Reply To: Breaking the Cycle of Failure

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Hi Rory.

When I read your post, I was completely blown away by how precisely you seemed to be describing me and my life! I have 2 pretty much worthless BA degrees and I finished a Masters of Science in 2016, which likewise has panned out to be yet another degree in a field I can’t land a job in. I don’t have the right certifications/license, or I don’t have enough of the work experience to go with the degree, or my personal finances are sub-par such as to pass a public trust screening (see a whopping student loan debt amount and a long history of late payments from underemployment/unemployment)… While my education looks pretty good, there’s the fact that for the last decade, the longest I’ve been able to hold onto a job was 2 years and 3 weeks- before I was fired from said job for “not being a good fit”. Truth be told, I wasn’t the perfect employee. I had been late to work on a number of instances, I was chronically struggling to complete documentation on time, the organization of materials and files I used in my area made sense to me but not to other co-workers, and the work culture was very cliqueish and I never really fit in anyway.

Even though I was only ever fired once (from the aforementioned job), throughout my adult life, my average lifespan at a job is about a year, although some positions lasted for only 4 months. And then, there were large gaps between jobs. As for paying the bills, my fall back for about 2 decades was that of a self-representing artist. I had an online business and I did the regional art show circuit. Actually, the most I ever made in a year was through art, but that’s sporadic work which isn’t good when you have children and need to maintain health insurance and a commitment to stay in place so you don’t disrupt your children’s school schedule.

When I got divorced in 2010, my art business was dissolved. My Ex created and maintained the website that brought in most of the sales, and he was always far better than I at the sales portion of the business. I’m not, nor have I ever been temperamentally suited to do sales. We learned early on that the best way to run our booth/business at shows was for me to sit at a station and work on art, or I’d teach a mini-class during an art show, while he dealt with the customers. So, in all fairness, my Ex did deserve his fair share of the business.

After the art business was dissolved, I’ve never been successful in starting up a new one. The story I’ve been telling is that I haven’t had the time, or money, or the resources to do art. While that is true to a point, I think the real impediment is that I just can’t (or won’t) follow through. I’ve got dozens of projects but all of them are unfinished. It seems that no matter what I do, I end up sabotaging myself, whether it’s in my career, personal life or just even trying to get through the day.

Regarding ADD- Since I’ve lived in so many different places, my medical records are now not complete. Somehow, the ADHD diagnosis I had about 20 years ago (and my childhood diagnosis of Hyperkinetic Impulse Disorder- before it was called ADHD) have dropped off of my current medical records. My parents were anti-medication and raised me to believe that my problem(s) are just a matter of poor or weak will, and that I simply had a character defect. All I needed to do was be “responsible”, stop procrastinating, finish tasks once started, and get organized.

So now, I’m in my late 40-s, and I’m frankly terrified to try the medication route. I’ve tried diet and exercise (no help). I’ve tried piles upon piles of organization strategies, affirmations, and so-called “self-help”, which completely doesn’t work. I’m afraid that if I do get re-diagnosed with ADHD and start meds, that this will show up in my medical records (right now I’m looking for a job and am very likely to have to take a pre-employment drug test). MY MS degree is a specialized Public Administration degree and I’m worried that no one would hire me for a management or public service position if it was known that I have ADD. Then again, I can’t seem to get a decent job anyway, so now what? Since I was about 5, I’ve bought into the idea that all of my “problems” are because I am lazy, or I didn’t try hard enough, or I said/did the wrong thing, or made bad choices, or procrastinated, or was disorganized, or I didn’t pay enough attention to something. I’m supposed to be “smart”, but I’m a “flake” or I’m a “ditz”.