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.