The great house, the great cars, the great career, great friends and of course, the great marriage and great children; your life is, without doubt, a great success! On the outside, it’s certainly impressive, you’ve got it ALL including the financial rewards you so richly deserve. How could life get much better? Other people probably envy you; you are the paragon of perfection without the vicissitudes of life that vex others. And those others pale into insignificance as failures, missing out on the status, prestige and respect you’ve earned as you cruised through the challenges and competition that coloured your landscape. It’s a world full of riches of the monetary kind with you as the pinnacle of happiness. Or so it seems to those around you. At least to some, if not the many, as society sanctions this definition of success. What lies behind this façade is another matter altogether, and of course, no one is interested in finding out. Suffice to say your success, however superficial, determines all patterns of perception.
Once upon a time, I seemed destined to enjoy these same riches; I was young, attractive and sexy and worked hard in carving out a successful career. I was popular, with all manner of men vying for my attention as I partied and pranced around life. I travelled too, an internationalist who had begun reaping all the rewards I deserved. This of course, was the truth as others believed it; the external trappings of success enveloped my lifestyle except there was one very important ingredient missing – I wasn’t happy! Few of my friends or work colleagues ever realised, as I spent hours alone in my apartment in the dark hours of the night wondering what all these status symbols really meant. As I consumed umpteen cups of coffee and devoured heaps of cheese and biscuits, (pre-cholesterol!) I started to appraise what really made me happy. As Socrates had written: The unexamined life is not worth living and so it became my quest to turn my life around with happiness on the inside my inspiring ambition. I knew what I didn’t want, but what was it I did want? Moreover, what did I NEED to find fulfillment?
While many people choose to live through their careers as their identity (and others live through a man), I wanted to divest these encumbrances and live for myself and through myself – without any artificial accoutrements. (No wonder people fall apart when they’re unemployed or their man walks out on them. They’ve lost their anchor and identity). And how many people want to know us because of the work we do and where we live and what kind of car we drive rather than who we really are? (What’s often the first topic of conversation on meeting someone new? What do you do? As if that wraps up our worth!) It’s a good test of friendship to lose our so-called career and material status and realise who still wants to know us! So often, few people at all. But for me, these people weren’t worth knowing if I was only some kind of ego attachment for what I represented. (And what a lousy judge of people I had been!) I wanted to feel happy and worthwhile in my own right without labels and so-called affluent manifestations of success. My scenario was about developing a sincere sense of self where I wanted to strip away the layers of pretense and instead feel an inner calm of well-being. In a world bedevilled by depression and with increasing numbers of people, young and old, committing suicide (as one of my close 54-year-old male friends did) – I pondered on our portrayal of perfection as I quit my job and knew I had walked out on my supposedly successful career. That was my first foray into the unknown – where I had little money and didn’t know what I would do.
The one thing I did know was that I had to make myself happy with who I was; my emotions were torn apart in journalism (people were just stories to write instead of real and feeling human beings) and by other journalists (were we all on ego trips?), who were cold, cut-off and uncaring about anything other than seeing their name in bold print. Compassion played no part in their panorama of life! Journalism was a cut throat, nasty game, and I smiled to myself as I welcomed my new lifestyle with glee. (But you’re mad, one editor told me in a loss of understanding. He’d been in the same menial job all his working life and more pity him!) I knew I wanted to write and make the most of myself; I didn’t want any more office jobs locked in a cubicle where you couldn’t even see another human being, let alone even talk to someone. (We were supposed to be communicators when we weren’t even allowed to communicate with each other). They were prisons of solitary confinement that denied our humanity and our need to engage. I also knew I wanted to be my own boss; I was exhausted by managements and staff where petty politics, jealousy and back-stabbing were the name of the game. I started to write books about all the people I had interviewed and met over my decades in the media, fictionalising them as the words flew away at the keys. I survived on a few dollars a week and kindly café proprietors who supplied me with my wake-up latte every morning as I scrimped around my bank account. And I started to look forward to getting out of bed every morning instead of moaning when the alarm went off to make it to the office on time. I was disciplined and dedicated, and I loved it. But being unemployed did not receive plaudits from the people around me. (Say you’re self-employed, not unemployed, one elderly man that I met in a bar told me one night). While I wrote for about nine or ten hours every day and into the early hours of the evening, I also had more time for reading (lots of psychology and philosophy about the meaning of life) and soul searching. It was so much more rewarding than all the fancy dinners in expensive restaurants I had once frequented with people who weren’t really interested in my inner life and drinking in bars with journo cronies who just talked about themselves as they got more and more pissed. I spent a lot of time alone; thinking (instead of it being a luxury it became an enjoyable pastime) and reflecting on what really mattered in my life. With my meagre savings, I also indulged in concerts, movies, ballet and some theatre, taking in the art galleries when I had time.
While I was thriving with this new lifestyle, some friends abandoned me; I was a failure, an absolute loser, unemployed and living in a dreamworld. (Maybe I am deluded in believing I can write?) To them, I was a bit mad; out of touch with the real world that demanded work for pay with all its slavish conditions. But I felt alive for the first time in decades; I didn’t miss the dinners and the drinks and I had time to enjoy other people’s creative talents which I found so inspiring and thought provoking that my past seemed so boring and empty. And work had been a nightmare; a production line in print that was no more stimulating than a factory floor and just as soporific! I acknowledged, albeit painfully, these friends weren’t real amigos; and since then I have found a few like minded friends who aren’t hell bent on Making It according to society’s dictates. I also sleep more soundly at night than I ever have before.
The real truth is that I have developed a thick skin to those who label me a failure; (it took a few years, I used to feel depressed, too, as it’s hard, albeit painful, to withstand the status quo and all its demeaning)) even psycho for jettisoning the workplace; but it is their problem when I have found so much more than what I had as the supposed success. I have won the war to be myself and although my books still remain unpublished (I keep sending my manuscripts out), I am still writing (this blog and now a film script) and enjoying the company of new friends and a new kind of destiny (I hope!). I realise that people can project their fears and inadequacies onto me (it only serves to make them feel better) and I can walk away and feel sorry for them. Let others live in our materialistic western world and chase their careers and all the superficial spoils of success – for me, it is about a love of self and a richness of self that’s denied to the blind as they live on the outside. (Riches don’t always belong in a bank!) I live on the inside; feeling good about what I do and try to write (even if I stay unpublished) and true to myself; with all my foibles and frailties. I still love and enjoy people; I chat to them in cafes where I’ve shared time talking about things other than the stock market and interest rates (I don’t even own my own home) and can muse over the football and films that I enjoy so much. I have found a meaning of life for myself that involves the inspiration for living life for others as well as for me- sharing the good times and the bad, for better or worse, richer or poorer. This Femmosexual’s future is still clouded in uncertainty, but the clarity and rewards I have discovered for myself have enriched my life in ways I never imagined. I enjoy thinking about new ideas, being challenged to understand complex concepts, inspired to feel deeply and to revel in the realities I find in life, be they the good, the bad or the ugly. That’s being human. And a success. My Way!