I spend a lot of my time brooding over my mistakes, shortcomings, and inadequacies; I do this so frequently that I’ve convinced myself there are only three facets to my personality: regret, regression, and really shoddy attempts at alliteration.
This is all meant to be funny, of course. And is usually is.
If there’s one thing people laugh at almost always its someone viciously disparaging themselves. So, I don’t feel too guilty about the fact that the majority of what I write in here has more to do with how crappy I am than it does with my journey toward adulthood, or whatever weak premise I claim the foundation of this blog may be.
The issue is that self-deprecating nature of my writing prevails in all of its forms, which includes what I write entirely for myself. You see, in addition to sporadically posting in this blog, I also (more regularly and with less coherence) journal privately in an actual journal. It’s a habit I’ve had most of my life and, unlike the other habits I’ve picked up as I’ve stumbled around the country over the last 27 years, it seems to be a healthy one.
Except that, this morning, as I jotted a few whims and wonderings onto the pages of my super secret diary of dreams, I realized it is absolutely not.
I was in the middle of a sentence that began with, “It’d be nice to be nice to myself…” (I don’t aim for eloquence in my journal. It’s a fucking journal, and even on my best days I’m far from Virginia Woolf) and my pen ran out of ink.
Not a metaphor.
The pen I was using ceased to be a pen and turned irreversibly into a prison shank.
To anyone normal, running out of ink might seem like an infinitesimal squeak in the chorus that is life. However, I like to conjure national disasters from tiny blips on the Richter scale so this coincidence changed my life dramatically and immediately.
When the pen died, I paused, unable to even remember the last time a pen ran out of ink in my hand. I wasn’t sure what to do. I had no idea where another pen might be in my apartment, and I also wasn’t keen on the idea of getting off the couch. So instead of solving my own problem, I decided to flip back through the pages of my journal and skimmed my prior private thoughts about myself.
I’m not sure if any of you have noticed this but… I’m not very nice to myself.
Now, here at Terriffying.com that’s arguably fine. This is public; it’s entertainment. It can be brushed off as exaggeration. But my journal is a dumping ground for every thought that even my best friends wouldn’t want to wake up to and discover in a late-night drunk text. It should be the most honest view of myself, and it seems like I don’t like me very much.
For instance, there are a few pages from last summer where I simply barraged myself with an aggressive sequence of questions all along the lines of “Why are you so shitty?” Additionally, an entry from right after my 27th birthday, in December, provides future me with a checklist of things that current me is really, really bad at. The list includes things like eating, exercising, and generally taking care of myself.
I am certainly not in the best shape regardless of how you’re measuring. I’m physically lumpy where I’d prefer to be lean; I’m financially shaky when I’d much rather be grounded; I err on the side of anxiety when pragmatism is always the more effective alternative. This is all important information to have about myself because, without it, I can never improve. And it’s fodder for some silly turns-of-phrase that could make my readers smile, roll their eyes, laugh, or perhaps all three.
But when I’m writing just for me the goal needs to be altered. When I’m writing to an autobiographical audience I don’t need to entertain; I need to reflect. Yes, that means waving the occasional finger or identifying a misstep here or there. More importantly, though, it means being honest about what I’m doing well. Sure, I’m not in the best physical shape, but I’m managing Crohn’s disease on diet alone and have cut down on drinking dramatically since my reckless early 20s. I may not be financially stable, but I’m planning for retirement and supporting myself in one of the most expensive regions of the country. And although my anxiety still gets in the way – and likely will until I’m too old to remember anything to be anxious about – I know how to navigate it without abandoning everything and retreating to my mom’s couch.
It’s important to assess how I’m doing, and if part of that assessment means I need to pen down some measure of my successes and failures, then sure. I’m all about awarding grades. Those grades need to be honest, though, especially when I’m the only one reviewing the assessment; otherwise, it’s a free pass or an uncalled-for invective.
Perhaps as I edge my way toward thirty it’s time to shift the focus from “just be funny” to “also be nice.” Sometimes, at least.