I was talking to my mom recently… and I don’t think I ever fully appreciate our talks until I look back on them, like I’m (sort of) doing right now. It was just a random conversation, as most conversations are, but somehow it devolved into what makes us who we are. So existential, man. I’m a big on experience. Like, most anything that makes someone who they are derives from a specific moment in time, or moments, that shaped them so. I look back at the time period when I was 19 going on 20 going on 21 as my formative years; up until then I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to be.
Anyway, now that I’m (kind of but not really) older, I’m comfortable talking about my insecurities. In my youth whenever anyone even mentioned that word to me I pretended like it didn’t relate to me whatsoever, which is probably the tell-tale sign that, yes, all-around I was one insecure mutherfucker. Now I view my insecurities as those little wrinkles that make up who I am as an individual, so if anything they’re more of a positive. Or maybe that’s just the spin I put on it. I don’t know.
Somehow, it makes sense to me. As a little boy I placed impossible expectations on myself; I was going to Duke University when I graduated high school and some day I was going to be the head basketball coach at Duke and don’t you ever try to convince me otherwise. I was going to have the most beautiful wife in all the land and my kids were going to be athlete-doctors. And that was it.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the road life got in the way of those plans. That didn’t make my dream stupid, it just gave me a ceiling that wasn’t attainable. In trigonometry and calculus this is known as an asymptote, a line that approaches zero (or infinity) without ever reaching it. In the end I went to Virginia Tech instead of Duke, and, no, I’m not going to be the basketball coach at Duke some day.
But it’s completely worthwhile that I held myself to such standards growing up. It sucks that I’m probably never going to be satisfied with the person I am, neither emotionally nor psychologically, but goddamn it I’m going to try. I now look at life practically more than ever; once I wanted to be a writer, now I want to be the guy who makes money. They always told me money can’t buy happiness, but now I’m starting to think the guy who said that didn’t have any.
It’s these insecurities, these feelings that I’m not good enough and never will be, that are constantly the driving force behind every decision I make. It’s funny, and I told this to my best friend a few weeks ago, that I find the two of us very similar in that regard, even though we’re nothing alike on the surface. Him, the artist; myself, the logic.
Our feelings that we’re not good enough — that maybe isn’t the right way to put it but it’s the only simple way that I can express it — are the fabric that holds us together.
For instance, a few weeks ago… the day before Thanksgiving, I had an audition at a casino I was applying to be a dealer at. The night before Trey came over, and I explained to him the anxiety I had, the thought that maybe they won’t like me or they won’t think I’m good enough, or whatever. My best friend is very calm when I doubt myself. He just told me, dude, you’re the best fucking dealer at the casino you’re at right now… of course they’re going to like you. You’re tight.
When I called him the next afternoon to tell him I passed and got the job, the first thing he said was, “Fucking duh.”
It works both ways, though. Trey is a tattoo artist at a small shop in the city we live in, and he’s by far the best artist in the building. He does well as far as money is concerned, but I know for a fucking fact that he could walk into about any shop, anywhere, and the people there would love him and the work he does. He’s really, really fucking good.
But Trey, like me, has doubts. It’s as if he can see me for what I really am, and I can see him for what he really is, but when we look at ourselves we’re both fucking clueless. It’s a problem, but it’s probably a good problem.
Most people in the world are fine doing their work, getting their paycheck, and moving on with their lives. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, for the record. Trey and I, though, have always had bigger aspirations. I know this because we used to talk about the same shit when we were 16 years old; we always had high opinions of ourselves ostensibly, like we knew intrinsically we were meant for bigger things.
This is also where the fear comes from. It’s in the expectations. Since we’re supposed to be better than we are right now — whenever right now is — we’re going to feel the rejection harder when it comes. If it comes.
Again, this is what makes us such a great pair of best friends. It’s what makes him awesome as an individual, and a decent-sized chunk of what makes me want to better myself. His success is my success, and vice versa.
Is it really so weird to want to be great?
I don’t have any issues with who I am as a person; I know I’m a good person. My problem is the idea of who I am, or am supposed to be. It’s intellectually frustrating to know, for now and for always, that I’m never going to be the person I work to be.