Feelings of failure are contingent, of course. I suppose I sometimes feel that way because I come from a family with very high expectations and have often moved amongst high-flying friends. Measured against many of my peers from school, college and university, my career progression would be described as mediocre at best.
One good friend from university works as an international lawyer for the government of Pakistan, services for which he was recently awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz, equivalent to a knighthood. Another is head of international business at a top ranking firm of solicitors. An acquaintance from college, meanwhile, has made salaried judge of the first-tier tribunal court.
My career development has been less conventional. It took me a long time to find my feet. Given past experience, I am grateful to have this role and am relatively content with the untaxing nature of my work. But it’s nothing to write home about. It’s not the kind of job my parents would boast about if asked what their youngest son was doing these days.
Still, success and failure is all relative. I have worked remotely for a decade. My salary is sufficient to meet our basic needs. I have a good work-life balance. My skills are in demand in our organisation. Colleagues seem to value my efforts. Though in no way prestigious, I think the role is just about right for me.
At a family funeral thirteen years ago, my long-absent godmother cornered me to quiz me on my status. When I told her the organisation I worked for, she immediately asked me which directorate I was the head of. I was afraid to tell her that I was just a junior web developer, for my godparents had always been in competition with my parents in respect of their presumed-to-be high-flying children. The less they know about my life, the better.
But confession time: work isn’t actually the most important thing in my life. It’s a means to an end. I’ve never had any great ambition in this regard. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I’d rather like to simply live off my land, perhaps opening a bed-and-breakfast and tea-garden, supplementing our meagre income with a spot of freelance work now and then. If I could achieve that, then I would consider myself a success.
High expectations can be stifling. I don’t think they’re particularly helpful to one’s sense of self-worth. These are what frequently cause me to take myself to task, lambasting myself for being a failure. But, really that’s not what I am by any objective measure. I’ve just prioritised different things in my life. I suppose relationships were more important to me than a paycheque. Here, a different measure of success.