In every job interview I undertook I was invariably prepared for the one question that was always posed, the question that was anticipated with dread and the one that you would begin to imagine, as the meeting drew towards conclusion, that you may have escaped until…
‘And finally, what would you say your strengths are..?’
‘Well’, I would ponder, ‘I’m a perfectionist.’
I would follow this up with some insights into my work acumen stating that I was highly organised (I have a sock bag that contains a minimum of 46 odd socks). I had impeccably high standards (in footwear alone). I loved bringing a project to completion, (I still have the paint samples on the walls two years after moving house) and I work well with others as I can always uncover their strengths. (I hate working as part of team and I hated office life, you are all dickheads.)
‘Yes, yes, very interesting and so tell me (here it comes, sure at this stage I could interview myself), what would you say your weaknesses are…’
‘Well, funny you should ask, I’m a perfectionist.’
Boom sign the contract – job is in the bag.
I would go on to explain that I had learnt over the years that perfectionism does not equate to perfection and that I had learnt that the constant strive towards perfection can be a hard and unsatisfying journey because somehow things never seem good enough. It was cheesier than a fondue but it always did the trick.
‘Instead nowadays I strive for excellence while realising I am but human.’ (What a load of…)
I had demonstrated a fault, I had recognised it, and I had amended it and so inevitably I would be offered another job that I didn’t really want.
In fashion terms, my perfectionistic traits were always problematic as I have the tastes of Donatella Versace on a children’s allowance budget. There’s only so far the ‘Mickey Money’ can stretch and I’ve had to compromise my tastes to suit. Last year I had to promptly and unwittingly break up The Kooples, a devastating experience for us both.
In real life terms my perfect goals were harder to say goodbye to.
There have been many occasions where I’ve felt that I was sucked up into the wrong life by a very strong Dyson cordless and I’ve often fantasized about the life that I was actually destined for.
I always maintain that I would have made a superb Heiress.
I have marvellous taste, I love a good party and I’ve always wanted to drive a diamante Defender. I’m generous; so I would keep myself busy with important charity work and I would obviously share with all my friends. I hate cooking; so the loss of culinary control wouldn’t bother me and I love the outdoors so I would own many horses and ride around all day chortling with my horsey pals. (They always seem to have the best fun.)
The Mothership always had a little joke that I was after all more ornamental.
Sadly, I married for love and so the hopes of acquiring nobility and copious amounts of dosh were managed quite early on. In the early days though, The S.O came off the starting blocks strong and we had a lovely home, he was self-employed and a real grafter, we had nice holidays, I had my red mini, my orange dress and the future was very promising. I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
I worked (sort of) but was very happy with the someday plan that I would have babies and when I eventually learned not to make my white sauce thicker than wallpaper paste, I would cook and shop like The Mothership and at 26 I was well able to criticize you if you shit on my plans. This was going to be my life.
Until it wasn’t.
The day after we had christened the first born in a lavish event that cost a small fortune; we had floral arrangements with vases filled with marshmallows, pink sweets in bowls, pink balloons, pink champagne, caterers, a specially made cake that I left on the coffee table and came back to discover Buster eating as if it was a chicken carcass and a last minute panic of having to get the chewed bit re-iced, The S.O sat me down and burst my bubble.
We were absolutely broke, in fact we were negative broke and all my perfect life aspirations evaporated into thin air.
A bad business decision had left a big dent in us that would have to be filled. It wasn’t a life or death situation but enough to make you regurgitate the already chewed cake. Now considering the fact that most people at twenty-six are broke, it shouldn’t have actually been a big deal. But since I was in full fledge of Act 2, Scene 1, in my very own production of ‘I am a mature adult’, I balked at the idea of selling the house which would wipe the debt and leave us with enough to eventually put down a deposit somewhere else. NO NO NO. My father had instilled in me the value of property ownership.
Suffice to say the decision we reached to ‘fix’ the problem was the worst decision of our lives and one that has followed us to this day.
A year later the recession started.
I should have taken solace in the fact that the whole world was now in the same boat but in fact the recession only served to further wipe us out. The life that I took pride in, the life that I thought shaped my identity as a swishy haired girl with the world at her feet receded and with it I lost a big part of myself. As my friends careers started to take off and their own adventures began I watched as my own seemed to fall further backwards. I was at the very bottom of the shit pile.
The Struggle Years kicked into full force.
The car went, the shopping stopped, I had to find a job and fast (‘I’m a bloody perfectionist, quick prep the contracts’). But the cogs were turning and what I didn’t realise was that I was just about to uncover the real me and who I would become…
Lately it had me thinking that our whole existence and the shape of our lives really rests upon one or two big decisions.
Those choices that determine how things will work out. You know the,
‘Well now I was offered that job in 1984 and if I had taken it, well… we would be on the pigs back now Mary, I can tell you… ‘
‘If I had, If I had….’ We all have one.
If we had sold the house at that time, if we had taken the hit, if we had…we would have an entirely different life.
Every decision we make, impacts our future. Oh Christ and for someone with limited decision making capabilities this was bad news.
