Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

“Not Working to Potential” X-posted from my personal LJ

I have fucking hated that phrase my entire life.

All through elementary school that phrase, or one very like it, graced every single report card I ever got, right next to the straight A’s. This confused me highly, if I was getting the highest marks possible, how was I not working to potential?

I mean, yeah, I read a lot in class instead of paying attention, but I still got all A’s, tutored other students, helped correct their tests and coursework, wrote puppet shows for them, taught my friend Kay-Ho to speak English (probably better than I do most of the time) after she and her family immigrated to the US from Vietnam. In fourth grade my teachers gave up assigning me to reading groups because they didn’t have texts that addressed my college reading level. I just did a whole lot of book reports. I think I have probably written more book reports than any other person on this planet.

So, what the fuck was up that whole “Not working to potential?”

Now that I’m an adult, I still get it. I get my work done, often with hinderances greater than anyone here, at least, realizes, and still, I get “Not working to potential.”

Well, yeah, they’re right. Being an Admin is NOT working to my potential. I know that. But I’m fucking paralyzed by fear and self doubt.

I know now, through years of therapy, that my parents weren’t directly trying to squash my dreams, but rather that they wanted me to be realistic about my chances of making money by writing, or anything else that smacked of flights of fancy. But the end results were much the same. I want so desperately to write and be read, and create meaningful discourse to the world at large, and I’m fucking terrified of getting that larger audience. That I’m going to seem small, petty and provincial… midwestern. Milquetoast, mild, boring, ridiculous…

Getting all those hits on the “Slut” piece at CA NOW both elated me, and scared the ever-loving shit right out of me. Half my brain shouted, “See!! We DO have worthwhile things to say!!!” And the other half kept cringing back, waiting for the blows to fall, waiting for someone to dismiss me, tell me dozens of people had said those things first and better and more trenchantly and who was I to pretend to intelligence or legitimacy?

I know that working here, where the Union makes sure I’m not fired on a whim, but isn’t good for a whole lot past that, is safe. I also know that it is making me sick, and feel like a whore. And not in a good way. I spend all my time trying to make someone look better than he is, and I’m starting to really, really not care. Hell, I’ve been not caring for a while, and it’s started to show. But it will never be him, it will always be my fault for not carrying on the illusion and letting everyone think the fiction is fact.

I should not cry at my desk as a near daily occurence.

I’m working on building the guts to just say “fuck it” and walk away to spend all my time writing, and courting those 20,000 people who read my piece and took something away from it, even if it was nothing more than, “Wow, I’m not alone.” But it’s really, really hard. I don’t do well with risk… Even in roleplaying games. It drives Ogre nuts, but when faced with a challenge in a game, I will worry at it forever if he lets me. If there’s planning, forget it. The only way he can get me out of it is to force me to make snap decisions NOW. NOW. NOW!!!!

I do surprisingly well under crisis, and tend to court that when I’m bored, frustrated or unhappy. And I don’t mean courting drama in light of crisis. I mean, letting work shit pile up until the last minute, and blazing through it in a burst of glorious productivity, then going back to slacking.

I’m not living up to my potential, and I need to fix that. I just don’t know how.

5 comments on ““Not Working to Potential” X-posted from my personal LJ

  1. literateshrew
    August 4, 2009

    I could have written this. Thank you for saying it. No other phrase in the world can trigger my depression more than “not working to potential.”
    The answer that worked for me was going back to school. At 27, I was working a soulless job, trying to write, and feeling generally squashed emotionally and creatively. Then one day I said “fuck it.” I found out that the university I had dropped out of at 19 would take me back, so I filled out a FAFSA and went back to school. I tried to keep the soulless job (part time), but then they wanted to screw with my schedule and generally not support my matriculation (though their official policy of course encouraged students). So I quit.
    And you know what? I survived, and I’m happy. I use my brain every day, get to write as much as I can handle, and I even have time to work on my novel. If you’re over 23 (so you don’t have to claim your parents’ income), the government really WILL give you enough $$ to survive and go to school full time. Sure, 90% of it is loans, but I’ll pay those back when I get my next (hopefully not so soulless) job.
    And since you are a smart woman, you can find tutoring jobs on campus that actually pay more than minimum wage to supplement the pittance you get from the Man. I’m working as a writing tutor right now, and let me tell you it has saved my life. I get to help people learn to do what I do well, what I love to do, and that’s write. And from the looks of it, it’s what you do well, too.
    So. I realize that my life is not your life and what works for me may not work for you, but I thought I should at least mention it.
    Oh, yeah, and not one single professor has ever damned me with that phrase. 😉


    • polimicks
      August 4, 2009

      I’ve got the BA. I need to sit down and write the thesis, and then pay off enough of my student loans that they’ll let me graduate for the MA.
      Part of me wants to strangle myself for not going for an MFA at Las Cruces.


      • literateshrew
        August 5, 2009

        Ah, well. That’s a whole ‘nother situation. I’m trying to go straight into an MA program so I can stay in as long as possible. I’d love to get an MFA in Creative Writing, but I might have to work on that while teaching.
        Maybe working on that thesis might at least take your mind off the hell-job. It might be a good way to get your toe back in the writing pool without being too scary.
        Anyway, this internet stranger wishes you the best, though, because she enjoys your perspective on the world. 🙂


      • polimicks
        August 5, 2009

        Thank you.
        The thesis is actually a big part of the writing fears, and issues. sigh. I’m such a headcase.
        Thank you very much for your kind words. I really just need to suck it up and figure out what I want to be when I grow up.


  2. javagoth
    August 4, 2009

    This describes a lot of how I’m feeling right now. While I *did* feel like I made a difference at Boeing, most of the testing was basic stuff and we didn’t have the budget or time for *real* improvements to be made – which was frustrating. The last two contracts have been exercises in frustration for the most part – not getting to do the most interesting testing, being blocked from doing my absolute best for them, and then being treated like *I* was the one who was slacking.
    I’m not working contract jobs because I want to but rather because those are the jobs that are available. I’d rather be in a place long term where I could make a difference but I’m finding people are now leery of hiring me for FT perm positions because of how much contract work I’ve done (that’s when I can even find those positions mind you); they think I’ll leave when I get bored… **sigh**
    At times I’ve wanted to be a writer – I always got good grades for content – it was my technical skills I struggled with and I’m better than I used to be. That said, I feel like I’m surrounded by much more talented writers and so maybe I should do something else. Of course, I pretty much think that about everything I do. I feel mediocre in everything I do and it’s safer to continue with the status quo then put myself on the line and find out I was right about that…
    Then there’s all the arts and crafts I do and enjoy and the fact that I have stuff piling up with no outlet. I talk myself out of getting shit up on-line though because what if I do that and I *still* don’t sell the stuff – then it would just confirm for me that my skills are, in fact, mediocre.
    I’m torn between trying to finish a degree and get certifications for computer security jobs or to spend more time and effort selling the things I make and doing test jobs as I can to make sure the rent and bills are paid…


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This entry was posted on August 3, 2009 by in Uncategorized.

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