get you through it, but seeing as the phrase “I’m your mother” is her only credential, it might not work for you.

How to bribe yourself into being a decent adult

Dearest Reader,

Some parents use rewards to encourage their children to behave well, get good grades and contribute around the home. 

While my parents always stressed the importance of doing well at school and being respectful, there weren’t many rewards. Unlike my fellow classmates, I didn’t get cash for every “A” I brought home, nor did I get anything for doing the chores around the house.

Rewards, it turns out, cost money in one way or another. Since there wasn’t much of that in our family, my parents chose the cheaper option – punishment. There was punishment for bad marks, bad behaviour or not doing my chores.

One could debate on the effectiveness of reward vs punishments in parenting, as one could be considered bribing and the other as emotionally damaging. But since I am unqualified to speak about children or parents, I shan’t be diving into this.

But as an adult, I have more responsibilities and chores than ever before. On top of that, there is definitely no more room for disrespect or emotional outbursts. Even in the face of great injustice, I must smile, nod and keep doing my work so I can earn money and pay the bills.

But we’re all human, and we are going to fail at some things. Maybe you’re late with a bill. Maybe you’ve been eating junk food and feeling the effects. Maybe you’ve neglected your studies. Maybe you’ve spent more money than you earned from smiling and nodding. Maybe you haven’t moved your ass off the couch for weeks.

The thing is, as an adult, you’re not going to punish yourself. I don’t envision verbally abusing myself, or slapping myself across the face, or taking away my own phone, or sending myself to stand in the corner and think about what I’ve done. Thus, your slip-ups are going to go unpunished and you’ll continue messing things up.

My big weakness is and has always been exercise. I do not enjoy it, and I tried everything from gym to swimming to classes to competitive sports – it all seems just sweaty, boring, difficult or painful.

The things I love doing – writing, reading, socialising, crafts – do not require me to lift my cheeks off the chair. And I know that exercise never ends. It’s not something you do for a while, and then you’re magically healthy for the rest of your life. You have to keep doing it until the day you die.

I have tried many things to get me to do it. I tried the gym. I tried making it an appointment in my diary, as a non-optional sort of thing. I tried buying a hoola hoop, pink weights, a floral yoga mat, a Lorna Jane bra. I tried handball, football, basketball, volleyball, swimming, dancing, running, cycling, pilates, yoga, exercise videos, and most recently, personal training. None of it works.

So I decided to try the other thing. The thing my parents didn’t do.

I decided to bribe myself.

I set my weekly exercise goal (a humble one). To get myself to stick to it, I give myself a reward. If I don’t make it, I don’t get a reward. If I keep at it for a whole month, I get a reward PLUS a bonus reward. I track my goal by colouring in little squares that represent parts of the goal.

The only limitation is that my reward must benefit my health, fitness or overall wellbeing in some sort of way. A new exercise top. Ingredients to make this crazy expensive acai bowl. A massage. A manicure.

It hasn’t been long, only two weeks so far. I’ve done two weeks before and still failed, so I’m not going to say this is the miracle cure.

But I certainly don’t recall ever being motivated by colouring in a square because it represented a step closer to getting a pamper. It somehow…works?

The moral of the story is there is nothing wrong with a little bit of bribery. If it helps you climb your personal Mount Everest, just throw money at the problem. Maybe not good parenting advice, but certainly good adulthood survival advice!


What to do when you don’t know what to do

Dearest Reader,

Regardless of where in adulthood you find yourself, chances are shit will keep crawling after you again and again, and you’ll find yourself lying in the dark, wondering: How the hell did I get here, and what the fuck do I do now?

The curveballs life throws at you come in many shapes – maybe you find you hit a dead end in your profession, and you don’t know whether this is what you really want to be doing.

Or maybe you took a good hard look at your finances and realise you need to change game plan because you’re knee-deep in debt. Or maybe you want to scratch your eyes out every time your partner walks into the room because it’s just been a rough patch.

Or maybe it’s just a good old-fashioned “I don’t know what to do with my life!” – trust me, we’ve all been there.

I’ve asked myself all these questions – should I quit this job? Should I break up? How am I going to pay for this? – and I’ve survived it to tell the tale.

So I am here to tell you exactly what you should do you don’t know what to do.

Are you ready? You better sit down for this.

You do nothing.

You don’t talk to people about it, you don’t make any decisions, you don’t google what others in a similar situation have done. You simply sit, and do nothing.

You’re not fit to do anything while you’re still crying into a tub of ice cream, and chances are you already know what do to, but you just don’t like the answer.

Once you find stillness, change the question – it’s too overwhelming to tackle the issue in its entire magnitude. If you’re trying to eat an elephant, you must cut it into bite-sized pieces.

The question you must ask is: What is the next right move?

The next right move in your professional kerfuffle might simply be to think about the sort of job and money you’d like to have, and then work backwards to see what steps you need to take. So the best thing to do today is not to quit and take another crappy job, but to ask Google more about the job you really want.

Likewise, think about the financial situation you’d like to be in, and work backwards. Maybe today, all you can do is go through your bank statements and, like me, end up asking yourself: Am I working just to keep Target in business? Why is this all over my bank statements??

If you can identify one of the culprits that got you into the mess, you have already taken a small step towards a change that will help you achieve your bigger goal.

I hope, dearest Reader, you find some comfort in this.

And if all else fails, the next right move might simply be opening a bottle of red and dealing with this shit tomorrow.