Friday, September 25, 2009

Why I may not have money, or family, or success, but... wait, what was I saying?

*Spoiler alert: If you're looking for a funny, light read, today might be a good day to go elsewhere. I recommend Sometimes I Make Lists, Just Humor Me, The Typing Makes Me Sound Busy, Finslippy, or Mimi Smartypants for a guaranteed laugh. Seriously, just go, look away. Nothing to see here but a self-indulgent pity party and some metaphorical wrist-slitting. (Calm down, I said metaphorical.) You have been warned.*

That being said, on with the self-indulgent, sad sack show...

The nature of humans is complacency. The nature of life is to plod along from day to day without necessarily taking notice of every minute change and pondering its implications. Humans are enormously adaptable, and this is a good thing; if every moment was filled with existential possibility, we would never get anything done. But every once in a while there comes a time when you take stock of your life and say to yourself, Holy shit, how did I get here? I find myself asking the same question, after spending five years in Boston and one year in Paris, and then waking up one day in a small town in central New York state, marginally employed, living paycheck to paycheck, and grudgingly driving a car that isn't mine to work, to the grocery store, to the bar, and to anywhere else I need to go because you can't walk anywhere here. I am six months away from my 30th birthday, single, childless, petless, essentially friendless, and I have never lived on my own. Neither have I lived with a boyfriend. Almost one entire decade I have spent sharing bathrooms with people I sometimes don't even speak to, cleaning other people's pee off of toilets and trying to ignore comically loud one-sided phone conversations through paper thin walls. I am almost 30 years old, and I don't even own my own furniture. My bed is a mattress on the floor, and it is not even my mattress, though I do own the down comforter, so thanks, Ikea, for helping me achieve one small step towards marginal independence. I don't have health insurance or a savings account, and so I live one health disaster or one car breakdown away from financial ruin. I can't afford to go to the doctor, and I can't afford to go to the dentist, and I definitely can't afford to buy a new car, so knock on wood that things keep on tickin'. As I've documented, even my best attempts to try to dig myself out of this hole, my efforts to take even the smallest of steps forward have gone unrewarded, and so yes, lately I've been asking myself just what exactly I have done to deserve all this.
In class I am teaching the superlative, I mentioned to a friend (ok fine, an acquaintance) during a bar room non-versation last night. "Oh, the superlative is cool," he said.

"Yes!" I said brightly. "You see, the comparative is not as good as the superlative... but the superlative... the superlative is the best." And then I had a good hardy har all by myself, because nothing beats a good grammar joke, am I right? (You know you want to drink with me, admit it.) But it got me to thinking about superlatives I once knew... You had superlatives in high school, right? Best dressed, best smile, class clown (which sort of stretches the grammatical definition of superlative to the breaking point, but we'll let it slide). I had one too. I don't even want to tell you what it was, because it sounds so la ti ta, and I don't even want to think about it, honestly, except that lately I can't stop thinking about it, and the rest of this blog post kind of hinges around it, so fine, I will tell you that I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. There. It's in the yearbook and everything, PHS 97-98. Now, I'm sure that no one else even remembers this but me, it's not like everyone else in the class of 1998 is sitting around thinking about me and wondering if I have succeeded yet, thinking, Damn, I knew I should have voted for Molly instead. What a waste. But all the same, I can't help feeling disappointed by the way things have worked out, or rather, the way they haven't worked out. And I know, I know, there are many different definitions of success, although in our yearbook photo, my cohort, Mister Most Likely to Succeed is flashing a fistful of dollar bills at the camera, so I think we can guess what his definition of success is. Although, if a fistful of bills constitutes success, then hey, look at me, I also have four dollars! I totally win. (Yes, I understand symbolism. Moving on.) So maybe... maybe success isn't always about money. Some people consider success to be marriage and kids and... oh, right. Well, so what. I mean, pffffft. You don't have to have money or a family to be successful, right? As long as you are making a positive impact on people's lives, if you dedicate yourself to helping people and working for a worthwhile cause... I mean, no one's going to call Mother Theresa a failure, right? So... yeah. Helping privileged, upper middle-class college students fulfill a language requirement and learn the finer points of grammar that they will immediately expunge from their brains after the final exam in a language they will surely never use... that's... helping... right? No, I am a useful, contributing member of society, I mean, if it weren't for me... oh dear god, who am I kidding. I am less important than one of Britney Spears' purse dogs. But, so what. The only thing that really matters, the only definition of real succcess is if you are happy. And clearly I am, if not happy, at least... I'm... I'm sorry, I can't even pretend anymore. I'm not happy. I'm not. I mean, would you be? Don't answer that.

