My Failure Complex

I am the consummate overachiever. I was in all of the Gifted and Talented classes in school, I did the AP thing (although not the sciences – I’m not crazy), and I used my SATs to get into a very good school. I did very well in grad school and am doing well in my professional life. I even aced my driver’s test when I was 16. In all of my 31 years, the only thing I have failed was a test in a stupid biology class. It was a horrible feeling.

Since then, I haven’t failed at anything I have tried. Except this. And I have failed spectacularly. What is so galling is what a public failure it is. Your waistline never changes, your boobs never get bigger, you don’t have The Glow. People who see you week after week know that you aren’t succeeding. You begin to regret telling so many people when you started because you know that you will get The Question eventually and you will have to state the obvious (since you aren’t huge and you don’t have a baby in tow) and wait for them to ask the Other Question (so, what’s the problem?). You begin to withdraw from those who you knew, particularly your friends who have managed to succeed in this particular endeavour.

I, like many of my peers, was always told that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything (or something to that effect). That’s not really accurate because it assumes that you have control over what you put your mind to. How many writers have put their mind to writing the next Great American Novel but it never makes it to an agent? How many kids go to Hollywood every year trying to break into acting and end up doing porn? How many women think that it will be easy as pie to get pregnant and then wind up amongst the ranks of the infertile?

Failure has never really been an option for me because that would imply that I wasn’t working hard enough, studying hard enough or putting enough of myself toward reaching a particular goal. I am doing everything within my power to get pregnant and have a baby and I am still failing. My inner shrink is saying that by focusing on just this one aspect, I am setting myself up for failure. I am succeeding in other areas of life – I have a wonderful marriage, two beautiful and healthy furry beasts, friends, a good job, a home, a nice car, etc.

I also know that getting pregnant is actually the easiest part of the journey. Having the child, raising the child, loving the child and parenting the child until you die are really the hard parts and where the stakes of failure are not just personal but arguably involve society as a whole. The failure of a parent to effectively raise their child results in terrible things everyday. The moral of the story, then, is that the consequence of getting pregnant and having a child raises the spectre of failure much more often and profoundly than the (probably temporary) failure to get pregnant at all. And, maybe it isn’t such a horrible thing to fail once in a while.

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