Recently, as I was waiting for a job interview to begin, I realized something that felt rather significant to me . I had arrived a little early. Time to think. About all the applications I’ve completed and job interviews I have had in the past 9 months. How they have gone nowhere. Rejection after rejection. For jobs I am well qualified to fill or for which I am vastly overqualified. Some have been jobs I could have gotten when I was 20 years old, just starting out, with barely any experience to speak of. Other jobs have required some experience, but much less than what I have acquired. Others involve doing exactly what I have been doing for over 20 years. All different kinds of jobs, but within my ability and for which I should be considered a viable candidate. At this stage, I have skills, experience, knowledge. Something to offer. But the doors aren’t opening. And this is not the first negative event of my life. I’ve encountered one difficulty after another. My childhood set the tone. And the past 10 years have been especially crushing. I’ve been going through a long string of catastrophes, traumas, downturns, bad luck, setbacks, and heartaches. All leading me to this incredibly awful place where I find myself now. But forgive me for digressing. That isn’t really the point. It’s not the core of my epiphany. It’s just the backdrop. To help you understand how I came to be such a complete failure. Such a total mess. And how I arrived at this current point of awareness.
I realized, as I sat in the sterile hotel lobby pondering my fate, this interview probably wasn’t going to be any different than the last fifteen. And as I waited, I saw, with great clarity, that I’ve given up on things in my life ever being good. I no longer have positive expectations. Not even a little vestige or spark of a hope that something good is finally going to come my way. It became crystal clear in that moment; my greatest hope at this juncture in life is, if I am extremely fortunate, for things to not be too horrible.
How’s that for an encouraging revelation. An optimistic outlook. Not.
I think this is what is meant when one says they are “not in a good place.”
In the past, there have been times when I thought things were so bad, nothing could get worse. But they always did. Get worse. And so, I have finally reached a point where I have no expectation of anything ever improving. Ever being good. Fulfilling. My prayer now is that my life won’t stay too horrible. That it won’t hurt too dreadfully. I pray it will be something I can endure. A neutral existence would be a grand improvement. One I would welcome. Embrace. Be thankful for.
I wasn’t always like this. For most of my life, I had reasonably high expectations. This was, at least in part, because I believed I would succeed. I believed in hard work…believed my effort would eventually pay off and be rewarded. I believed in tenacity. Because I thought, if you kept moving forward, even if slowly, kept holding on, kept trying, eventually you would win. I also believed in being loyal, faithful, doing what you said you would do, keeping your word. In short, I thought, if you did the right things to the very best of your ability, things would eventually come out right. And since I was working diligently to do the right things, my expectations were for good things to come my way. For healing and wholeness. For deep, fulfilling relationships. For a secure job. Spiritual growth and purpose. Because I gave it everything I had. And while what I had might not have been perfect, or might even be flawed by many people’s standards, I gave it my very best shot.
As a Christian, the law of sowing and reaping confirmed this belief. We sow goodness, we reap goodness. Yes, we are human. We don’t always do the right things in the right way at the right time. Sometimes we get what we deserve when we fail…and imperfect beings that we are, we often really don’t deserve much goodness. But there is the mercy factor, thankfully. God is merciful. So with some degree of regularity, even when we deserve to be rejected, shamed, outcast, we instead reap forgiveness, acceptance, love. All in all, I believed if we sowed our very best efforts, God would see our heart and be merciful when we failed. I believed He would forgive and restore. And bring something worthwhile out of our imperfect efforts.
I was wrong.
Turns out, giving it all you have matters not at all. Nor does doing what is right to the best of your ability. Hanging on. Keeping on keeping on. It’s still the right thing to do. But the bottom line is simply this: life owes you nothing. If you get more than nothing, you are fortunate. If you don’t, you’re getting what you deserve.
I read a saying recently that sums up what I’ve been attempting to overcome. It said, “Sex offenders should serve life sentences because their victims certainly do.” For my entire existence, which is now a substantial number of years, I have endlessly fought serving that life sentence. I have run from it, denied it, lived in a fantasy world to escape it, and worked hard to triumph so I wouldn’t have to pay for what happened to me for my entire time on this planet. But I’ve failed to escape. I tried. I gave it all my effort. My imperfect effort. Believing. But all my hope and exertion has come to nothing. And I’ve paid every day in a million different ways. I’ve served that life sentence year upon year upon year. I’ve paid by not knowing I’m a person, by not being able to believe I have value and worth, by being different, by having insecurities, fears, anxieties that others can’t begin to comprehend, by having to battle the octopus of depression just to show up each day, function, and do my job. I’ve paid; believe me. I’ve paid dearly. My thoughts are twisted and my soul is broken. My beliefs are shattered and my spirit is crushed. But now, I can’t. I can’t fight it any more. I’ve lost the battle. My expectations of happiness, wholeness, success, freedom…they’re gone. My only prayer is to not be hit harder than I can bear.
My father never paid. He died a respected teacher and member of the community. I kept the secret. I paid the price. So he could live his life unscathed, with my mother, who chose to stand by him. I didn’t know it was going to cost me everything. I didn’t realize how high would be the price. I believed I was doing the right thing and doing the right thing meant good things would follow. I thought things would work out for me down the road. Naive. Foolish.
The only ones who got to live happily ever-after were my parents. And that…that…that stops me in my tracks. I am undone. My expectations for something good turn to dust in my mouth. I can’t think my way out of this nightmare or fight my way out. All I can do is beg for mercy. And pray God is listening. And can spare a little compassion for someone who tried really, really hard. Even though life owes me nothing and I don’t deserve anything good at all.