This Life Is Your Life, This Life Is My Life

2009 November 20

Apologies to Woody Guthrie for bastardizing his iconic song title. I came across the link to this definition in the course of unrelated internet reading the other day and while I certainly don’t want to make light of or belittle a medical condition, I couldn’t help but think of how many people are suffering from a non-clinical form of this very phenomenon. Just drifting through the days, waiting for passion to strike (it has to eventually, right?) or for the axe to fall.

105709828_3b6bcf6fd0Photo by pyrator

The experience of feeling like an impostor or a fraud trapped in someone else’s shoes cuts both ways. For those who have achieved some measure of career, personal or financial success, there’s the doubt that it’s truly deserved and the fear that it will eventually be snatched back without warning. You can never truly feel secure/content in what you’ve built or attained because there’s always the sneaking suspicion that the universe is eventually gonna send the repo man after your slice of the pie. Better not get too attached, too invested, because it’s all going to crash down around you sooner or later. So you keep pushing yourself harder, running faster and looking over your shoulder all the while.

For those still struggling and still striving, there’s the desire to believe that this really isn’t the way it was supposed to turn out. Eventually, the alarm clock is going to go off, you’ll wake up and Mom will be yelling from the bottom of the stairs that if you don’t get a move on, you’ll be late for first period. All this time can’t possibly have passed with so little to show for the years. So you play mind games with yourself. You too hold off investing, because buying matching dishware is an adult thing to do and if you do this one adult thing, it means facing up to all of the other adult things you “should” have mastered already, but haven’t. You fight the slippery slope and wait for some sort of it was all a dream reprieve while you do your best to block out stories of other people’s successes.

And of course, no one talks openly about either scenario. Owning your “success” is simply daring it to be taken away and admitting that you feel inadequate is tantamount to tattooing Underachiever on your forehead. If we convince ourselves that we’re borrowing someone else’s life, maybe it won’t hurt so much to live it or to lose it.

P.S. I’m off to spend my birthday weekend in Boston and won’t be back until late on Monday. If you’re a last-minute type, there’s still time to win my heart with an appropriate birthday present.  I love penguins, wiener dogs, winter hats, detailed bullet lists and the color black. A pony would also be well received.

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