Being a failure

When we were kids, they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. We told them we were going to slay dragons, tame lions, fight fires and combat crime. We were going to sail to the moon and walk on mars. We were going to be everything we had ever dreamt of. As tiny humans, free from the taint of reality, we were invincible. Yet as the rose tinted glasses of youth have slipped off, I feel like I’m part of a generation that when asked what we wanted to be, should have answered, ‘I want to be a failure when I grow up’. At least then, we wouldn’t feel the crippling disappointment we do now when we look at our lives.

You might be rolling your eyes right now and to be honest, I’m kind of with you because that’s a ridiculously dramatic opening and that level of drama that should strictly be confined to Westeros. However, I just can’t seem to shake the feeling of failure that clings to me. I’m part of the generation that went to university the year tuition fees really made their debut. We graduated into a recession. Finally got ridiculously underpaid, overworked jobs, but who was going to complain when you were one in ten that even had a job. Searched for our soul mates on Tinder and watched house prices climb to dizzying heights. That’s us. As a generation, that’s what we got and quite frankly, it’s shit.

Not to mention social media, which grew up with us. You might be wondering what it’s ever done to us, and the answer is, nothing. That’s just it. It highlights all the nothing that’s going on with your life while you watch some nineteen year old in Miami driver her Ferrari to the gym.

We’re all so accessible now so you can easily find all the other fantastic lives being lived that aren’t yours. You open Instagram to look at last nights pictures and before you know it you’ve lost your way on a hashtag trail that has lead you to @RichKids account and you’re in a pit of despair because you still couldn’t afford to buy a round last night. I mean, you did it anyway, but now you know you’re going to be eating beans on toast until payday and it’s only the second week of the month. It’s enough to make you listen to power ballads while you stare wistfully out the window wondering how your life ended up like this.

When they asked me what I wanted to be, unlike my peers, I had no grand designs. I wasn’t interested in saving the world or rescuing cats. Instead, I wanted to be a librarian. That was the dream. I don’t just mean a fleeting aspiration for a summer or two, no no. This ambition stayed with me throughout my childhood and adolescence. I distinctly remember trotting off to high school and when asked about my goals, happily telling people all about the books I would look after. I was the home-educated kid banging on about the library. Honestly, it’s a wonder I made any friends at all. However, eventually the dream changed, and instead of organizing books, I now just want to write them instead. (Because apparently poverty and rejection are my thing). Yet I can’t help but wonder, if I had stuck to my original dream, would I feel less like a failure today?

Because there is nothing that has made me feel more like a failure than my desire to write. And make a living out of it. I’m here spilling my guts out trying to write a novel in a world that lives in 140 characters, has time for 15 second Instagram moments and will only tolerate a 10 second snapshot. We have no time to read more than three sentences and meanwhile I’ve thought it would be a fantastic idea to write ALL the sentences I possibly can. 

There’s a general assumption that as a writer you spend your evenings crafting moonbeams and starlight into beautiful sentences that just flow off your fingertips and make your reader want to cry. Either that or you’re curled up on a beanbag sipping tea while capturing your epiphanies about life into gripping prose. Needless to say it’s neither of those things.

Instead, you spend the majority of your time talking about how you’re a writer and really, not writing much of anything at all. You delete most of what you write as you convince yourself that for the third week in a row it’s just not ‘flowing’.

The clichés never stop and the reality of writing is that it’s horribly hard and there’s absolutely nothing romantic or tragic about it, at all. Meanwhile, your peers are ‘smashing it’ in the corporate world as they work eighteen hour days and slowly start to build up their bank balances with their responsible and oh so grown up jobs. Even your friends who have shunned the materialistic life in favour of the public sector are saving lives and helping the youth of today. I can assure you that as a writer you’re doing nothing but depleting your bank balance and as you narcissistically pour out your feelings into tiny sentences of self-indulgence, you can believe you’re helping no one at all. Not even yourself most of the time. You’ve just written sixty pages of shit and you’re not any closer to ‘finding’ yourself.

Even this blog post is disgustingly self indulgent as I sing my ‘woe is me’ swan song to you all. The only saving grace is that I’m not actually singing because I’m tone deaf in the worst possible way, and that would hurt you far more than my narcissism ever could.

And honestly, what’s the solution? We can’t turn back time and grow up in a generation that isn’t going to fuck us over at every possible turn. We kind of just have to try and scramble through it as best we can. The only saving grace we have is honesty and courage. That is, having the courage to be honest and admit that sometimes things are hard, they’re mostly always difficult and life can be really shitty sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes it just really sucks and I don’t want to have to keep lying through my status updates to convince everyone else that it’s great. We’ve crafted a world for ourselves in which feeling shitty isn’t allowed and social media should be used only to document the #Blessed life you’re leading.

I mean, just shut up already. You’re not about to be canonized and we all know your eighteen-hour workday sucked, and even that Prada handbag didn’t make up for it. Let’s just be real for a moment or two so we can take a break from beating ourselves up. Plus, we’re all a little bit of a failure because I don’t see any dragon slayers or moon walkers around these parts.

Salma El-Wardany