Friday, September 22, 2006


Striving for mediocrity...

[And Blog posts are not meant to be this long!]

I always felt that I probaby fell into the category of 'smarter than the average bear'. No genius, but a reasonably intelligent person; and the expectations of my family, and myself I guess, was that I would end up making something of my life. Tertiary education, then a job. (Noone bothered to suggest I consider a job that would work well, 20 years down the track, if I had a family, and I doubt I would have thought it was cool to even think about it.)

I did pretty well, academically, all through school, and ended up in the top 10% of the state in the HSC (which is the NSW end of secondary school examination- the traditional 'be all and end all' of one's education.) All of that through the public school system. My parents had not had the opportunity to finish school, so here it was for me, all on a plate. It was the pre-HECs era too, where you weren't investing quite so much of the rest of your life (financially) on a course.

Mind you, I did the HSC without taking any scientific subjects, so perhaps my result was a soft one, and I wasn't as good as I looked on paper!

That was 25 years ago, and I think my little rising star burnt out, right there, at the end of 1979. Well, it's not snuffed out completely, but it's been putting along on candlelight ever since.

Everything I have done since has been mediocre, and I struggle with the expectation that I should be achieving more spectacularly in, at least, one area of my life.

I was good at foreign languages, but a year as an exchange student in Indonesia actually dampened my enthusiasm for working in interpreting (or anything Asian!).

I could have studied up and taught languages in school, but I was too proud to stoop to trying to teach languages to kids who didn't want to learn, or who were too stupid to pick it up.

I thought I enjoyed recreation leadership (after working on the Sport & Rec vacation camps), and I changed tertiary institutions in order to study a Assoc. Diploma in Recreation leadership. My parents had other ideas for their supposedly smart daughter (and as they were putting me through my studies I guess they had a right) and I was 'encouraged' to move to the BA course in Social Science.

I was still doing a sub-major in Rec, but my 'major' was welfare. So I found myself supposedly qualified to do welfare/community development when my passion wasn't really there.

My first job was a mickey mouse type of job, in the youth department of a major charity that wasn't actually doing coalface youthwork. It sort of combined the recreation and community development - but barely. When I finally got out of there and into a youth development position, I increasingly found myself out of my depth, and way too uncool to be a youth worker. As I had been told at college "You're so straight, it sticks out a mile."

Fortunately, although dipping my toes into the peer pressured social world of the college student, I never really got 'wet'. When I met Marc a year after I finished college, I gloriously threw myself into the world of outdoor pursuits, challenging myself physically with canoe marathons, and abseiling down cliffs and through canyons, and rafting down rivers.

My niche was as a follower, though, and I never had the self-confidence to take any of those skills to a higher level.

Destined to be a 2IC, I guess. Our weekends and holidays became so precious, I lost any interest in working in the recreation industry, which would require you to work in your recreation time. And if your recreation became work, would it still be recreation?

Perhaps that was pretty dumb of me. Wouldn't most people give their eye tooth to be doing something for work that they loved?

To us, the intrinsic enjoyment out of all this stuff we did was to undertake these activities with friends, and like-minded people, for our own recreation. People who you didn't have to take full responsibility for. At times 'invited' companions on some expeditions invited other friends, and we ended up taking on the anxiety of worrying about them, particularly if they weren't prepared well for it.

That feeling was probably a bit arrogant, because Marc in fact took me under his wing, and took me from being a complete novice to someone who gradually became more competent, and less of a liability.

But whatever...

We got married, and because of the move that involved, I left my job in community development and swore I needed to look for something else. Why I didn't retrain there and then I am not sure (but back then Marc wasn't earning much.) I picked up a series of jobs - receptionist in a doctor's surgery; receptionist in a radio station 'satellite office', and sales assistant in a tile shop!

I went back into a community (youth) development job, but was saved from admitting my inadequacies in that field by falling pregnant with our first child, and I never returned from maternity leave.

13 years later, I still don't know what to do with myself.

Marc works away a lot now, so I don't want or need the stress of trying to combine work with children, even though they are all at school. He earns enough to keep us (plus we are financially secure due to family loans, and making money on the house we owner built in the first few years of our marriage.)

But I feel like a failure, because my brain tells me I should be doing something worthwhile. Something worthy of my brain! Something worthy of the HSC mark I got, and the four years in tertiary study!

It's not like we are desperate, so that it would be worth it to pick up any old job. Working, say, on a checkout, is not the stimulation I am looking for in my life, or the contribution I feel like I should be making to the world.

But what?! Everything I do is mediocre (or worse!)

I'm a crap housekeeper - although I suppose you could say I excel at avoidance.
I am not even a good cleaner when I do it! I don't approach it logically, and I miss bits!

I enjoy writing, but as you can see, I am very verbose and wordy.

I like doing 'stuff' on the computer, but I don't excel at any of it. I have enough of an understanding of how it all works to put me in the 'competent user' range, but not skilled enough to be able to turn any of it into a money earner.

I am an adequate cook, but I'm rather over it all.

I can sew a bit, but I am not a natural, and it's another thing I put off doing anyway.

I am a teeny bit creative, but nothing to write home about. My only achievement in that area is to have seen that gene passed on to my kids and to see it somehow blossom within them.

I enjoy being active and fit, and doing crazy stuff like Big Bike Rides, but I don't make it easy for myself. If I was serious I'd be 10kg lighter, and out there working on my fitness and skills.

My list could go on and on... I suppose I am wallowing, and am only writing this in the vain hope that some idea will germinate from putting it down in black and white. (Or maybe someone in cyberspace will read it, smack me across the head (figuratively), and go 'der! why don't you do _this_')

Just don't tell me to pull myself together. The 'manic' in me will spiral into depression. And I am currently already swimming against that particular tide.


Well I spent four years training to be a teacher so while I was working in retail you could say my Bachelor of Ed. was wasted. But I was very happy doing what I was doing. Less pay than teaching, but very satisfying and less stressful. Back in teaching now because it suits me (being a parent makes all the difference, teaching means I get the holidays with my son). Yet I don't feel the retail training or work was wasted, I remember it fondly.

So maybe try not to think of your education as being wasted, but as a part of your history and your makeup. Surely some of the skills are transferable? Even if it's not in paid work. And there's no harm in having varied skills, some of which don't get used all that often.

I'm wondering if, with your skills and interests, maybe you could find a role with a government dept. say leading a walking group or something? Some sort of community service job where recreation/fitness/wellbeing is involved? The hours would surely be within school hours, which would suit you, even when your husband is away.
No such thing as that sort of community service job around here.

And, the thing is, I don't want to go back to my former 'line of work' - as unspecific as that was in the first place.
What is the wildest thing you'd like to try?

What is the least likely thing you'd normally think of doing?

What sounds like fun?

With no real finacial worries, no fear of starving or sending your kids off to school naked, why not explore something totally different. Weave baskets if it makes you HAPPY and sell them at the side of the road. Walk dogs for a living. Be a stay at home mum who couldn't care less about her housekeeping skills but can put together a newsletter for her children's sport team and can ride a bike for charity and write a blog in decent English and and and......

You are squinting at yourself in a magnifying mirror and trying to find the bottom of each and every pore. Back up. Take a more relaxed view.

You are depressed my friend. Wallow a bit, it's allowed, but don't become convinced that you are failing.

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