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An Ode to the Unfinishers

An Ode to the Unfinishers

Sometimes you start something, only to, halfway through, lose all the original motivation and desire to finish it.

HASHTAG ME HASHTAG OMG SO ME IT COULD LITERALLY BE ME DRESSED UP AS ME WITH MY NAME

I run with things only until they fly away.

For too long I felt like this was some kind of Bad And Wrong part of me; we all have that, right? The part that mustn’t be uttered about or shown in public because LO! THY SHALL BE STRUCK DOWN BY THE LORD (or that bitch from school who you don’t even speak to and once said you were a show-off, or your mum, or your best mate, some randomer on social media) WITH A DAGGER OF LIGHTNING (or, y’know, an off-the-cuff sentence about how that’ll never work, that you need to pass X exams or have Y experience or nosh off Z-list celebs) AND SMITE YOU TO DEEEAAAAATH (read: send the inner shitty committee absolutely rampant in your own mind).

I forced past-me into doing things because that was visually how I “should” be presenting myself to the world. Stay the course, nose to the grindstone, push through the boredom and the pain and the awkward middle stage.

There is a place for people who stick to their guns in this world. Laser focus breeds success, slow and steady wins the race. The rest of us? Watch the laser-focused race-winners smash goal after goal, wondering what fucking coffee they drink and what shade of pink their yoga leggings are. Then we buy their courses that we don’t finish, and we start their workouts that we quit after a couple of weeks, and we wear the same t-shirts and bathe in the same bath salts and follow their morning routine and and and…

And when you’ve seen the discarded dreams, the unfinished art, the ideas that only ever made it to paper, the 50% completed courses, the guilt we feel as we think of the money we’ve spent on memberships and classes and stuff that scream their incompleteness when we log into our email or rifle through the understairs cupboard, it can feel overwhelmingly like a bag of failure.

We forget that we too are consistent, we too have succeeded, we too have gifts. We just do it in our way.

We’ve all stuck it out in jobs, we’ve all dedicated our time to relationships, friendships, we’ve all felt the joy of completing something, however small – a jigsaw, an awkward call, a wheel of brie (don’t deny it, I know it isn’t just me) – that meant something to us. We’ve all finished something, but you don’t see us celebrating that because it’s not what we feel is worthy enough.

What if – WHAT FUCKING IF – you decided to love the shit out of your “unfinishedness”?

What then?

“I didn’t finish that gym program… and I LOVE THAT.”

“I didn’t complete the Spanish course… and I LOVE THE BONES OFFA ME”

Loving it feels a bit weird, right? I can hear you all now, “I ain’t getting on no love plane, fool” All right, Mr T. Calm your tits. You don’t need to love that part of yourself, but the aim is for acceptance.

“I haven’t finished that book that I started reading… or writing… and THAT’S OK”.

Being the person who started to totally drop in to loving my Unfinisher opened up my eyes

Yep, initially it felt like I was just lying to myself. “No you fucking don’t love it, you twat. You hate that you spent thousands on that online course years ago and then logged in twice”

But then I started to be ok with it. I didn’t immediately start jumping to the “you’re a total shitbag for not finishing” rhetoric I had historically run to in my mind. I had a few micro-seconds of grace. And then a few milliseconds. And then a few seconds.

But there was another, better, stranger part; I stopped being the person trying to do all the courses and buying all the gym gear and following all the success-drenched, laser-focused bellends because I didn’t actually like most of it.

I got to hear myself – and listen.

I became way more discerning with what I was spending time and money on, with who I was following, and with what I wanted to learn.

My ideas got louder. I started actually fucking FINISHING stuff. And finishing stuff that MEANT SOMETHING TO ME. Small things, like washing my face every night. And then bigger things, like starting a new business (I actually started two in 2018. but that’s a story for another time)

Now?

I let go of half-read books. (Most books? Unless they have some wild end twist, I get the joke in the first half. Then they can go back from whence they came #oxfambookshop #overloadedkindlelibrary)

I cancel the subscription when I notice the program or membership isn’t really “me”.

I cherry pick the people I follow on social media. I consciously choose the people I want to engage with in real life.

I support causes I believe in.

I start things before I’m ready, and if I realise it’s working, THEN I buy things that help save me time or money (or invariably I realise that I didn’t need half the things that you’re told to get anyway).

I have SO MUCH LOVELY, LOVELY SPACE for ideas now. My super-power isn’t about being the tortoise that wins some success race, but being the space for the ideas to spring up in that isn’t clouded by the opinions and ideas of people who simply don’t work like I do. I’ll win the damn race all the same, but the only people in it are me, and me-but-from-yesterday.

Sometimes the finishing isn’t the specific finishing goal you were expecting it to be, but rather the decision to stop, and to be agile enough to move to the next thing. And look, I’m not here trying to enable people to just quit all the time, but you know – you know – deep down if you’ll regret not completing something to the best of your ability, or if you’ll regret something for staying the course too long. 

