This post is basically for myself. Trying again to understand myself out of my latest set of mistakes. Read on if you like that kind of thing. I’m not making too hard an effort to be coherent. I just want to get this out here so I can move forward. A lot of the time I’ve got to clear out the rubble before I can continue down my path. I just haven’t found myself to be the type of person who can walk over or around it.
I’ve got to parse and parse and parse.
Sometimes I feel like my brain has a too-tight skin that goes all electric and I could leap out from it and embrace all the things I should have embraced with my own mind but haven’t. So much to know and see that I could digest and think and write about, but I don’t. There’s a shiver of excitement at all there is in the world to know and experience, but it’s also guilt, guilt, guilt. Why don’t I know these things yet? Why am I always so behind?
How do you catch up when you have the psychological disadvantage that the people who are ahead of you don’t — knowing you’re behind, and knowing it’s your fault, and you’re still the same person who made all the decisions that led you to this place in the first place? What makes you think you can suddenly turn around and be a different type of person who makes better choices?
I turned 33 last week. What have I done with my life? I usually think that’s a shitty question that society pressures us into asking of ourselves, but it doesn’t necessarily think it’s a wrong one in my case. I had opportunities that were handed to me, but I didn’t recognize them because I was too caught up being a high schooler and all of my problems — some real, some it a category less than real, some just petty as fuck. My frame of reference in my myopic little world; the people who I compared myself too, were, in the grand scheme of things, hyper privileged kids, and amongst them, I had it close the worst of any of them. My parents were bad parents. I had little freedom. I wasn’t allowed to participate in activities that would have let me develop normal social relationships to the people who were my peers. I was raised weird and oppressed, I was bullied, the few friendships I ever developed were ones where I was always set far at the periphery — they were all much closer to each other than they were me. I could feel myself growing into something weird and misshapen. I didn’t understand my sexuality or my sense of gender, and there was no help anywhere, and I was always afraid… of my parents, of being humiliated… that whatever it was that was wrong with me was going to be seen and called out, that everyone around me suspected that I was something less than human.
I’m still so emotionally stuck in all those little adolescent embarrassments. I was just so… limited. My parents purposely made my world very small. And when I got to experience pop culture, it was all stuff that was basically made by people of the privileged class, for and about people of the privileged class. Being a middle class American suburban teen — that was normal, that was average. I couldn’t really grok that I was actually lucky to be in the position of being expected to go to college and do well and go out and have a lucrative career. Even if people said it. When all the adults around you treat the reality of chain grocery stores, green lawns with sprinkler systems, movie theatres, midrange cars, Applebee’s, cell phones, good health insurance, two story detached houses, as the baseline for normalcy, and only speak about people who don’t have those things as something to compare yourself to in order to present an example for a guilt trip or a threat (how could you not eat your broccoli when there are starving children in Africa? if you fail this test you’re going going to end up working at a McDonald’s and living in a shitty apartment when you’re 30!) how are you not supposed to grow up with this sense that people like you are the main characters of reality? Parents generally try to raise their kids not to be self-centered, but, like the suburban class as a whole was centered, if not around themselves as individuals, themselves as a group. They/we (I’m not sure where in this category I fall in my current circumstances… privileged but one paycheck or mental breakdown away from having most of that stripped away, I guess. I’m living in the zone where that’s always under threat; slipping away from the reality that has the spotlight shown on it, into the shadowy world of true poverty) act like the world was made for us. In a sense it was… all these resources and this unrewarded labor going into sustaining the life that we acknowledge as real life.
Is it my own fault I’m such a vacuous force of nothingness? I don’t know if I’ll ever shake this soul-deep exhaustion with life. I’m reminded of my sleep paralysis. Wanting to wake, feeling my mind shouting to wake, breathe, move, but feeling the immovable majority of my will being sucked down down in the mud and surrendering to the ease of it. I just can’t. I’m so tired.
And then I have this past I can’t cut off but can’t reckon with. I haven’t learned enough, I think. I don’t have the right perspective yet to understand who I am, what my place is in the world, what guilt I bear and what I can forgive myself for. Do I have the right to this desperate heavy sadness, do I have the right to fight it, to lose, to try to win even after I’ve lost again and again?
How can I reconcile my desire to write and my desire to be erased? I guess I want my writing to transcend myself, but is that just a fantasy…? I guess writing allows me to do a lot of self-editing. Like in the literal sense. That I can take the contents of my head and then sand myself down into something more palatable or worthy or something. Edit my self. Or create a byproduct of my selfhood that’s much, much better than the person who made it.
A lot of good things have actually been happening recently, in terms of my writing. I’ve been getting published in quite a few journals — I don’t really know how proud I ought to be, maybe most everyone who tries enough gets accepted from magazines on a regular basis. It’s certainly better than I thought I’d do. And everyone else who I’ve met in the poetic circles I’m moving in are much smarter and more knowledgeable than me… that must mean I’m doing good for a newb? I’d think? It seems a little rich to say I’ve been successful to any degree. I don’t know. I’m proud of myself and that makes me a little suspicious. To be proud of myself seems so self satisfied. And objectively I’m just as much of a mess as ever. It just feels like I shouldn’t be existing anywhere near, like, art, poetry, literature, like these are all good important beautiful things and I’m me… it makes me feel sick thinking about it. I know I should keep going and this is self-sabotaging behavior at its most rudimentary form, but every time I write a submission to an editor or try to converse other poets I feel like I’m poorly play-acting. And yeah. Imposter syndrome. We been knew.