But I also think our lives rely on a little bit of luck and a little bit of being in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately for us it was the luck part that always seemed to allude us. Or the lucky break that never seemed to come. Or the bad decisions that we made. I can guarantee we were working just as hard and had sacrificed just as much as the couple who seemed to have it all, why didn’t we? We seemed trapped in a mine that persistently crumbled and every time we dusted ourselves off, something else came along to take us out. When you are down on your luck you lose choices but even more frustratingly, you lose your voice.
Had our bad decisions ruined us? But deep down I know…
NO ONE GETS IT ALL.
The person who appears to have the success and the money may indeed crave something that you have. Appearances are deceiving and we never really know what is there or what isn’t. We learn to hide what we don’t want others to see. We conceal the little things that make us just like everyone else, the little insecurities that would break down the wall of perfection.
There’s that word again. Perfection. It just doesn’t really exist. That supermodel that you would love to look like, in fact has an arse of a boyfriend and gammy toes that she conceals inside her Manolos. And poor oul JLo with all her success can’t seem to hold on to a fella.
That pious ‘pillar of the community’ woman that goes to mass and has the wonderfully talented snooze fest children is a judgemental old bag who bitches non-stop to the poor husband.
The lovely husband that you want your own to be more like is a right old narky shite at home.
The beautiful young girl who worries consistently that she is overweight.
The man who seems to have it all but hates what he does and is miserable.
The search for perfection becomes exhausting.
Turns out the ‘Struggle Years’ changed me in ways that I am proud of. I discovered that I am in fact an ornamental work horse. I am able to graft just as hard as anyone else. I am also a hell of a lot stronger than I thought and the adverse shopping conditions meant that I discovered that making use of what I’ve got in a creative way rather than shopping up a tornado is very possible.
That ‘bad’ decision meant that I stopped looking at life in terms of my achievements, or how rich I was, or how successful I was but on the kind of relationships I had. I have a strong marriage, a wonderful family, friends who I adore, three amazing healthy kids and thin ankles.
I got that – that’s my thing.
I learned that there is a time to fight against the hand you’ve been dealt, and a time to accept it. There’s a time to live in the now, a time to stop letting your fear of the future hold you back, a time to compromise, a time to let go of the past and a time to be just simply proud of what you have.
The result of a hard time can be magical. The result can be the second life that you never even knew was waiting for you. While I was going through some of these challenges people would tell me how brave I was and how strong I was and I wanted to scream at them…
‘Are you having a bleedin’ laugh?
Because when adversity hits you have no choice but to be brave and strong. You can’t sit back and see how it pans out. But I do believe there is always a way. There is always a solution, you just have to be brave enough to do it.
You only regret the things you don’t do.
I regret not selling that blasted house but I take responsibility for it. As a result I now consider myself a ‘Life Expert’ with all the mistakes we’ve made and so I am fully qualified to dole out advice in a very superior and condescending manner.
I love a bit of advice. I believe advice and not criticism is the key to life. I always listen to advice and swear to live by it for at least 3 minutes. And everyone has their own little nugget to share. Their trump card. The bit they pull out as their piece de resistance. It’s more than an obscure proverb…
‘May the cat eat you and the devil eat the cat’
‘It is often that a person’s mouth broke his nose’
I’m sorry now D’arby you need to zip it.
It’s the friend who told me, ‘what goes around comes around’ after she was slighted in business.
The person who has lost a loved one who says ‘live in the now, nothing matters but your family.’
It’s the person who made the bad career decisions who finally stopped chasing the dream that was too big and says, ‘I am now doing what I want to be doing, do what you love, life is too short’
And the very wise friend who told me, ‘Sometimes the struggle is exactly what we need.’
Without it I would have ended up a right old boring fool, faffing about my cutlery and dinnerware and all the other things that boring people faff about because I wasn’t meant to be an heiress, I was meant to be something more.
My own tuppence worth of advice is, ‘Don’t Give up. It’s never too late. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.’
My experiences have made me who I am. My life is far from perfect. Maybe it never will be. Maybe it’s not supposed to be…but I love it.
There are times that I love my husband so much that I want to walk around all day tucked into his breast pocket and there are times that I want to mush an entire Victoria sponge into his face as he is talking, which means only one thing, I have as close to a perfect marriage as I can get.
There are times that I have laughed so hard that maybe I peed (just a little) and times that I’ve cried so hard that I can’t breathe. I have felt like a failure many times and I’ve experienced huge successes.
But it’s all just life!
I now as a rule never say no to an opportunity. Goodness knows where it could lead. I am committed to living the best life I can. The kind that I choose to write about and share and perhaps I will inspire someone else. Perhaps I will inspire someone who has ended up sucked into the wrong life, or someone who is down on their luck, or perhaps an Heiress is reading this and she will donate her Diamante Defender. Who knows?
Who am I? I’m not terribly successful. I’m no perfectionist.
But I have something to say. I want the kind of life that when someone asks me am I someday going to run out of things to write about I can say…
This blog is dedicated to Me. ‘Go You!…I mean Me’