I have a fear of Success. I know most people fear failure but I don’t. It doesn’t bother me to fail because it is all a learning process. I fail daily at something but I keep plugging along until I accomplish the task I set for myself. I really enjoy mastering new things and concepts. But I fear Success. It leaves me in a quivering ball. I hold my successes as closely guarded secrets . I prefer to be seen as a slacker, procrastinator, ne’er-do-well, or even a waste of space.
I think it comes from my childhood. I was always the example of the smart and respectable kid. I learned to read at 3. I could do basic math by 4. By age 6, I was in the 3rd grade. I was always the youngest kid in class. I was expected to be an honor roll student even while my sister was praised if she had a “C” average. I spent a whole summer grounded to my room without even my books to keep me company, all because I received a “D” in geometry. It was my first grade below a “B” in my entire school career and I was a Junior in high school. My mom even highlighted the grade and posted my report card on the front door for the full 3 months. My sister on the other hand regularly brought home “D’s” and “F’s” yet, because it was expected, she did not get in trouble. My Aunt used my grades to shame my cousin who was the same age but a year behind me in school. I was always expected to be the smartest and politest child around. That is a lot of damn pressure on a kid who is just trying to figure out life.
I was expected to be level-headed and tame. My sister could run wild. I was expected to speak proper English even with my friends. I was expected to graduate high school and use my scholarships to become a microbiologist. I was expected to not hang out but spend my time quietly reading. I was expected to be a shining example of a young Black girl. Even my school counselors and teachers placed pressure on me to succeed because it should have been easy for me. No one ever asked me if I wanted to succeed. I was not allowed to pick the easy path but was always commanded to take the hardest path. I spent so much time living up to other people’s expectations, that my teenage rebellion changed the entire course of my life. Instead of graduating high school on time, I dropped out halfway through second semester of senior year, just after my 17th birthday. I lost all of my scholarships. I tried to commit suicide. I started hanging out with gang members and selling drugs. I fought and drank every single day for several months. I spent so much time trying to shake the nerd, goody two shoes label that I lost respect for myself. (I went back first semester of the next year and graduated 1-17-91.) I thought I had taught them that I could not and would not live with the pressure of success. But I didn’t.
The same pressure is placed on me by my family today. Yes, I am the eldest. Yes, when I put my mind to it I can do anything. And yes, I was blessed with a different type of intellect. But I can’t handle the pressure. No one seems to understand that I learn new skills and gain new knowledge because it is fun. I taught myself to crochet, knit, bead, cross stitch, make body butter, and work with polymer clay because it is fun. I don’t want to turn any of those hobbies into careers because I don’t want to have to do things on other people’s terms. I also judge myself and my creations more harshly than any other living person. I am not going to release something to the public that I don’t feel is the absolute best I can create.
Yes, I went back to school with a double major in Psychology and Social Work. Yes, I was an honor roll student while being a mother of 6 and wife of 1. Yes, I could do some good in those careers but I am not sure that is what I want to do. How are you pushing me to get my Ph.D when I haven’t even completed my BS? Don’t you understand that I went back to be able to learn? What is wrong with being a life long student? What is wrong with wanting to have the knowledge just because? Why must I be Dr. Jackson for your happiness? Why don’t you understand that I quit because you took my joy away with your demands on my future? Once again the pressure of Success got to me.
I know that I shouldn’t feel pressure when my family and friends cheer me on but is exactly what it is. I feel like I have to keep topping the last thing I did or I will just disappoint every one. I feel like if they see that I am insecure or unsure, they will just pooh-pooh my feelings without seeing it from my perspective. So instead I sabotage myself. I let my creative fire die every so often and then spend months trying to find it again. That is what happened to this blog. Too many people took notice and I felt like I could not keep writing. I felt like it was demanding I write even on the days I had nothing to say. Success requires you to keep being great. I just want to be average most days. I just want to do what makes me happy and relieves the pressure of having too many thoughts in my head. I don’t want people demanding that I put more jewelry up for sale. I don’t want people demanding that I knit them scarves and what not. I don’t want people offering me money to sew up a dress that needs to be done in two weeks. I don’t want people asking me when I am going to write a recipe, poetry, or fiction book. I don’t want people demanding that I get a Ph. D because it should be a walk in the park for me. I want to be free to choose my own path.
I know I can’t be the only one who fears success but sometimes it feels that way. It seems that everyone else is always striving to be better. Where are the other weirdo’s who would prefer to just be average in the eyes of those who love them? Where are my fellow purposeful slackers? Do you fear success or failure? Please let me know that I am not alone…
(Please forgive any typos, format, and grammatical errors. I did not do an outline, rough draft, or final draft. This was just the flow of my thoughts today.)