Somewhere along the line things have gotten away from me. My life has gotten away from me. I am not living the life I used to think I would live, I am not living the life I used to think I deserved. But I don't use words like deserve anymore, just like I don't use words like God or destiny or purpose or plan. Because really? This is my destiny? This is what I deserve? Because fuck that. I am trying my hardest here. I try my ass off every day. I look, I evaluate, I make plans, and I try to make it better. I make changes, I try new things, and I try to make the best of it. I am fucking trying, goddammit, and yet I am still here, and I am still stuck in this situation, in this life, in this person that is me, though sometimes I wish it were any other way. And I know that there are people that are successful, that are happy, and yet even though they may be good people, I still can't think that they deserve it, any more than I don't deserve this. We all play what we're dealt, is all. Some people get the aces. And some of us get a really bum hand.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, Molly, chica, it totally should have been you in that yearbook photo.


  1. i wish i had some uplifting advice to offer you, but the truth of the matter is that you have every right to feel this way, and you'll move on from it when you're ready. any 'inspirational anecdotes' i might have to offer will only sound trite.

    but can i just say this: i don't know you, i just kind of stumbled across your blog about 18 months ago, but i keep up to date with it because i enjoy this little window into your life; you have a way of writing about the most mundane things (uhhh... no offense!) with such humour and wit. no small feat. and i really admire you - i think you need to reread that last part of your post: you DO put a lot of effort into living your life, and that - i promise you - is more than most people do. and it will be rewarded, there's just no saying when.

    you WILL feel better about things, and just know that even while you may not currently believe your life is going anywhere meaningful, other people out there are rooting for you.

  2. I'm also an adjunct, so I completely understand your struggles. I'd like to note that the SUNY system pays full health and vision insurance for all adjuncts who teach two courses. I don't know if there are any SUNY campuses within driving distance of Mythica, but it might be worth looking into if you are planning on staying for the spring term. Also, SUNY has online courses at . The campuses that run the courses hire the adjunct faculty, but if you could get that position you could live anywhere and have health insurance. Best of luck to you!

  3. hey there...what a beautifully written rant :) And, I agree that you have the right to feel that way. Sometimes we get down on our lives (been there multiple times) and you should just say what you want to say and feel how you want to feel because it's YOUR life. I can't offer you a better job, or a boyfriend, or furniture, but I can offer you words of encouragement and the knowledge that their are many young women out there feeling the exact same way.

    P.S. I totally LOL'd at your grammar and you might be the only one who appreciate the finer points of such humour.

  4. That first comment says just what I want to say. I wish I could be there for you - even though I'm sure I'm older then your mother. You have so much going for you and I REALLY want you to be happy. You will be!! You will be!!

  5. PS Hey, I loved the grammar joke too! I have the misfortune of being one of those sad people who see misplaced apostophes and spelling mistakes at 20 paces! It's tiring!

  6. The first poster said what I wanted to say, too.

    I DO enjoy your writing. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. OK, I hear ya.

    But ME? really? Molly?? hahaha
    Just goes to show you how success is such a subjective thing-
    I'm not really where I imagined I would be at 29 either. I'm still in school. I live in a studio apartment that costs me just over half of my monthly paycheck. Every time I buy a book it's an ordeal because I DONT'HAVE ANYWHERE TO PUT IT!

    but hey, I guess I just try to make the most out of it, go with the flow, and hope that things will work themselves out.

    Not that you give up on your dreams, but maybe it's about worrying less about what you imagined you'd have and just trying to enjoy what you've got.

    Anyway, not trying to preach or anything. I hear ya. You can do it Rach! Keep writing; I really believe this blog could get you somewhere. You're a freakin genius.

  8. A few thoughts:
    - I don't see a problem with you being most likely to succeed. You're just taking the long way to get there. You just need to figure out how to make it happen.
    - I also appreciated the grammar joke.
    - Wouldn't it have been fun to have a mediocrity section in the yearbook? Most likely to be arrested...most likely to be homeless...most likely to appear on America's Most Wanted.
    - If I remember correctly, I think Molly and I both appeared on the superlatives page as well, so at least you're in good company.

  9. I always read your blog and am envious of your life. Not just because you lived in Paris for a year, but come on, you lived in Paris for a year! I took a 5 week trip around Europe after I graduated college (at 27) and it was so amazing that I wanted to live in Greece (or really almost anywhere abroad) for a year, but I chickened out. I'm a bit more settled now and can't, and I always regret not doing it.
    I would also like to stay up all night talking to cute boys camping in my yard, and go to festivals and meet random dudes and then go eat dinner with them...and all the other adventurous stuff you get to do. 30 is the new 20 anyway, and what 20 year old should be married or own furniture? I hope that was all coherent- I'm not a blogger, just a blog stalker.

  10. I have no great words of advice. Just a reader who loves your posts and wishes you the best. I have a friend who always tells me "It will all work out in the end". He's always been right so far and all the crap you go through along way that seems so awful when you're going through it becomes, in hindsight, the experience you need to know what makes you happy.

    Keep your chin up.

  11. Hey, you succeeded at the grammar joke. I laughed.

    And you succeed, every time you post, at writing something beautifully, even if the topic isn't a gorgeous one.

    OK, here's my take:

    There have been a number of times -- in past and recent history -- where I've sobbed in the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror, and said "I hate my life. Isn't isn't the life I wanted."

