It’s become a ritual that my monthly therapist meeting begins with the question of what I want to get out of that session; what specific goal I may have or problem to tackle. Often I don’t have a good answer. In this rambling post, I hope to explore some of the things I think I want, and see where that leads me.
Obviously most of my Self-Reflection topics are sensitive in nature, but in this post I won’t be pulling any punches and so please consider the whole thing NSFW and very personal.
I suppose it was almost two years ago when my lover and I last saw each other romantically. We’re still close friends and we try to have a weekly lunch date where we talk about our jobs, creative pursuits, and other random minutiae. It’s a nice break from the rigors of office life, but knowing she doesn’t feel the same way about me any longer continues to sting, particularly as I still have very strong romantic feelings for her, and conversations often turn to her busy social calendar.
She made me feel attractive, desirable; things I haven’t felt in a long time. I absolutely care for her as a friend, and our continuing friendship means a great deal to me, but there’s a not-small part of me that mourns what was lost between us. I both love her and am in love with her, if that distinction makes sense.
One year ago I walked away from the improv troupe I had been a part of for fifteen years, much of that time spent in a leadership capacity. In that time it had become nearly the whole of my social life, with the other participants forming the core of my social circle. With my self-imposed exile from that group, my social community effectively evaporated overnight. I’m still reeling from that loss, but I think less for the scale of it and more for the unresolved questions I still have about the situation, and the inability for me to express my feelings to those involved.
The desire to know is always shadowed by the fear that to ask those questions or to express those thoughts would be to cause greater hardship to those so affected. Instead, I suffer singularly as if a martyr.
After a decades-long dry-spell, I’ve now been writing for nearly 9 months straight, all of it published to this blog. Nearly 200,000 words – with fiction posts scheduled out through July of 2019 – and yet I don’t feel confident in my own ability to craft or tell stories. This month has been a hard one for my creative flow, and I am hoping to find that spark again, soon. I need to wrap up several long-arc stories and create some one-off content that doesn’t require pages and pages of backstory.
Most of my long-form series are based in part or wholly from video games I have played recently, everything from turn-based RPGs to first-person shooters and real-time strategy games. I felt very confident about the way a particular story was turning out, and I actually approached the publisher with the idea of a book collaboration – I already had most of the content, they wanted some additional PR for the game, I figured it would be a long shot but still doable. After some very brief back and forth, I have to concede that, not having heard from them in three weeks, the idea is likely dead.
Last year I read a tweet that said “you aren’t an author until you get your first rejection letter.” Even in today’s world of print-on-demand and indie-style publishing houses, it would feel so much more like I was capable of something with my writing if I could get even a formal “no” from a major firm, rather than silence.
Business and Motivation
Things at my job have changed significantly since April, with me stepping fully into a new role and offloading several of my duties to others. My position still feels nebulous, even with a well-worded job description, because for many of our clients I’m the friendly face they’re used to seeing for engineering work, and the one who knows the backstory or legacy of their network or software architecture.
There are fewer things in my plate now than there have been in months past, which is a truly welcome change, but things are still slipping.
I spoke with my new boss the other day, and said something that I think is at once both poignant and silly: there weren’t enough things on my plate for me to keep up. What I really meant was there was plenty to do, but none of it had an urgency or criticality that my previous role did. My schedule wasn’t filled enough for me to be constantly working toward the next goal, so even easy things that would only take me an hour were/are getting pushed to the last minute (and admittedly, beyond).
There’s the real possibility for success in this new role, and while it certainly isn’t what I want to do forever, I get to continue helping my department grow in a very real way, something that I love having a hand in. I take pride in the creation of new things, or the fixing of broken things, and this could be a good opportunity for me. Heck, I’ve been here almost four years already, I’d hope I’m able to help.
My grandfather once told me that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing right. He also told me that if it can’t be done right, it shouldn’t be done. As someone for whom many things have come easily, my default setting when it comes to new or unknown activities, where I don’t already have great confidence in my skills or abilities, is to stay away, not risking failure.
Something that paralyzed me in my personal and professional life on more occasions than I care to recount is my fear of failing. Internally, the logic says that if I try at something and fail, it reflects poorly on me – I wasn’t good enough. If however I don’t try, and I fail, it’s not nearly as much a personal reflection because who knows what could have happened if I had only tried harder. It’s something of a circular argument, and it makes little logical sense, but emotionally it’s what I feel every time I’m asked to do something.
Over the years I have learned that I’m very bad at giving myself credit for things. A job well done was just a fluke, or because I had a good team, or because any reason other that I did something adeptly. I live with the double-edged sword of needing external validation to bolster my self-confidence, and also the inability to truly accept others’ compliments or congratulations.
My friends genuinely respect me, intellectually I absolutely know this to be true; emotionally however I can’t feel it, can’t believe it. Praise rings hollow no matter how sincere they’re being, because it’s all received through my own filter of self-depreciation and -doubt. To me taking pride in the things I do feels like unearned haughtiness at best, or at worst an insult to those for whom the same talents or skills may not come so easily. Even if there’s zero chance the person would take my self-congratulation as such, the fear that they will is always there.
When I was young, a quote that stuck with me was once said by Gene Fowler: “men who deserve monuments do not need them.” To me the simple passage speaks of permanence and impact; those who are worthy of celebration should be – none should pass by a statue and wonder “who was that?”
For many years I wondered what I could accomplish that would be worthy of celebration, of the proverbial monument. I could say I sought for my legacy, but in reality I did far more thinking or daydreaming than actual work toward that end. For a while I thought the improv group would be my legacy, something I could proudly put my name on and have it carry on into the future, but now I don’t want to think about my association with it any more, fearing that my name may cause some others discomfort.
Across years and years, and multiple blog platforms, I wrote about my worry of falling into the category of “the stereotypical guy.” With the rise of movements such as #MeToo and public awareness of just how truly terrible men are (on the aggregate), that fear has intensified. I’m a flirty person, and a very tactile one. I long for closeness with others, that feeling of connection which often presents itself with hugs or back-rubs, friendly kisses on the cheek or the like. I truly fear that the person I am, and how I naturally act, is problematic and disgusting on similar levels to those many famous men whose predilections have come to light over this past year. What if the only difference between me and them is the fact that I’m not famous? I shudder at the thought, and draw ever more inward, away from others – out of fear of myself.
There are a few, special few, with whom I still exchange the occasional flirty or suggestive message. I say “exchange” but rarely are they reciprocated, and that makes me fret and worry. No matter how many times they reassure me that there’s no problem, or that they like what I send them, when I don’t get a response to a text message my imagination goes into overdrive, fearing the worst, cycling back through the thoughts discussed above, a CD player on repeat.
I suppose more than anything I fear what other people may think of me, of the person I am.
This post is at once longer and not as wordy as I expected. When I sat down to write it there were several more topics on my mind, even some positive ones, but as the words flowed out some subjects took over and continued in ways, or perhaps to places, I didn’t expect at the outset.
It’s been a hard mental health month, and I’m still trying, searching, for something to help me flip into a more positive attitude. Well-aware it’s not just a matter of waking up one morning with a new outlook, I suppose the whole of this post is to say that I’m still in the hunt for something that I can hold on to, that I can prop myself up on, where, in time, maybe I can build something lasting.
Thank you very much for your time, your understanding, and your support. I’m just trying to be the best me I can.