Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."

I constantly wonder where I went wrong in my life.

I'm almost 33 years old. I'm still over $100,000 in debt due to my student loans from law school. My business has up and down months, and during the down months, I often feel scared and overwhelmed and wonder why I am doing what I'm doing.

I get by, bit by bit. But during down months, it's easy to lapse into the same mantras. "Why am I not farther along in life? Why am I struggling when my friends can support themselves and afford nice things month after month?"

I compare myself to my mother a lot. And to my best friend. They are both these exceptional women who've managed to thrive. They have Adulting down to an art form. My mother was an engineer and business professional before she retired, holding important titles like "Chief Operating Officer." My best friend is an attorney who's worked at one of the top firms in the world. Both are highly successful, having put long hours into achieving what they have. My mother would be gone for weeks at a time on business trips. My best friend works endless hours - sometimes not coming home for several days in a row due to being at the office.

I know that kind of thing comes with its own rewards - getting to see amazing places, traveling, being able to afford wonderful things. Also getting to meet incredible people - the top echelon, the fantastically successful. People who are sharp and passionate.

Even the thought of having to work that hard makes me feel exhausted, and ashamed at feeling exhausted. I feel like I should sit back here in the kid's section with my crayons and coloring books, because I'm never going to amount to anything. Because I feel like there's nothing in my life I feel passionately enough about that I'd want to work that hard on it.

Don't get me wrong. I've done the long hours. I went to law school. Not only that, but I worked throughout most of law school, at the same demanding family law firm. Anyone who's juggled school and work understands that struggle.

After law school, I worked at another law firm for a year. It was soul-crushing. At the very least, I got to have most of my weekends free when I worked there. But the weekdays were a pressure cooker of stress, uncertainty, and verbal abuse. I'd leave the office between 7 and 10pm feeling like I'd been beaten.

Working like a dog leaves you exhausted. It's really... ruff.
When I first started my law firm, I had a side business freelance writing to make ends meet. Well, it turned out to be a lot more than I expected. For 18 months, I barely had any days off - including the weekends. I took a day here and there, for my own sanity. But my clients insisted I work weekends, and holidays. For a large portion of those 18 months, I worked terrible hours, waking up at 5am so I could confer with clients I had in the UK, or staying up all night so I could finish a last-minute project by its entirely unreasonable deadline. It got to be so that was the norm for me... always working. (My best friend worked even worse hours than that, and did it for 5 years... I have no idea how she did it, I made it through 18 months and felt like death)

And for all of that, I barely made a dent. It's true - it supported me, particularly during lean times. But the payoff was so miniscule compared to the effort I was putting in, I wondered again... where did I go wrong?

I'm still recovering from that time. I still get flashes of deep anxiety and guilt. Sometimes, I think my body is even still recovering - the exhaustion still goes bone deep on some days. Some of that is my lingering depression - my entire world collapsed a couple of years ago due to events I just can't write about yet, and the aftershocks resonate to this day (my own fault - I let things linger far longer than they should have, but the consequences are real).

But... it's time to put on the big girl pants. I can't be damaged and traumatized forever. "....you may become vain and bitter." Bitterness is real. Bitterness in comparing myself with others... bitterness in unfair situations that I was ill-prepared to cope with. It's time to release it, stop moping, and move on.

I cannot be bitter forever. I'm almost 33... I have a lot of life left. Even though these experiences have made me feel much older than I am. It's time to let it go... and feel young again, while at the same time accepting my responsibilities as an honest-to-god adult. It may not always be fun, but at the very least, I can strive to have the life I want for the vast majority of the time. The rest is just details.

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