But honestly, some people are just not good at things or are insincere or putting on some pretentious empty show that sucks people in for a while, aren’t they? Don’t some insecure people turn out to be… correct? Do imposters get imposter syndrome?
By definition most of the world is unexceptional. Why do we all think we’re the exception? Why, when you tell people you suspect that you’re not that great, are they so quick to go, “no no no no, you’re great, don’t say that, you’re so down on yourself!” Isn’t it ok to not be great at something, or anything? You can still be a lovely valuable person and just be mediocre at stuff.
People are quite quick to call people out of their inner circle unremarkable or bad at something or chasing a dream and wasting their time, but somehow it’s never them or the people they love who are the ones deluding themselves. They should chase their dreams! Life’s too short to not go after what you want!
I honestly don’t know how I can live with this swirl of interconnected thoughts and doubts about my perception, our cultural scripts, mediocrity, etc etc, at the back of my mind and not be capable of articulating it more clearly. It’s still all a big mush of frustration and self-dislike.
All I can think is if I purge and purge these mixed up shrill complaints eventually I’ll find more order in it or something, some thread I can grasp or maybe even untangle. One with a beginning and an end instead of this circle that always brings me back where I started, except more frustrated more exhausted.
Why do I feel so guilty when I do well? I just feel like if I tell people my little successes I’ll seem like I have some inflated sense of how much it matters… and just like everyone my age has already spent so much more time than me actually pursuing their interests and becoming accomplished and their fields and gaining knowledge and experience, what right to I have to be proud of my tiny baby steps that I take into being a person. When it’s coming after all these failures, all this emptiness. And then. I think. I can’t keep it going. Everyone will find me out. In today’s climate you can tell people you’re ill and you have mental health issues and they’ll understand… amongst writers these problems seem quite common… but if you show that you’re unpleasantly ill, that you’re overly sensitive and your thoughts are often addled and you can’t hold up a normal conversation and you can’t process all your thoughts on a topic and your emotions and try to work out what social conventions you should be following and how to be politely interested but not too interested but not too self involved but not too self effacing and still respond in a timely fashion, that you don’t consistently make deadlines or you sometimes fall away and can’t talk, if you go through spells where you can’t cobble a sentence together, I can’t imagine people want to deal with that. They want you to manage your illness, and to have insights about it, and maybe some quirks, the positive interesting side of it. At least that’s what the voice in my head tells me.
I don’t know. There’s only so many times people will forgive you for being late responding to an email until you’ve burned that bridge. They expect you to be polite. Sometimes I just don’t know what polite is. I think maybe I come across to stiff. And then overly familiar when I try to compensate. People expect you to have an easy non-belabored way about you. And I just don’t.
Every time I get an acceptance I have a wave of suicidal thoughts. Guilt. I have to thank the editor. I have to make sure my sincerity shows through. But I can’t sound obsequious. But I can’t sound unfriendly. But I can’t sound unprofessional. I can’t sound pretentious. I can’t sound uneducated. I am uneducated. But I can’t sound like I am. But I can’t sound like I’m trying to pretend that I am educated. Just effortlessly gracefully intelligent I guess… so unlike myself, so unlike my painstaking muddled way of thinking.
Who am I supposed to be? Myself, but I don’t know what that is or how to represent it honestly and acceptably, how can I put forth clear true sentences in an email or text when I’m picking them out of hundreds of incoherent paranoid hysterical streams of consciousness. Whenever I try to shape it into something acceptably coherent it sounds so stiff and fake. I just want to plunge my head underwater.
Why do I even have a blog I wonder. I feel like you need to have some willingness that I lack to put your best foot forward and be honest but only within certain polite confines, and to represent the best of yourself and your work. If I come on here to post some poetry or publication notices or something I find myself apologizing, or working my way up to it with some explanation, or to act like I don’t care that much when obviously I do. Dude. You’re writing a blog post about it. Of course you care. Just own it. But then I try to express all the over-caring I feel, the circular paranoid sensitivity, and I come crashing in on myself. Who is my audience here? I want to write for other people but come on, this is basically a private conversation with myself for myself and I’m posting it online in some bizarre exhibitionistic display so I can feel like life’s main character and like my mental illness is deeply interesting and my writing is fantastically vulnerable or self revealing or something.
Why can’t I be more mature? I’m 33. I’m one third of 99. I’ve come of age in hobbit years. Why aren’t I strong enough to not collapse. Why am I so hopelessly self obsessed. Why is this always what I fall back into. What’s the point of these small moments I achieve above the clouds if I’m sucked back down and now all I’ve done in my optimism is create obligations I’m not fit to meet.
Don’t let the negativity fool you. I think I’m doing ok right now. Getting to the point where I could writing it down is probably good. Maybe now that this is out there I can post about my poetry and not feel like I’m putting on some act. This is at least some form of momentum… it may be giving into my self involved nature to post about this, but idc, at least it’s a semi-creative act, catharsis, something.
Ugh. Happy birthday, self. Get it together. Make it a good year. Or at least make it a good attempt at a good year. Don’t give up before you’ve even started. Don’t feel defeated by all the exciting things there are out there that you haven’t read or learned about yet. Enjoy reading and learning. Enjoy where you are. Might as well.