When I was a teenager, I had a friend who wanted to play chess with me. He taught me how to play, and I would look at the board, and know how each piece was supposed to be moved. I would play the game, and sometimes I would win.
For many years I would look at a chess board with longing, yet did not spend a lot of time playing with other people (or playing alone.) You see, while I could imagine myself thinking through the strategies, and playing the game well, the reality was quite different.
I don’t actually have a mind that can focus, or make logical decisions playing such a game as chess. I have a great mind for imagining, and so I am able to picture myself as a great chess player, very much focused and enjoying a game that I have a good chance of winning – but I have found over the years that isn’t actually who I am.
My mind is so great at imagining that I can frequently bring myself to believe that I would be really good at something, and/or would really enjoy doing something, and I can actually hold that belief until the time when I experience it for real only to fail. At that point, I wonder what went wrong. I was so sure that I would be good at it that it never crossed my mind that I wasn’t built for such things.
There are many things in my life that I can imagine myself to be good at:
- playing the keyboard
- crafts such as sewing, knitting, painting
- home renovations
But the reality is that though I have had years of practice and even training in many of these areas, I am still not at all good at them. I suppose I just wasn’t built that way.
And the thing is, because I can imagine myself to be really good at these things that I feel I would love to do and be, I find it incredibly frustrating, and depressing, to be faced with the reality that this is not who I am.
In fact, the majority of who I have imagined myself to be throughout my life, has turned out to be things I am either not at all talented in, or dislike doing altogether. It leaves me unsure of who I am, or what I would like at all.
Four years ago I took a course in Residential Construction (a foundation course for carpentry apprenticeships.) I did really well in the theory side of the work, and well enough on the practical, that I completed the course top of my class (94% average in a class where nearly half of my classmates failed.) Because my entire immediate family (mom, dad, brothers) were really skilled in this area, I could very much imagine that I would be good in it as well. However, despite my high marks, I was not at all equipped to work in that environment. Under such stress, pressure, and exhausting work, my functioning level dropped to the point where I couldn’t do the work at all.
Had I done well, I would have been at Journeyman level at this point in my life, which I imagine would be a decent place to be.
It is the same with parenting. Throughout my childhood, while I couldn’t relate to any of the children around me, I did love children, and babies, and… I could imagine myself as a great parent with a lot of children. I loved dolls. I wanted children. I even took a 2 years Early Childhood Education course at college and graduated with Dean’s Honours.
I ran a daycare. I home schooled my son. I took and passed an adoption home study, and had three high needs children placed with me for adoption. And… I failed.
The truth was, I could imagine myself as a great parent, but most of the time I was overwhelmed. I could not relate to other parents. I could not relate to the social needs. I was overwhelmed by the behaviours. I was not relaxed. I was not calm. I didn’t even like the world enough to feel confident sending my children out into it.
My concern now is in knowing that my imagination is capable of seeing myself successful and enjoying many different things in life that in reality would not be good for me at all, how could I possibly decide what would truly be good for me?
I thought I could be a good chess player, but I am not. So who am I then?