Thursday, January 3, 2013

Why I am a failure.


Detail from "Meeting at the Alcoholics Anonymous bar in Corfu" by Tarek Joseph Chemaly (Mixed media collage, 2002-3)

If success is hard to define, failure isn’t. And I am at that point of life and time whereby I go back and assess what I have done throughout my life. By today’s standards, I am a big failure.
Well, if you start by counting my facebook friends, I shall spare you the effort – I am not even there! Yes, I am one of those genetic mutations who do not have a profile on the social network. If am on google plus, that’s because I have a gmail account and apparently you automatically qualify for one of those – to date 47 people have me in their circles, I have none. Not out of snobbishness, just that simply I have no clue what to tell them on gmail which I don’t on this blog, or through my email, or – to the very few I added on the chat system – through google talk. So viewed in terms of google plus users, I am really not that hot of a commodity either.
I guess this basically makes me fall back on my twitter followers… Ooops! I am not on twitter either and by Jove, I am missing out on all the fun, the meetings coordinated over that medium, the rants about the traffic jams, secret Santas or that one guy who gets on my nerve with his Dr. Phil advices dipped in Steven Covey sauce – apparently he equates tweeting anything that comes to mind with being a professional online communicator. But hey, he has – wait – like a thousand followers! That’s one thousand more than I have (it seems Steven Covey sauce is quite popular there).
Now, let’s have a look at my career – so far I slammed the door of one big shot ministry (yes, I was a high ranking bureaucrat), several companies, half-a-dozen consulting bureaus, numerous publications, two universities, etc… - which brings us to today. A man with two decades of experience behind him, but who – technically – is unemployed. Not good as a measuring rod for success, is it?
One of the ubiquitous ways – across cultures, but specifically in Lebanon – is to measure the success of the man by the size of his… car (what else did you think?). So my car is size 39-40 depending on the brand, usually bought from upscale stores (one of the few concessions to luxury in my wardrobe because I walk all day long as might as well do that in comfort – if not in style as well). In case you did not get the implication, I do not own a car – my sold my BMW in 2001. Guilty, yes, it was a BMW and I was a “wazwaz”. So again, judging by the size of my car, I am afraid I am found wanting.
This I guess, leads us to the other proxy – if not the size of the car, well, it has to be the size of the brood. So, how many children do I have and how many souls can I sustain financially? Maybe I should simply say it outright – I still live at home and with my mother no less. What a fiasco….
But of course, if I don't have a family, then I must an extended circle of friends with whom I go out and about every night. Case in point, this new year's eve: I remained in my pyjamas, browsing the net, with the central heating on - and I even declined to see any of the people offering their prophecies for the year to come. But before you start lamenting, you must know that I wear American Eagle pyjama bottoms and a Fruit of the Loom top - in other words I was quite comfy (can anyone of you pretend that on New Year's Eve?).
However, it might a delight for you to know that my phone kept ringing throughout the holiday period - since the deadline for presenting the final project was January 2nd, my students were freaking out and calling repeatedly asking about some detail they had forgotten or some simple thing to adjust. And the well-wishers? Well, this year the wheat has been separated from the shaft, so the very few text messages or emails I got warmed me more than the deluge I used to get in the past from people who did not live up to my kindness.
One other criteria for success is having a double passport. Yes, I am aware this gives automatic social privileges (specifically when it comes to complaining when back for brief vacations to Lebanon), however – I only have one passport (and to be honest it has not been put to a lot of use as of late). Forget the frequent coming and going of my early career, the older I get the more grounded I have become. So, passport wise, there isn’t much to brag about either.
So what we covered so far? Social media – check, career – check, personal life – check, car – check, passport – ditto. So there, everyone is very successful but me.
And yet, as I write this – having failed a long strength on society’s rules of thumb when it comes to success…. “I should be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence, two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” (Robert Frost).

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