Sunday, January 24, 2016

On Change and Happiness

I was reading an AVClub review about an episode of 'Girls' where it suggests one of the characters had a pretty easy life because she was pretty but then found that things didn't work that way outside in the "real world" and thus she finds herself floundering.

But far more common, at least to my mind, is the Marnie, the person—male or female—who had a pretty firm idea of what their life was going to look like and expected life to just hand it to them once they got out of college. They had done everything right. They had the looks and the education and the five-year plan. But they’d forgotten to build a personality, because they never really had to. 
 When I read it, I thought about being smart. Unlike Marnie, I don't know that I had an expectation that things would work out. I had such low self-esteem I basically just wanted a job I could be somewhat creative in without worrying about being fired from for performance; I've always been afraid things will fall apart.

What's similar, though, is how having one particularly strong area can mean the other areas don't get developed well. The nature of school fit particularly well with my most developed skillsets, so even though I haven't been happy since childhood, I don't know that I was as anxious as I am now about my ability to function in the non-school world.

As it happens, though, being smart and critical don't help with what's most important in working with others: relationships. I had the comfort of being a detached idealist as a young adult (it's a great fit with male socialization). But the more I'm asked to be in "the real world" the more I've wilted.

I don't trust other people. It's a weird mistrust that I haven't quite figured out. But I assume they'll think the worst of me. I assume I will displease them. I assume they resent me for not being better than I am to them. They're all still my father. And although it's made me terribly unhappy, I don't think I've had to learn to trust others, because I always had the independence and forward momentum of school to keep me going.

That momentum's about to stop. I'll be done with school in July, and the hope of things somehow "getting different" when I reach some fabled destination at the end of the academic rainbow seems mostly fantasy. And it's probably a good thing. Like Marnie, I'm pretty insecure. I was a one-trick pony growing up (two, if you count the jokes, but I stopped trying to entertain people in my early 20s). And that trick's no good anymore. For a good decade or two, I've not felt I had someone I truly trusted who I could talk to, who would consistently love me. And now, I'm just a person in a sea of people without secure connection hating how her life is going who has more ungrieved trauma than she knows what to do with.

Unlike in the past, I don't want to double-down on what's not working. I don't want to invest all my stock in hoping things will someday get better. Right now, as has been true for most of the past 20 years, I'm not happy. And I want to be happy. I want to have deeper, secure connections. I want to feel like I'm doing what I can, that more people than not will be ok with that, and that I'm capable of doing something that can positively impact others (whatever it may be). I don't want to wait for life to get better. I don't want to waste more time striving for a fantasy that won't be true. I want to learn how to have good relationships with others. I want to learn how to have a better relationship with myself. I don't want to worry about school or work or conventional models of success. I want to be happy and I don't want to wait for that to happen anymore.

So that's my plan. Do what makes me happy. And if it doesn't make me happy (and I have enough money to sustain myself), it might be time to try something else.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

On Honesty

Every time I try to write something here, it's like some kind of performance. I try to go for a big theme, a big narrative, contexualize or historicize. It's funny: people used to talk about how well I write. They'd talk about how vulnerable I can be, how articulately I can express myself. But for awhile now, I feel like I haven't been expressing myself- I've just been telling a story. A story where I can't get hurt. Where I'm not hurting. Not really.

My mind was never a safe place growing up. My father saw to that. One of the scariest situations I could be in would be riding in the car alone with him. And he turns to me and asks "what are you thinking?" When I was real young, I used to answer honestly. But almost always he'd get upset. If there was anything I was upset about, he'd take it personally and fire back at me. At the time, it was incredibly confusing: he'd ask me what I was thinking, but it was like he never wanted to actually know. He wouldn't even let me say "nothing;" he'd always say "I know you're thinking something." And of course what I'm thinking is "I wish you'd leave me alone, you don't actually want to know what I'm actually thinking." Which is why he's asking me in the first place, because he's probably afraid of what it is too. That I'm afraid of him, that I feel incredibly uncomfortable, that I don't feel like I can protect myself or leave and that I'm just completely exposed without recourse. So eventually, when I was in the car with him, I would constantly have another narrative running, a decoy script I could give to him that would assuage any of his fears and reassure him everything was ok. It was exhausting, certainly. But it was better than the alternative.

I don't know if I know how to be honest. To say what I really feel. I guess I say versions of it, certainly. Maybe we all do. But so much of it still feels scripted. Like all of you are him, and I have to tell you what's palatable. What you can handle. What won't hurt you, what won't worry you, what won't tap into your insecurities and set a fire nothing but time and causing pain can put out. And maybe most of it's not a lie. Not really. But it's not the whole truth. It's not everything. I'm not really sure what everything even is. Maybe I should figure that out.