    But you know what's funny? People probably think I have a GREAT life. I've got a large house, a loving husband, an adorable dog, sometimes (!!!) I even have a job, and I love my family (most of the time).

    So sometimes (often?) when you see someone who has the "perfect" life -- be it with their own home, more money, a secure job, a spouse, a child, a [whatever] -- you don't know what goes on behind the facade. Not that I'm putting on any facade -- I just told you that I'm sometimes miserable -- but often enough, the "happy" comes with perspective, whether they ARE happy versus whether you THINK they're happy. Y'know what I mean?

    As for your success, don't quantify it based on your age. Late bloomers -- such as myself -- will be insulted. :)

    Your time will come, my dear.

  12. What everyone else said... I'm tempted to write you a 5 page email, but I don't want to be stalky, so I'll just say this:

    You are so pretty and so awesome and so smart and I know that hearing that probably isn't really helpful, but hopefully it is still nice to hear. Buck up Buttercup!

  13. Also, I too laughed at the grammar joke.

  14. If it makes you feel any better (warning: this WON'T make you feel any better), when my high school principal handed me my diploma (on stage, mind you), he whispered to me "who'd have thunk it?!". Ugh. Well here I am, ten years later, a lowly receptionist in a big fancy office, and a non-paid writer/blogger! So fuck you, Principal Whose Name I Can't Remember!
    But yeah, I AM happy, so there's that. I still suggest you move to Los Angeles. You can borrow my friends (who are the awesomest) and start seeing my therapist (who is crazy but totally awesome). I might suggest some anti depressants, too...because, girl, sounds like you're dealing with some serious depression.
    Oh wait, I know something that will make you feel better: I had to look up the definition of "superlative". Guess Mr Principal wasn't so far off, after all.

  15. P.S. Your writing always inspires me. I think you're a wonderful writer!

  16. I think everyone has been where you are at some point in their lives. You are doing so many things and having so many experiences that even those of us with health care would gladly give it up to have. Try not to focus on age thing. A number's a number. You are healthy, you have time.

  17. Rachel, there is not much more I could say that hasn't already been written except that we think you are fabulous. You could always move to Canada and teach our kids French ...Just sayin'. Love to you.

  18. So I just wrote a blog entry inspired by this. It was going to start off as a comment to you, and then I felt like an asshole, because really, who cares what I think except for me?

  19. Hi Rachel,

    I don't think I've ever written anything here before but I recently found your blog and really like it.

    I am also 6 months away from my 30th birthday and I think that has something to do with it. You start taking stock of what you've done with your life and like you, I feel like I've fallen short.

    I've been single for the last five years, also no kids, also have never lived alone and though I have a well paying job that I like very much, it is not what I want in my heart to be doing which is actually to write.

    I've been feeling down lately because I can see no way that I can live alone and work enough to pay the rent and save for school at the same time. But at least my roommates are my two best friends and I love them to death.

    And a funny thing happened this week. I've never had a back problem in my life but I got up from my desk at work the other day and could barely walk. I'm better now but being in pain and not being able to do the things I normally do made me realize that I'm lucky just to be able to walk and run and kick box on a regular basis.

    So I guess what I'm trying to say is that no matter how bad things feel, remember that there is ALWAYS someone who would trade places with you in a heartbeat.

    I would. You're a writer.


  20. feel better. do some volunteer work? i think the more you network the more chance you have of nabbing a job you would be totally happy in. you do deserve more, dammit! this is so all leading up to some brilliant book publisher stumbling onto this blog and making it all happen! i know it! chin up.

  21. I've only started reading your blog recently, and I don't really know you...but I do want to say that I REALLY, REALLY get where you are right now.

    But I look around at friends who got the job, got married, got kids and by 28 have "everything", and I end up feeling kind of sorry for them because what else is there? They're not even 30 and their life is already plotted out. By 50, they'll have been doing the same thing for longer than they've been alive when they got started. I would be bored out of my brains and miserable. I don't think they're living a self-reflective life, and I think eventually there will be regret along the way.

    Some of my friends who kind of fell into everything they want already express some regret because they feel they got it all too early and they didn't get to experience life enough before.

    So sometimes "success" can come too early...and then what?

    I know how hard an identity crisis (or where-the-hell-am-I-going-in-life) crisis can be. But I think, as much as it sucks, the only thing that helps us through it is time. I think deep down, when we have these crises, we do have the answers but we need time to come to them. We need time to mourn the death of a path we didn't follow, and we need time to gather the courage to choose the paths we want and to follow them.

    In time, it all will work itself out.

  22. What you really deserve is a lot more compassion for yourself.

  23. Well if you ever want to move to Elgin, IL (and by "ever" I mean within the next few months), you will have a roommate here. One whose piss you won't have to clean up.

    I'm the one who usually cleans up after the other so it'd be great to have someone who actually cleaned! Also I have pets & will share them!


    PS I found your blog because of the dog post w/ the wine. Checking to see if any businesses had taken the name "dogs love me." What a coincidence!

    PPS I know Rassles in real life. Extra coincidence.