It’s exhausting to be bad at something.
Like, really bad. So bad someone corrects you every fifteen minutes. So bad you second guess every move because you want to avoid being corrected but your second guessing turns to third guessing and then you never make the right call and end up being corrected anyway.
Friday I asked the woman at work who is training me if I had done something correctly, bracing myself for the “No you forgot X Y AND Z, AGAIN,” but instead she nodded and said, “yup,” and it was such a relief. I have been realizing that in general I am quite accustomed to being right, correct, and good at things. And this job where I am not right, correct, or good at things is taking its toll on me.
I am tough and have a lifetime of being right, correct, and good at things standing behind me to back me up. I can give myself bathroom and driving-to-work pep-talks, but the glow from them only lasts fifteen minutes at best because, well, I am bad at my job.
Can I remember the last time I failed? Let’s see. We don’t count stories rejected, because that’s part of the writer’s life. We don’t count parenthood because we can’t really know until, well ever. There are blog posts — many of them — without comments. That counts for failure in my world.
I can forgive myself all minor failures because in the greater world I feel like a success. And this is a gift; from my heritage to me. From me as a middle-class white girl whose parents stayed together and didn’t do drugs, to me.
Coincidentally — serendipitously? — at work I move around the files of people who have not had these gifts given to them. They were set up for failure from conception. Then, when they failed, they were berated. Their lives stacked failure upon failure like Lego bricks. Over time they have come to believe they are incompetent, incapable of anything but robbing a gas station, beating a girlfriend. Offered a chance to do something hard, to make something of themselves, with the backdrop of failure behind them, they take it, fail, do it again. Whereas I, coming from a place of reward and love, luxury and privilege, balk and tire at the first signs of difficulty. My eyes are tired. I complain. I’m so tired of being bad at this job.
I could quit. All the stress would vanish. We could go back to our old budget, our old lives. I could choose that path. I could have five luxurious days off a week again.
But I won’t.
I am lucky to be here, lucky to be me. I have a job, when many do not. I have a brain, as rusty as it is. I have supportive family, understanding kids, a car that runs.
Having been built up my whole life, I can afford to fail.
It is as important to be resilient as it is to be competent. It is good for me to fuck up, day after day, to have someone following me around checking up on me, telling me where I went wrong. It shows me how my kids must feel, sometimes. It will help me be a better parent, a better person, more forgiving and patient.
Oh it sucks. It sucks so hard to be 39 and 3/4s and be incompetent at something. Truly, panic-inducingly incompetent.
But after weekend one (the one with the kids) and weekend two (the two days where I am blessedly alone), I will start to feel like I might be ready to give it another try. I will be ready to walk into work again, strong and tall, with my many competencies to help keep me upright as I am slammed by waves of “you did this wrong” and “you put this thing here instead of there” and “don’t you remember? the ponies go in the UPPER mail slot.”
(Really. Ponies. Who knew.)
Someday I’ll look back at this and laugh. Maybe even next week? Probably not. But someday.