What If I’m Not Good at Anything?

I’m not sure if it talents talent or natural ability to project manage and get shit done, but that seems to be one trait that can’t be learned (if you’re horrible at it) and the most important in any job. The few people who can get away with not being the most organized and being poor at communication are the rare idiot savants, those who are respected for their creative contributions despite other clear shortcomings.

We aren’t born to work, outside of hunting and gathering and building shelter so we don’t die, so all of these career tests and what you should be when you grow up aren’t telling the total truth — that we’re trying to identify some value-added contribution that we can do consistently well enough from post graduation through retirement. “Consistently well enough” isn’t an easy undertaking for anyone for 45 years.

It’s always hard to know if my feelings and firings are the result of my depression or if I’m just a lazy, unappreciative, demotivated and hot mess of a screw up who has managed to fake it for long enough to save a sizable (albeit not “early retirement” amount) nest egg. Or both.

I want to find something I’m passionate about to do for a living. But then, I realize that when I’m passionate about what I do for a living, that’s when things go south… because I get too passionate and I can’t step back and accept good enough. Or, the reality is, I don’t think I’m capable of creating good enough. My work tends to be either great or really not great at all. My occasional moments of greatness are what employ me, but my increasing moments of mess make it impossible to stay gainful employed.

I see the people here who are successful in their roles, who are amazing at strategy and delegating to a team and driving measurable results and repeating this over and over again. Sure, even these professional workhorses have their failures — but they’re super consistent and always have an answer if something goes wrong, and they know how to test before rolling things out at scale. They rarely make stupid mistakes because they’re so process-oriented and they don’t get anxious over every little step and decision. While treating my anxiety may help improve my ability to do this, I’ll never be great at it, let alone good.

Despite being excited about a period of rest and rethinking my life once my last day hits, I’m gravely concerned that I’m just more or less incapable of holding down a job. I had considered consulting (and still am considering this) but I don’t actually have any skills that are valuable. I know a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I put too much energy into few things that I run out of energy for anything else.

Is this a mental health condition or just a bad case of first-world problems?

I’ll probably be the first person in the world to be fired twice. Fired once, with a transition period. Fired twice when my boss decides my transition period is too long and she’s better off without me. Fired twice because the company moved and I have no desk despite being asked (sort of ) to come into the office a few days a week until my last day. Fired twice because the new team members are starting and they don’t need me anymore. Fired twice because despite having less work on my plate now I’m still not meeting my deadlines.

I don’t blame anyone for not wanting me to work for them. In fact, if I were their strategic advisor I’d recommend terminating me (or not hiring me to begin with.) I could look at this all in a positive light — I had a solid year plus of experience in a role that I wasn’t ready for, and while I realized I’m not there “yet” in my career, I learned a ton and one day will be better qualified for a senior role because of it.

Going to an office five days a week for nine hours a day is hard. Being around the same people – sitting next to the same people – having to say “hi” and “good morning” and “how was your weekend” and “did you see that latest thing so and so did” every day, pretending to care, is hard. Not having any friends and feeling like an outsider in what is a virtual cult of people drinking the corporate kool-aid is torturous. Not fitting in is like every bad day of my entire elementary and secondary school lifetime repeated day after day after day. And then there’s the actual work that has to be done…

There was one job I had once where I made two friends. The company was falling apart, so we bonded over this, which isn’t the best thing to bond over, but we were friends nonetheless. We’d go for afternoon walks to “brainstorm” and talk shop and also gossip about the ridiculousness of management choices. The job wasn’t the right fit (if there is such a thing) but having friends made it bearable. In the past 2.5 years at my jobs I haven’t had any full-time employee friends. No one to go to lunch with or go out for walks with. No one to share ideas with or get a fresh perspective from. I’ve been incredibly lonely, and even more so in roles of increasingly senior management. But i also know that even if I were an individual contributor I’d have trouble making friends… because the reality is I don’t like most people much. Or at least not people drawn to careers that pay livable wages (myself included.) So it’s my own fault on many levels.

Since running off and joining the circus is no longer an option, I wonder, what in the hell should I do with my life? It’s not a new question, but it certainly is most pressing given I have less than a month of work left and then I’m back on the open market.

One thing I know I don’t want to do is fake my way to another role in another company where I’ll undoubtedly fall apart again. I wish I could say I don’t care about money but I do… between rent and basic food and bills and such, I easily spend $2000 a month. Health insurance, medical bills, and saving a small amount for a rainy day puts me at $3000 a month spend. I don’t need to spend any more than this, so I should be ok making $75,000 a year. I’ll no longer be saving $6000 a month or anything close to it, but if I could find a job where I’d be happy making about $75k, I’d take it.

I just have no idea what that job is. And I don’t want to undersell myself if it means making substantially less but still being miserable. It may be that a role that would make me happy just naturally pays more, and I shouldn’t aim for the bottom. But all I know is what I’m not good at — in other words, all I know is how much I don’t know.

My friends say I just need time off…  I need a break. I don’t think I need much of a break. Maybe a month or two. But that’s not going to solve my mess. Getting the anxiety under control would help, but is that even possible. Yea, mindfulness and benzodiazepines may be useful in extremely-trying moments, but in general my problem is clearly a personality disorder, not a mental illness (at least not entirely.)

So, wtf do I do? I don’t know. Hire a career counselor? How can a career counselor help me when I can’t hold down a job? Psychiatrist? Sure, seeing one next week. Going to try out antidepressants maybe, or whatever he wants to put me on. Maybe I’ll learn how to live without emotions and that will get me through the day.

…I always wonder what I’d be today if my parents hadn’t given me the idea that the only work of value is that which can be bragged about. I know it’s ridiculous yet I still want to be larger than life, I still want to be a – somebody. I know I’m not… I’m just a person like all the other people on this earth. I don’t have any brilliant creative talent to share, I won’t have artwork hung in a museum or in memorandum seconds dedicated to a few momentous performances during a future awards show. I won’t be a novelist or a comedian with her own self-deprecating television series or successful YouTube channel-come-movie-deal. But nothing I do feels fulfilling unless it’s rewarding in a highly unnatural way through massive recognition of doing something incredible, not just good enough.

Yet, I know rationally that it’s a billion “good enoughs” that make anyone great who ever was great. This isn’t to say that a billion “good enoughs” amounts to that sort of payout for everyone, but for some, it does. And, life isn’t about being great – life is about living. The great, the good, and the horrible all end up in the same place anyway.

So if the purpose of life is living, I am trying to figure out what living means to me, and build a career around this. While it does mean being able to put food on the table and a decent apartment roof over my head, it certainly doesn’t mean spending 70% of daylight hours in the year in an office feeling miserable. I have to figure out what living means and how to afford to do it, and then go from there. At least that’s a start.

 

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