The world needs finishers, but there isn’t only one type. Whether a tortoise or a hare, or a demented chinchilla with a speed habit, you are needed in the world.

 

 

 

Success and my inner-bitch factory

Success and my inner-bitch factory

Success is a fickle bastard.

Wait, wait, wait. No. The way I feel about success is a fickle bastard.

From the perspective of friends and family, I think a lot of people would see me as relatively successful; I have the trappings of a pretty charmed life (good marriage, healthy daughter, nice house in a nice place, my own business, good friends). I’ve also had a few people tell me that the stuff I’ve done has inspired them to do their own things, a concept I find incredibly humbling considering what a lot of my friends have achieved.

But I also find it a bit fucking berserkoid. Because I NEVER FEEL SUCCESSFUL except for fleeting moments when I win an award, or I’m asked to speak at an event, or given some accolade from some person I deem as “better than me”.

I’ve started to touch on this in my therapy sessions, because it’s a theme that always comes up as the Voice of Utter Shitness in my mind: “YOU’RE NOT SUCCESSFUL YET”.

Earlier on today, I was directed to an Enneagram test by Lotte. I took a test, and found out I am a Type 3, also known as The Achiever (I have a wing of 4, which also makes me “The Professional”, but that’s a subsidiary matter). Now, I love me a good quiz, especially when I learn more about me and my personality. I’ve taken fucking billions over the years, from paid tests all the way to the type with batshit names like “which Disney character’s pubic hair most describes your cooking style?”.

Normally, I have a good deal of interest to these kinds of test, but there’s normally an area of “mmm, I kiiiinda think that miiiight sound like me, but not totally…”, and that causes me to not feel comfortable labelling myself as Definitely That Thing. Not to mention, I’ve spent a lot of my life not really knowing what I want, so actually I’m like a jack of all trades (or jack of all personalities).

It’s only been a recent discovery that success is a massive driver for me. BUT WHAT DOES SUCCESS EVEN MEAN TO ME?

I don’t jive with the whole “MAD LEVELS OF FAME AND POWER” concept. I also don’t want to live the life of a rap video, downing Cristal strawpedos while I drive round, I dunno, bloody Monte Carlo in a Mayback with the number plate “R1CH AF” before pulling up to buy underpants encrusted with diamonds from the Diamond Encrusted Underpant Shop. Both just seem quite un-me-like. But until today, I didn’t get why these results of success didn’t appeal.

So, I read into my Enneagram, and this is what I found:

“Threes want success not so much for the things that success will buy, or for the power and feeling of independence that it will bring. They want success because they are afraid of disappearing into a chasm of emptiness and worthlessness: without the increased attention and feeling of accomplishment which success usually brings, Threes fear that they are nobody and have no value.”

Er, wow. Well. That was a pretty enlightening read. There’s more detail on the Enneagram Institute page, but I cannot fault this.

Yes, dear reader, I need success because my main driving force in life is to “not be a worthless shithumper”. BRILLIANT.

Yes, dear reader, I need success because my main driving force in life is to “not be a worthless shithumper”. BRILLIANT. Not very noble, but it certainly felt very true.

So here’s a couple of other truths. Perhaps you get them, perhaps not:

1/ While I know there’s only one me, the fact that other people could be Type 3s (or ENFPs or Creators or Cinderella’s glittery pubic hair…) brings out a weird competitive edge in me.

I feel a bit “only gay in the village” about it, even though intellectually it’s clearly not true and that’s just a bit of weird programming I have left over from being a child.

2/ I’m more affected by the way I look than I’d like to admit. And that’s embarrassing.

I put myself through an eating disorder as a youngster, and as an adult, I’ve done a lot of work to vercome that. But the aesthetic thing shows up everywhere.

Case in point: on Friday, I had my hair done. My hair is my “thing”. As a teen, I was the girl whose hair people admired. I would wash and blow dry my hair EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It was styled perfectly – FOR SCHOOL. AN ALL-GIRLS SCHOOL. Random strangers and hairdressers used to compliment me on my hair. So fast forward to 2016 – I’m not as hair-obsessed as I once was, but I cannot tell you the joy and relief I had after having my hair cut, coloured and styled exactly the way I wanted it. I noticed the difference straight away; I spoke to people differently, it was like I moved from this place of “oh God what must they think of me” to “now I can be the person I always imagine myself to be”. I felt light and funny and eloquent and friendly, instead of awkward, ugly and weird. Because of MY HAIR.

HASHTAG SUPERFICIAL.

3/ I don’t get jealous often, but when I do, it’s because you’re younger, prettier and more successful than me. And I can be a bitch about it.

This is a really depressing admission for me. I didn’t even realise it was a thing until I voiced it in a therapy session a few weeks ago. Normally I can handle envy – I feel like it points to the place you want to go, or something about that person speaks volumes about where your direction should be heading.

