You've already got a lot of great answers, and these are from very well skilled Perl Developers. Now, how about some suggestions from a still "wet-behind-ears" Perl guy?? :)
I am someone who started learning this fabulous language about a year or so ago, and let me tell you its been fun. I too get overwhelmed by the sheer reach, possibilities and absolute fabulous nature of this language. Many times, I have spent frustrated moments just like you and I have walked away thinking "this is not gonna happen", but some time (or days) later, I come back, and some new stuff pops up in my head, I try it out and it works. And it feels real good.
I would suggest you first pick up 1) really good books, (two of them are in my signature. And I can vouch for them. If these books can teach me how to write Perl scripts, anyone can learn them.) and 2) pick up something that you want to automate....something that you find so frustratingly, mindlessly repetitive, that you say to yourself "I wish this could be scripted so I don't have to do this xyz stuff manually" every time you do it.
So now, you have a task that you want to automate and the books that will tell you how to go about it
Read a chapter first. Then, try each and every example given in the book. After some time, you'll know which examples are to be actually typed and which are just for the sake of understanding so you don't need to type them. What you absolutely must try are the End Of Chapter exercises. They will do you a lot of good. And if you don't get to use Perl everyday, at least spend 15 minutes writing something in Perl. Say you read a chapter and try some examples on a day. The next day, try to type the program without looking into the book or the script. You'll miss a colon, or a comma or typing an additional one. You'll get a lot of errors, and when you fix them, you'll know where you went wrong.
Once you gain some confidence, try to solve the problem. Write a script that will get a part of the problem solved. Then build upon it...then go back to the book(s) and see if the new stuff you learned in the book, or the old stuff that you revised helps you to work on the problem in a better way. Then again go back to the script. Modify it, enhance it, and then back to the books.
The best part is, you don't have to go through the entire book to start being productive. I wrote a small automation script by the time I was halfway through Learning Perl. A little more reading, browsing, and most importantly spending time and asking questions on Perl Monks and the script is now way better than its first version.
The most important thing, in my very limited, humble (and humbling) experience, is that you need to start writing something. Start writing a small script, a small program, a small something, but please start. That will move your focus from the overwhelming nature of the language onto resolving an issue/writing a script.
Another thing is, you seem to be upset that 1) you didn't fully utilize the earlier opportunity as a Perl Developer and 2) You have now finding the language overwhelming. Please let go of these thoughts. Only thing they will do is hinder your progress. Imagine your plight if you were never ever to come back Perl. Then you would really be missing on this awesome language.
And talking of going to some other language, I have done that too. It all seemed fine initially, but the moment I tried to add some more functionality to the script, it started appearing very limiting. So, I came back to Perl and have never gone back.
Hope this helps you my friend. Wish you all the best
Perlpetually Indebted To PerlMonks
use Learning::Perl; use Beginning::Perl::Ovid; print "Awesome Books";