by RICK MORTON
I’m at war with myself and have been since the day I was born.
The problem is, I’ve discovered, that certain parts of me disagree with my own success. It’s a messy to-and-fro, a bloody war of attrition based on this pervasive, brooding idea that I just … don’t deserve the life I have. I feel like a wolf at the Baa Baa Cantina. Out of sorts, out of place and out of ideas.
I don’t remember when I signed the bargain with the universe but its demands have surely been made clear. Remain as you are. Success is not for you, how could it be? Success is for The Others and you mustn’t dabble in their pursuits or stumble across their way. No trespassing. Trespassers will be shot at by life. And life is armed to the teeth.
I have long been followed by this sense of fraudulence. My family are workers. Dignified people who know that most of us work hard, settle down and work harder. That’s the extent of the equation. There’s no room for self reflection. No room for making a name for yourself. Leave that to those who laboured harder, who were more naturally gifted.
But Mum rigged the game early, for me. She taught me to read and she continued to read to me. She promised me it would turn the lock on opportunity, retract the imprisoning deadbolt from my potential. Reading will take you places, she assured me. And she was damned well sure one of us would make the trip.
But when your mind is an uneasy marriage between you and you, who do you believe is truer than true? (Apologies to Dr Seuss).
I was torn between the apparently ladled-on confidence of my generation – yeah, we can achieve anything we want! – and the tether to my own past which served as a constant reminder that I was arrogant to assume I was meant for anything more.
I assumed I’d have to work intensely and for long hours to succeed. And during high school, I did. (Hey, it’s not like I was dating or anything). And then a funny thing happened. I won a scholarship and a cadetship to a newspaper. It had been my dream since I was 10. And there I was, at the age of 17, with my first byline. And then my first front page a month later.
So, naturally, I stopped going to university. It seemed a perfectly reasonable reaction to the sudden onset of achievement.
It all seemed too … easy. Had I cheated? Did I really deserve all this? Fraud.
I began to cannibalise my own success. I refused to turn up to entire subjects even though I needed a 75 per cent average to maintain the scholarship and, more importantly to me, my job. I drank too much and played too hard.
Why does anyone light dynamite under their own chances?
Because many of us – indeed, many of you – can’t believe our own hype. I’m like that dagwood dog I once tried at the Boonah Show. It had been sold to me as possibly the greatest food invention of all time since, well, sliced bread. It was a foodstuff that could end wars and bring peace to ravaged lands.
It was about as palatable as my mum’s old Danielle Steele books.
I ended up dropping out of university, presumably so I could tell myself I really was as bad as I thought.
While I’m still not perfect I made a decision to change the way I viewed my career and my life a few years ago. It wasn’t the result of a dumb luck. None of this is an accident.
I could cut the brakes if I wanted to, but I was going the right way.
Have you ever disabled your own chance at success? Did you manage to stop yourself?