In Part 1 I wrote about personal and global achievements and disasters.
Whilst writing, I messaged friends and they kindly shared with me some of their own successes and failures. Hopefully, by grouping them into themes, I haven’t reduced their poignancy.
[Since writing Part 2, other friends have messaged with their own experiences, so I’ve now written a Part 3].
This is a huge ‘thank you’ and I hope I do your experiences justice.
How my career has panned out…
One friend shared her experience of failing to get onto the doctorate programme. She’s a smart cookie but each year, the competition has been fierce. She’s made progress; she’s getting interviews but hasn’t managed to clinch a place on the course. For a while, I know this frustrated and upset her – she put so much effort into her applications and remained level-headed throughout the process but with no success. For her mental health, she’s decided not to apply this year (and who knows if she’ll reapply next year?). And whilst she deems this a failure; it has meant she’s been able to buy a home with her boyfriend on account of staying in one place. Her job is going well and she’s enjoying it, but her career has turned out differently to how she imagined.
Another friend said:
I moved to Brighton to study at music college with the aim of being in a band and touring – living the ‘rockstar dream’. But now, I’m in a job I don’t love and I’m not earning a whole lot of money. I’m not feeling fulfilled.
Making time for family…
One friend recounted a very touching story about the missed opportunity to get to know her grandpa. Have tissues ready.
My gran was never 100% certain who my mum’s father was – it was a toss up between two men. Later, we found out that the man who is on my mum’s birth certificate wasn’t her father. During a depressive teenage phase, I decided that I didn’t want to build a grandfather-granddaughter relationship with my aunt’s father until I knew for sure that he was my grandfather. I didn’t want to build up a relationship for it all to be taken away. Whilst awaiting DNA results, my sister was determined to forge a relationship with our potential grandad, and so she threw herself into seeing him every day – whereas I kept a distance. During this time, there was a weekend when no one heard from him. (This wasn’t unusual as my aunt’s dad valued his own company.) On the Monday, we had to break into his house and we found him lying on the ground as someone had broken into the house, beat him up and robbed him. He was in a very bad state when we got into the house. He was in hospital on life-support for a few weeks but then couldn’t sustain himself without the hospital equipment; his organs failed him and he died a few weeks later.
Adding salt to the wound, a few days after he passed away, the DNA results confirmed he was my grandpa. I feel my failure to not let my guard down and get to know him, cost the precious time we could have spent together.
Generously, she told me another regret she has of not getting to know her father:
I have never met my biological father. The person who I call my dad does not share DNA with me – but as far as he and I are concerned, he’s my dad. He’s been in my life for as long as I can remember; he’s clothed me, fed me, picked me up when I’ve been down, and celebrated my birthday. He has been a great father figure; I’ve never felt like I’ve missed out. And for a long time, I didn’t know he wasn’t my father. Everyone in the family knew; it was one big secret until a nasty argument erupted and I found out the truth – at 17 years old (the same age my mum fell pregnant with me). After the row, my mum sat me down for a vague explanation (she was called out to be a bit of a dick for not telling me). Now I’m 32 and I have a scrap of paper with a couple of names for him and an old address, but I haven’t done anything with this information aside from Google him.
I’m not sure why I haven’t pursued finding out about my biological dad. I’m not scared, if anything I’m curious. What would he think of me? What’s he like? When my mum got pregnant, my biological dad had kids as old as her. I don’t know the full story of the circumstances; he could have been your average twat who didn’t care, or something more sinister. Maybe that’s why my mum has always been so shady about the details.
I wonder if it’s partly me being lazy, thinking it’ll be too much work to find my biological father – and how would I even begin?! Maybe the names on the paper aren’t even real.
And how would my parents react? The last time I spoke about my biological dad in front of my dad, he had some kind of panic attack; I think he was worried I’d abandon him.
I don’t want history to repeat itself. I think I’ll always have this ‘what if?’ hanging over me and I’m interested in finding out about my two siblings. Maybe I’ll follow the paper-trail. Maybe I won’t.
One friend has found it hard to manage finances this year; saving to file her own tax returns and having separate accounts for business and pleasure.
I often think this particular friend is exceptional at her own self-care, but she considers this one of her failures. Health is usually her friend and she eats well and takes regular exercise, but this year she burnt out. Sometimes, we want to do it all. Sometimes we think we can, but our bodies may have different plans. We need to listen to our own bodies and remember when we need to stop and take stock for our mental health.
Another friend’s failure is:
settling down and staying in one place long enough to call it home.
She has spent her working life building a formidable empire but this has meant moving around, failing to establish roots. Her daughter is settled in school and it’s clear that everything my friend does is for her daughter. Next year, she hopes to purchase a house and I think this will be the beginning of turning this failure into a success.
Finding out what I want to do…
Despite not getting onto the doctorate my friend has picked herself up and has found herself a job she loves. Even on cold, rainy British winter mornings, she looks forward to going to work – and that’s one hell of a success that many people can’t claim to enjoy! Maybe she’ll get a PhD over the coming years, or maybe she’ll forge her own path to become a clinical psychologist, but I know there are plenty more career successes in this woman’s life.
Another friend has taken the leap from being a full-time teacher to pursuing her passion by setting up her own yoga business. She’s worked hard to complete her yoga teacher training and in the process, she’s learnt to take risks (and I’d argue she’s discovering to trust her instincts). One of her biggest achievements this year has been to understand that things don’t always go to plan – what a lesson to appreciate.
Establishing a life for myself.
Moving down to Brighton [from London] has been a success – I’ve made my own life down here.
Please feel free to comment below, sharing any of your successes or ‘failures’.