Single, Successful AND Falling Apart? What an Achievement That Would Be…

“She’s single, successful, and falling apart” read the billboard poster back in 1998. Ally McBeal, the young, unimaginably thin lawyer who danced with babies and fantasized about having sex in a car wash represented every young woman who was trying to make her way in the world. Facing the difficulties of working with her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, trying to make it in the legal profession and fighting a biological clock in the form of a dancing baby, Ally McBeal gave us weekly entertainment and a soundtrack to cry for.

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“Well at least she’s successful” is the bitchy comment I read in one magazine at the time. Because it’s true, Ally McBeal is the rarity in this world; she has a profession that she can call a career. Most women of her age don’t have that. Which leaves them single and falling apart.

I for one can identify with that. I have never had a career. At school during our final year we had a class where we went round the room saying what job we wanted to do when we left. I said I wanted to be a secretary. Six years later I was a secretary – and I hated every minute of it. Being a secretary involves being organised and thinking ahead on behalf of somebody else. I can barely do that for myself, let alone someone of Professor status. After spending four years at university, I am still no closer to that elusive career than I was at the age of 15. While I have a rough idea of what I want to do, which is getting paid to write, I still don’t know exactly how I’m going to do that. Writing blogs is a step in the right direction, but this dream definitely needs more work.

I do feel like I’m going off on a tangent, which I tend to do. So back to the point. Ally McBeal, for everything else she may be, is at least successful.

I found out a few months ago that one of my closest childhood friends is not only sucessful, but, well, she’s pretty big-time successful. On top of having a journalism career for a well-known national newspaper, she’s already published one Kindle book, and has just published a “proper” book. The subject? Her thirty-something crisis.

I have to say it took me by surprise. We lost touch around the time I got married in 2005, although I would like to say that wasn’t the reason. While I have very fond memories of my friend who I spent many a half-term holiday with after her parents moved away, I did feel the green-eyed monster lurking today. When you are trying to assess how well or not you are doing in life, the last thing you need is for someone you know that you can compare yourself to doing a million times better.

It must be a time for ghosts from the past. I found out recently that a classmate of mine died several years ago. The news didn’t really surprise me, for the last I had heard anything of this girl was reading in the newspaper about her, and it certainly wasn’t a celebration of any achievement. While she obviously had her own issues, I feel nothing for this person, because of the way I was made to feel at school. Anyone who has read this blog before knows I still have issues, even at my age, about school-related incidents.

So here we have two people from my childhood; one, a really good friend, who has made a success of her life and the other, someone I would rather forget, who no longer has the option to make anything of life.

I would place myself somewhere in the middle. I have my issues, and lately I have been mooching around rock bottom.

Since I started on my own thirty-something crisis some eight years ago, the one thing I have been able to use for encouragement is the discovery of those who are passionate about what they do, or are making progress towards achieving that. While studying in the US, I took a journalism course, and for one of my papers I chose to write an article called Follow Your Dreams: Chasing the Dream. In it, I interviewed a twenty-year old student from my college who had bagged himself a summer internship working on hit TV show, Weeds, and a former mature student who was working as a reporter for the New York Post. I remember being inspired by both of them, who through their hard work and perseverance were well on the way to their dream jobs.

Back at my home university I volunteered at a community radio station (www.sirenonline.co.uk) and I was lucky enough to be able to choose people to interview, many of which were involved in music or writing. Coming into contact with such people each week really inspired me that I could pursue my dream too.

I think since I moved to London though, despite the capital’s cultural hotspot, I haven’t been able to seek out those same people as I did before. And because I have felt my own dreams being stifled, it has been hard to feel joy towards those who are following their own dreams. I found out about my former friend who wrote the book earlier this year, ironically through a guy I met while internet dating, who had worked with her during one of her earlier jobs. At that time I was unable to accept the fact that someone I once knew had achieved exactly what I wanted, with bells and whistles. It hit me hard. She had endured the thirty-something crisis, which led her to an adventure worthy of not just a novel, but a memoir. She travelled the world in a boat while I struggled to get out of my home city. I have to admit, I still feel a little jealous. And I guess that is the reason this blog has taken such a long time to write. I had to dust it off to finish it ready for publication.

But I think I am finally ready to put that jealousy to good use. It’s time to start being inspired by people again, rather than to beat myself up by the fact that someone has achieved something that I have not. I have been searching for that job I can be passionate about, and the best way to achieve that is to find inspiration from those around me. While I may have been beaten to writing a novel, there’s room on the shelves for more than one. And the blogosphere is created such that there is room for everyone. I will take encouragement from the fact that someone I once knew has achieved the dream of having a book published, and that if I try hard enough anything is possible. Like Ally McBeal, perhaps I can at least aim to be successful, even if I am still single and falling apart.

*Emma Bamford’s memoir Casting Off: How a City Girl Found Happiness on the High Seas is published by Bloomsbury.

**I did promise in Jogga-Blog to the Moon that I had a moon-themed song, and well this one just seems to match this blog. Plus it’s from the 80s. What more could you want?

The Whole of the Moon – The Waterboys (1985)

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rob
    Sep 16, 2014 @ 16:15:52

    Ally McBeal was ridiculous. And she was WAY too skinny for my taste.

    I can relate to still have school related issues. School is a cruel, cruel place.

    A very good friend of mine is a writer. Her name is l.d. davis. She self publishes ebooks and her first book was on the New York Times bestseller list. She makes her living by writing. But she started out with nothing. I’ve known her for about 15 years and to see her transformation is remarkable.

    Like you, she had dreams of getting paid to write. But she was a single mom with 4 kids (at the time) to raise. She had no college education and worked low-paying dead end jobs–including McDonald’s and as a home health aide. She couldn’t imagine how she could become a writer with so many obstacles.

    She eventually married and had another baby. After an attempt at school she decided to really focus on writing, inspired by the success of other self-published authors. She worked nights at Walmart and wrote when she could and eventually published her ebook, which became a NYT bestseller. She has written a number of follow ups.

    My point is, if you want to make a living as a writer, you can. My friend went from being a single mom in the ghetto to a successful writer. She is neither rich or famous, but she makes her living doing something that she loves. So can you.

    If your interested I can give you her phone number or email if you want to connect. She’d be happy to talk to you or offer advice if you want. I’ve already spoken to her about you.

    Reply

  2. Trackback: The Great Face-Palm | 33andlostinlife

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