But there’s a magic trifecta of things that cause jealousy for me; age, beauty and success.

Bleurgh, right?!

If you have any one of these assets on me, it’s likely I’ll feel a little envious, but I can kind of get on with my life and in fact I will make it my aim to become friends with you. Two things? I’m going to be a bit jealous, but I can still hide it. All three and one of two things will happen: I will stalk you on social media, work out our age difference, compare how I look to you (unfavourably for me), and if I can, leave sickeningly supportive messages on one or two pieces of your content (BUT NOT TOO MUCH BECAUSE PLEASE DON’T THINK I’M WEIRD. Also NOTICE ME). Or, I will find out bad things about you and feel very justified in my inner-circle bitching about you. And I really don’t do bitching all that often.

I’m working on it, but YES, I know. This is a reeeeally sucky part of my personality.

It does feel good (freeing? Honest?) to admit these things, and there are probably more things lurking in my mind waiting to be unlocked. Better out than in, right? Or is that just farts…?

 

In defence of inconsistency

In defence of inconsistency

Consistency has been a concept I have struggled with for MANY. FUCKING. YEARS.

Seriously, even writing this post has endured some fairly industrial level procrastination. In fact before even finishing the first sentence, I have:

  • Watched an entire episode of Pretty Little Liars (TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF OF THOSE PANTS OF JUDGEMENT. I SEE YOU…)
  • Had a shower
  • Got dressed
  • Sent WhatsApp messages to Lotte (follow her, because she’s FUCKING AMAZING) (Aside: I also made an epic typo of boundless hilarity, and now “Wetherspoons”, the brand of affordable and popular British uber-pubs, shall now henceforth be known as “Wergerspoobs”. Much better.)
  • You will notice that even this list suffers with procrastination and lacks consistency
  • Seagulls
  • Ballsack
  • I don’t even know what I’m doing…

My school reports are all dotted with “Gemma doesn’t apply herself” and “Gemma lacks consistency”. And to be honest, I’ve always known there was more in me, I just didn’t see the point of studying for History or Religious Studies when, really, what was I actually going to do with those in my life? (PRO TIP for any teens out there wondering if there really is any point to studying these subjects, I can conclusively declare NO, there is literally and figuratively not one point UNLESS you like them and enjoy them or you just really want to own it at Trivial Pursuit. Get the basics sorted with Maths and English, try and remember a few phrases in a different language that enable you to get by when your family find themselves lost looking for the B&B in a quiet European village and everything else? Seriously, just do the ones you enjoy. Operative word being YOU. Lesson over…)

Even with things that I love, I lack the staying power. I get to a certain level and I’m, well, just done with it. Guitar, keyboard, roller skating, reiki, Michael Jackson.

And consistency is the thing you really need in your life if there’s an area that you want to become masterful in. Running a business, for example, means consistently, day in, day out doing something that moves your business forward, that keeps you in the forefront of people’s minds. Being a fucking epic piano player means, day in, day out, practising playing the piano and the theory and putting your music out there in the ether. Same for being great at a sport, same for pretty much anything else you want to be great at.

But, the big issue is that CONSISTENCY IS FUCKING BORING. It’s ENDLESSLY DULL. The few things I wanted to do endlessly as a youngster were gymnastics, art and singing – and even some of those had boring bits in. The former stopped when my mum decided I wasn’t going to lessons anymore (heartbreaking), and the latter two ended when I went to Grammar school and realised that there were so many other people better than me, so really, what was the point. (Plus, I won’t lie, boys were increasingly more interesting.)

If you are like me, there are two ways you can approach the lack of consistency problem:

1. Choke down consistency every day, and just get it done and reap the rewards of achieving the goal that you desperately want to achieve.

or

2. Accept that you are never going to fall in love with the process of doing the endless work and – despite what the world might say about it – stand proud in your ok-ness about that.

Fact is, it’s OK to be a perpetual starter; things can never be truly finished anyway, especially when it comes to art or anything creative. It’s OK to only do things that you like. You might not be the next trillionaire business mogul, but is that what you even want? (Hint: if it is, then seriously, choke that consistency down like the filthy gruel it can be or get someone else to do the bits you hate).

When you grow up in a world that wants you to hit goals here and achieve All The Things, it can be hard to understand that, actually, it’s totally fucking fine to flow from one thing to the next, doing what you enjoy.

Looking back on all my reports, my lack of consistency and lack of application were down to the fact I was pretty bored. Boredom for me means I either need to step up to the next level of challenge in that area, or I just need to stop doing the thing that’s making me feel bored and try something completely different. I’d wager the same is true for you.

Find the enjoyment in your own process; and hey, it’s ok if that process looks like the physical dance interpretation of fusion jazz while tripping on mushrooms.