There was a time in my life when I believed in myself. That time is over. Do you want to know what happened?
What happened was, I got an education. A formal and the coinciding real one. I got an education, and I saw myself fail.
There was a time when I had never failed. I know, I know–I have ridiculous amounts of privileged and my life has been crazy awesome, more crazy awesome than anyone deserves. But, moving on from my terribly middle-class bitch-needs-to-be-knocked-down-a-few-pegs backstory, this is how I got knocked down a few pegs.
See, I had quit, I had given up, I had lost and I had been dumped, but all that was different. I had quit because it just wasn’t for me, I had given up because I was done trying to do something I didn’t want to do in the first place, I’d lost because the other team was better (which has no bearing on how good I was, and I did my goddamn best and got good and muddy to prove it), and I’d been dumped because of a personality clash. I’d taken a math final and cried because I was too slow to finish all the questions, but I passed. I’d fallen off a horse when she went and cut to the left without telling me, and I got back on. I finished high school. And then I took Social Research Methods.
It was the semester after I took Social Theory, the class that broke me down to tears and catscratched wrists every night for a month because I didn’t understand what they wanted from me. (I don’t own a cat.) What does this mean? What am I supposed to do? I don’t even understand enough to ask for help! I wanted to die on the bad days, to run away and become a waitress named Anne on the good days, and I got through it because I got lucky. I never forgot that my mom loves me, and that that mattered. I got lucky that my mom loves me, and I got lucky that this goddamn self-hate virus never found that file.
And then I had to do it again.
And I just…couldn’t.
It wasn’t that it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. It wasn’t because someone else was better, and it wasn’t because of bad interpersonal fit. It was because I couldn’t face another month wanting to be someone else, on the good days, every night. Because I knew going in how painful it would be, and… if you were offered a black box, and someone said there was a prize inside, that you’d have to dig for it, but it was in there? And you reached in, and it was okay at first, but then it kind of started to hurt, and then it really hurt, and then it FUCK OW JESUS WHAT THE HELL- and then your fingers found something, and you pulled it out praying it was the prize, and guess what? Lucky you! The prize is another box!
But no seriously, there’s a good prize in this one.
If you were offered that second box, would you put your hand in it?
I couldn’t do it.
I walked into my professor’s office on the day of the final, and said, “I’m not turning in a final paper.”
She sort of… gaped at me, her eyes bugging out like the oversized glass beads on her classy and expensive necklace, the kind I would now never be able to afford, and she said, “What?” and I said, “I’m not doing it.” And I walked away.
And that night, for the first time in months, I didn’t want to die. I didn’t even want to run away.
And the next day I saw that I had tried my hardest, and gotten fucking nowhere. I’d gone backwards, actually, because even though I failed the class, I still had to pay for it. And if I ever wanted big, expensive, handmade glass necklaces, I’d have to take it again. I’ve always known that I can do anything if I just try hard enough, but I tried my hardest, and I still couldn’t do it.
And I still don’t want to kill myself, and that’s nice, I guess. But I don’t really feel like my life means anything, anymore. If hard work and perseverance aren’t the source of what I have, then what is? Luck? If it’s luck, then nothing I’ve done, nothing I ever will do, comes from me. My integral worthiness isn’t what got me here. I got fucking lucky. I knew I had a lot of privilege, and I knew what that meant for other people, but I didn’t really know what it meant for me. What it means is that most of my achievements have nothing to do with me. I don’t actually have to be very much in order to seem like all that and a bag of organic lightly-salted kale chips. And that’s great and all, from an external perspective, but internally? It doesn’t feel very nice.
So I don’t feel especially capable right now. But I’m just gonna go ahead and say fuck it, I’ll go through the motions, maybe I’ll get lucky again.
Maybe believing in yourself doesn’t matter. I failed when I believed in myself. Maybe I’ll succeed this time, even though I don’t.
(The second time around, I passed the class. And guess what?
There was another box.