I really did not want to write about this. I wanted to be able to say I’ve moved on, moved through it. That I’m bigger and better and beyond it now. But that’s not how these things work, I guess.
I feel I came out of the womb anxious. It was the blending of my parents melded, messed up dreams, their ambitions that never were. The careers, the money, the fame, dressed up in a mink coat and called “society”. The state of Notting Hill, the place we live. I came up with words for it. Tried to pick apart why I felt existentially nervous at every moment in my day, when I wasn’t achieving things, when I was supposed to be enjoying a trip on a boat overlooking Lake Como, when I was supposed to be enjoying a Sunday trip to the grocery story with my (now ex) boyfriend and his friends. That was when I realized I had a problem. Why did I feel so anxious when I was supposed to be relaxing on the weekend, going to the grocery store?
It’s hard to describe the kind of toll this endless panic takes on your mind. What it has sapped of my energy in years of worry. It’s fear, coming to live with all the swirls of the scariest demons I could have ever imagined.
If you just tried harder, you’d be remembered.
Why are you not famous yet? Miley Cyrus is your age, and she’s already got a singing career.
If you don’t achieve something soon, you never will.
Luck is something that happens to other people, not to you.
Why would anyone want to go out with you, when they can go out with someone with 100,000 Instagram followers, like Scarlet Curtis, or Alice Aedy or Katie Hessel? They’re making it. Why can’t you? Why haven’t you? What’s wrong with you?
For fuck’s sake.
I didn’t want to write about my petty worries because it’s all too painful. I have already wasted years of my life believing I wasn’t good enough, waking up every morning to a torrent of mental punching bag blows, back in the arena, fighting myself before I’ve ever started the day, before I’ve even opened my eyes. It hurts to look back on it too, because it’s astounding to me, looking more at it now from the outside in, that a human being could treat themselves in this way. That a human being would feel so, paralyzingly bad about themselves for something as fluky and fake and fleeting as the awards, the attention and the fascination of others. I hate to open up this wound and give it air, because it’s one of the parts of myself that I’m most embarrassed about. How my own shame, and cruelty of myself, goes against one of my nearest and dearest values: to value another person not because they’ve reached some high standard, but because they are a human being, worthy of love in this moment.
It was only a recent while back that I started to understand that the petty worries themselves, the fear, the self-cruelty was supposed to be there to protect me, and yet was probably going to lead to my downfall. That back and forth itself and swinging and hitting myself in the face blow by blow, would cause me to bleed out eventually. Would kill my dreams. Would sever the tree off at the bottom of the trunk, and leave the stump dead there, cold and alone in the ground.
This story does not have to have a tragic ending. Since then, I’ve gotten help. I’ve talked and talked in therapy. I’ve consoled my fifteen-year-old self. You see, I thought artists had to suffer. I thought artists could only produce incredible things if they themselves were tormented, and felt awful, and believed they were awful. I had to write that all down. I had to articulate what made-up bullshit I’d come up with for how the perfect artist would live, how the perfect artist would be. It was all a regimen. Like I was in the regiment of some hot-headed, wild army who made up their own rules, and the second you took a step in the right direction, would suddenly beat you and hound you for not doing more, for not being perfect, for not having accomplished more.
I haven’t figured out how life works, to be honest. Most of it seems like luck. And to be honest, sometimes I look enviously over the shoulders of other people, like my sister, or my friends who are rolling in money after investing in crypto. But when I do that, I’m depriving myself of my own life, my own life. My own time. When I do that, I’m channeling my attention away from nurturing myself, and I'm pouring my energy into admiring the outsides of others, the towers and the companies and the followings they’ve built. It leaves me more hurt. It leaves me believing that I am less than I am.
At the end of the day, it comes down to trust. Trusting life. Trusting that I am on my own path, at my own pace, and that I should be following my own destiny. Letting go. Relinquishing any pre-conceived, false notions of how and when and where this is all going to play out. At least in my perfectionist, painful states, I can stay where I know I am comfortably unhappy, where I am so willing to wipe away my pain with a used tissues of excuses and the unfairness of life and the complaints that those other people, well, they really didn’t deserve their success anyway.
It’s far more terrifying to face what’s real. It’s far more terrifying to fully love and accept myself for where I am on my journey. It’s far more terrifying to admit that I’ve been wrong, that I shouldn’t continue to flagellate myself, that I deserve more. If only I could let myself grow. If only I could believe that I was worthy of the future that I really want. Then I would be in danger of being set free, and be in danger of letting things play out as they were going to happen anyway.
I wrote this piece on Day 3 of Ann Randolph's "UnMute" writing course.