I don’t really know how to start this, but boy howdy, I am terrified of succeeding, and I am running out of creative ways to fail.
Here’s the thing about failure; overcoming it is beautiful. Look at every break up song, every painting that conveys a struggle, every comedian pouring their heart into some tragically beautiful portrait of humanity, the depths of solitude and darkness they’ve been mired in and their dutiful trudge onward because, fuck knows why. Because we have to try.
In my life, I have failed a lot, and though I've never celebrated it, I have always felt like I came out a better person, and there's something kind of messed up about that. When we fail, we have a starting point, and the end seems tantalizingly easy yet somehow still noble: we're looking to get back to even ground. Sweet success is as easy as getting up before noon, or not killing ourselves.
I’m not trying to make light of the kind of rut that makes those little victories seem huge, by the way. I’ve been through times in my life where the monsters in my head controlled me. Being alive was painful even at its simplest, let alone trying to do something with my life. I’ve been so disillusioned with humanity, myself, my chosen life, that the great, deep ends, the failures, have seemed nearly inevitable and backing away from those melting edges wasn’t easy.
For the first time in awhile, I have pulled myself onto some higher ground, but I really suck at it. Moving from Denver helped me escape the cynicism I’d been trapped in. I’m in a relationship with someone who is both supportive and challenging, who is both adventurous and pragmatic, and who has encouraged me towards challenging mental patterns I have that are, well, unproductive. I'm learning how to talk to people here without the baggage I'd accumulated, which helps me know what are valid frustrations and what are creations of my mind. I've learned how to feel less helpless in the realm of social change.
It’s hard for me, in some respects, to know what parts of my mind are changeable and which ones aren’t. I don’t know what things fall under learned behaviors that I can weasel my way out of, and what things fall under the somewhat haze of, “This is You, Like it or Not.” I’ve hit a few limits, but I only found them because I pushed hard against them. I don't handle success very well, even if it's small. Whenever I do something good I immediately undercut it with some self criticism. I'm trying not to do that any more, but I feel very uncomfortable acting like I did something good.
One of the things I don’t like about being in this middle, where I don’t feel like I’m about to fall, is the vastly larger probability of being a hypocrite. I’m falling short of a lot of beliefs I hold if for no other reason than I’m not quite at the point where I know how to address them. I have my ideals, but I also have no idea how to respond to people who don’t hold them. I'd like to believe that I value my beliefs above all else, but I don't, and I don't always notice it when I fall short.
Case in point would be a weird rise in Facebook messages I’ve gotten from people I don’t really know. It’s not a huge number; there’s four people (and yes, they’re male) that have sent me unsolicited messages that range from “hi” multiple times to “hi sexy” once or twice. This seems to happen cyclically but I don't know what it's dependent on. I don't get any for a long time and then I'll have a small cluster. I haven’t responded to any of them.
The ideal me believes I should tell these dudes, who I’m “friends” with most likely only because they’ve had a picture of themselves with a microphone and have enough comic mutual friends who were as lazy at vetting as I am, that I am, to borrow a quote Tom Segura, “Friended Up”. It’s kind of a dick thing to say but it’s a reality for someone like me. I don’t have it in me to talk to a lot of people, and I don’t often respond to people on messenger unless it’s about shows, Especially if they call sexy, because it has implications that they want me to reciprocate on some physical or emotional level with them that I definitely won’t. It’s also been my experience that “sexy” is often just a sugar coating that melts off the word “cunt” when I say I don’t want to communicate. Such is life.
The ideal me believes that these guys are humans, and probably lonely, and loneliness in itself tends to lend itself to weird behavior, so I shouldn't be so callous about not wanting to be friends. Everyone is complicated. They could be lonely and wanting or genuine creeps who are just splooging out messages to every woman on their list in hopes that eventually some naive and socially ill equipped person takes them up on their messages. I really don't know.
The real me chooses not to respond because I don’t have any further dialogue than saying I don’t want to say anything, and as valid as I think it is to give people closure, or explain why what they’re doing could be seen as unwelcome, I don’t. I fall short of my ideals here. That’s put me in a weird position now that I’m struggling less emotionally; I have slightly more social capital and I have no fucking idea how to use it, because until now I've really been able to handle the bare minimum so I never had to consider anything else. (Social capital meaning the amount of interactions I can have in a day, which on a bad day is zero and on a really, really good day is whatever number is me being sociable at an open mic.)
It's odd because I've been trying for most of my life to replace money with some form of social currency, and I'm now realizing that ideal might be something I'm just not physically capable of, which is something to confront in another article. Failing I might not be, but I will always be flawed.
The way I see it, I can spread this new social capital at my current level, which would include talking to people who send me anonymous Facebook messages and expressing that I don’t like it, or I can attempt to use it to do more with comedy, meaning reaching out more and asking strangers in other cities to book me.
The latter one, logically, is the much better use of my time, but my mind also resists the idea that these aren’t equal because they require they same expenditure of energy. The latter also has a higher risk of both success and failure, whereas the former has a best case scenario of an emotionless “okay” response. In my socially and emotionally limited capacity, that little leap seems more appealing than doing something that would actually help me do comedy. I feel stuck between being who I think I should be ideally and how I think I'll move ahead in life and I don't like the compromise.
I think we do a lot of strange things because we’re afraid of success. One that I see a lot is through interpersonal drama, as Denver well knows on Facebook. If we’re frustrated that we can’t do well, or we’re afraid to try, we end up doing a whole bunch of strange maneuvers to make things harder on ourselves. We set ourselves up for failure because at least failure is tangible and the outlook is tangible. We don’t know what success looks like sometimes, even when it’s staring us in the face with a rose in its teeth.
I don’t really know what success looks like or how to do it. I think there is a wide and unappealing middle that most of us don’t want to admit we’re destined for. A lot of us will be the muffin top of comedy; we won’t sell ourselves so short that we hate what we do (hopefully) but we’ll get really comfortable with spreading out into things we wouldn’t have originally touched, simply so we don’t go hungry. We all want to be the voice of our generation and too often we find that our generation ages out of wanting someone to speak for them. All I know is that for the first time in my life, I’ve got a shot at the middle, as long as I stop shooting myself in the foot, and somehow that is more terrifying than the idea of sleeping at the bottom.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.