I have this pattern. If you’ve known me long enough, you’ve seen it. I’ll religiously submit stories and collect rejection slips, until I get an acceptance. At which point, I stop submitting stories. For a year.
I’ll get an exciting project I really want to do (develop the history of a dark fantasy video game world) and freeze. I’ll have a gig I love, and not be able to focus and get my writing done until the very last minute. I’ll be writing a bi-monthly serial that gets strong responses and an excited fan base, and I’ll come down with writer’s block. I’ll blog about health tracking (years before it hits mainstream), until I start getting 100+ hits a day, and I’ll suddenly have nothing more to say.
Therapy also sucks, in that painful oh-god-I-don’t-want-to-think-about-this-shit kind of way. But it’s useful.
Imagine you’re me. You grow up the child of a pediatrician and a stay-at-home mom. Both of whom have their own baggage. Your main model of professional success is your dad. Let’s look at his life, shall we?
He spends long days at the office, often 12 hours, and comes home exhausted. He has no free time. He’s a perfectionist and insists he has to get everything right and do it all on his own (by the way, you’re going to grow up to be a lot like him). But the business side of it escapes him. He loves the patients and being a good doctor. But he’s not so good at figuring out money. He has no free time to spend with his family or to even develop friendships with people who aren’t either colleagues or related to him. And he’s angry all the time. Who wouldn’t be, living like that?
This, you think, is success.
You look around for other adults who’ve been successful. There’s your mom. Stay-at-home mom isn’t quite what you were looking for, and honestly you’re kinda terrified at the thought of being someone’s parent, but on the whole, she seems a lot happier. She plays with you. She has friends she goes to Dim Sum with. She reads science fiction books, which she then lends you. She does have to put up with dad’s anger outbursts, and those suck. But her life seems richer. Of course, she also tells you never to be like her and be dependent on a man for your living.
So that’s not going to work.
The other examples you have are a professors (who is bitter about, well… everything) or a writer (who is also bitter and has retired at 40 to get away from Hollywood).
Looks like the only option is following in dad’s footsteps. Being miserable and lonely and angry. At which point you conclude you never want to be a grown up, because it clearly sucks.
So success… it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, you *want* to succeed. Your parents want you to succeed and are proud of you when you do. You like selling stories and making a living with your writing. But, but, but… The specter of your father is shaking his head at you. Then, just to put the icing on the cake, he tosses in his oft stated opinion that geniuses die young and are often poorly adjusted (and he tells you the story of a genius he knew who committed suicide).
To sum up: You are required to succeed, but don’t succeed too much because if you’re too good you’ll be miserable and die young, plus succeeding in general means you’re going to be lonely and miserable, so maybe succeeding isn’t such a good idea. But being dependent on someone else is a bad idea, and you’ve kinda been there, done that during a span of unemployment while you were with your ex, and yes, that sucked.
So, go. Figure out your life.