To most, the overwhelming characteristics that have helped carry me toward some semblance of mild success, would be considered positive. Hard working, type-a with an affinity for looming deadlines, perfectly kept planners and overwhelming schedules. All are attributes that have kept me constantly striving for a professional prosperity I can be somewhat proud of. To be goal oriented is to be responsible and trustworthy and adult, or at least that is what high-school counselors around the country are actively trying to instill in our soon-to-be-graduated youth.
What they don’t tell you, though, is that the same parts of you, which keep you creating, striving and achieving, also keep you locked in some intricate cage of yearning — regardless of the fortunes your hard work has brought you.
You will struggle, sacrifice and endure until you reach a pre-determined staple of achievement, only to be left wanting. A fleeting moment of well-earned gratification is quickly followed by an overwhelming, insatiable craving for more.
Sometimes I stare at the words I’ve managed to publish in a respected, well-read and national publication, drowning in a sea of unforgiving questions. Could I have done something better? Could I have said something different? Will these printed words bring me greater opportunities? Should I be trying harder, for more? Am I even capable of doing more? Who should I be contacting? How can I use this? What work should I be doing? Why am I not working now?
Ceaseless inquiries spin madly on.
Sitting in a coffee shop, after buying 10 copies of a Pulitzer Prize–winning magazine because my name is printed in bold, I am still the hesitant newbie, staring through the glass window and feeling lost, confused and two-steps removed from what I want most.
I’ve wondered if it is greed. Am I incapable of complete happiness because my cup can never runneth over? Is it bottomless, like the appetizers I was barely able to afford in college when rent left me with nothing but pennies and overdraft fees.
I’ve wondered if it is self-doubt. Is there a deep-seated skepticism, buried at the base of my spine, wrapping itself around my core when watered with accolades or acceptance or praise? Will I ever believe in my own capabilities, or will it be a constant struggle to completely embrace the fruits of my own endless labor? Will my doubts stretch my spine to new heights or cripple me, bending me towards the floor to forever stare my short-comings, whispering:
What you’ve attained isn’t enough.
What you’ve created isn’t enough.
You. You’re not enough.
I am exhausted, feeling as if I willingly signed up for a marathon before reading the fine print. The fine print clearly states: The race will never end. I may get breaks, with much-needed water and air and maybe even a beer, but then my legs will start to itch for the pain and the sweat and the burn of absolute determination. The hard, crisp pavement of rejection will call my name because, while every fall I’m destined to take is as painful as it is unavoidable, my heavy breathing and searing lungs and steaming brow are addicting.
Which is when I realize, while an underlying greed may be present and an overwhelming self-doubt could be constantly looming, it is the combat I crave. It’s the fight to better what I have already bested, constantly testing my hard working, type-a personality my determined high school counselors would be oh-so proud of.
The struggle. The fight. The win. It’s addicting. And I just can’t get enough.