The truth of the matter is, no matter how hard you try, you cannot have it all. There it is. Harsh, perhaps, but honest.
It may be because we’re heading towards the end of the year, or it may just be those around me are overcome with the positive meme-spirit lately, but I’ve lost count of the amount of ‘inspirational’ memes I’ve seen, telling us all we can be anything, have everything if only we believe.
And to that I’m calling bullshit.
We can’t. There are some things we cannot have. There are some things that we cannot do. And you know something, that’s perfectly okay.
You do not need to be Superman or Superwoman. You are not, and never needed to be, perfect. You are you. That should be enough.
Do your best at whatever it is you set your mind to. Be a good person, one who treats others with respect and love. Work hard and rest hard. Knowing your limitations is not a curse. We can’t all be Oscar winning superstars, or world leading brain surgeons.
Not all of us will walk on the moon or uncover an ancient hidden city. And that is okay.
I once saw an interview with actress and writer, Carrie Fisher. In it she claimed the worst thing a parent could do is to give their child a ‘happy, mediocre’ childhood because that in turn would produce only a mediocre adult. Here’s a fact. Most people on earth or mediocre. We are not all prodigy’s.
I’m 43. So maybe I’m just reaching that stage were delusions are no longer supporting my actions. Who knows? What I do know is, there’s nothing wrong with being mediocre, with being average.
I write. It’s my oxygen, my life’s blood. Whether it is read or not. I write. Without it I’m lost and confused. But if my writing is only ever for myself and friends thats okay. I grew up wanting to be the love child of Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins, Wilbur Smith and Danielle Steele (biology may not have been my strongest subject at school).
I wanted to write those big, throw away, blockbuster novels my Mother used to read on Summer holidays at the beach. I wanted the fame, the fortune. The mansion by the harbour and the luxury yacht. I wanted to entertain. To give people an avenue in which they could escape their day-to-day lives and be swept away in a grand saga of love, betrayal and ultimate revenge.
I didn’t want to do the work though. I didn’t believe I could. I believed I wasn’t good enough. Despite the parents and friends, the family, telling me I could be anything I wanted to be in life I never really bought it.
I remember a Christmas, I would have been six or so I guess. All the cousins were sitting in a group and my Grandfather and Great-Uncle were holding court. My Grandfather loved Christmas more than any of us, but that’s a story for later. All my boy cousins wanted to be jobs that even at six I thought were average. Policemen, Firemen, joining the Air Force. All my girl cousins wanted to be Teachers, Hairdressers or Beauticians. Me, I wanted to be a Pirate.
Now lets fill in a bit of backstory. I wanted a Parrot. And to my 6 year old mind Pirates had Parrots, therefore I needed to be a Pirate to get a Parrot. Made perfect sense to me. The cousins all thought this hysterically funny. There was much mirth in Mike wanting to be a Pirate. I felt like a weird little alien. It’s a feeling I still have to this day. Why? Because I thought differently to everyone else. I still do.
Despite everyone telling me I could be anything, apparently I couldn’t be a Pirate. Why not? I could be anything I wanted, anything I tried to be, anything I worked for. I could be a Pirate then, couldn’t I?
Well obviously I didn’t become a Pirate. The idea of living on a leaky boat with men in big hats and dealing with scurvy sort of put paid to that idea. Although to be honest, Captain Hook still remains my favourite story character. Frankly, I always thought Peter Pan was a bit of a prat.
I think “you can have everything”, is a dangerous ‘Meme’. Sometimes you just can’t. Some dreams you will never achieve, and I know that’s not particularly popular when it comes to positivity, but it’s the truth.
The important thing is to never give up, and to do the work. If you want to write, then write. It takes time, it takes practice, it takes hundred of lost book-souls languishing in a drawer while you hone your skills. One of the strangest things I’ve seen over the years is that if you just ‘hope real hard’ you’ll get what you want. That’s crap.
With 2016 coming to an end a large percentage of the world’s population will be setting up new goals, new dreams for the coming year. Most of those goals will die on the page before the first week of January is complete. Why? Because most people don’t pick things they’re passionate about. They pick dreams they think will impress the neighbours.
And to be honest, the neighbours don’t care. They don’t even think of you. Life is what you make it, but unless you’re realistic you’re setting yourself up for a world of mental hurt. I always wanted children. Being gay and single be damned. It was a goal I set every year. Next year I will meet my partner and we’ll have a child.
Two years ago that dream finally died. I was 41. I was single. I was broke. There was no way on earth I’d be having a child, or raising it. Not at my age. Not when I could barely afford to pay the bills each month. Realistically, children hadn’t been in my range of experiences in probably a decade. Do you know how painful and raw it is to experience the death of a dream?
It was the single most painful experience of my life as I was forced to face and let go of the dream that one day I’d be a Father. It felt like my very soul was torn to shreds. I started to cry that night, and I couldn’t stop. I mourned that which never was, and never destined to be. I sobbed and I cursed and I sobbed some more. Eventually I went to sleep.
Letting go of something you’ve held as sacrosanct for so long is painful. It burns with lost opportunity, lost love, lost laughter. So I did what any self respecting person whose dream just died in front of them does. I drank too much, I walked through the world with a face like a thunderstorm. I saw babies in prams, and pregnant women everywhere I went. It was like a curse. Every time I turned around, there was another one. And another. And eventually, I moved on.
Two years later it’s still a raw, tender spot in my life. But you know, that’s okay. Dreams die. You can’t be everything you hope for. But you can be what you work for. You can have a great life, even if it is different to the one you’ve believed in forever.
You may never win the Archibald Prize, or have a best selling novel. You may never marry royalty or own a string of apartment buildings or whatever else it is. It may because you lack the skill, or the impetus to change enough to own the dream.
You may always be average. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Be you. Be a good person. Show love and care for those around you. Treat the world gently, even if the screeching of the baby Magpie is doing your head in while you write this blog post.
Be the best you can be, and if that means you live a life that leaves nothing but good memories in the hearts and minds of those around you when you’re gone, then that is enough.
The point of this blog isn’t to advise you not to try. Nor is it to tell you to forget your dreams and watch TV. It is to say, some dreams will never be achieved and that is okay. Dreams die. Some change, some morph into something else. That’s fine too.
If a dream dies or changes don’t hate yourself for it. Life is too short to carry regret (says the man with more regrets than he can count). And to those who post – and I’m just as guilty as others – those annoyingly upbeat and positive memes about success understand this; success differs from person to person. It isn’t always about being grand. It is however, always about how much you love.
No, you can’t have everything. No matter how much you wish for it, or struggle for it. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to acknowledge your own limitations and embrace the strengths you have instead.