I have 312 ways to be mortified. 313 if you include this one.
Everything I know tells me the appropriate reaction to the past–the 312 essays on the blog–must be shame, a rather distinct form of it known as Cringe. And yet after every onanistic visitation of the essays on this blog, my public record of phony intellectualism masked by virtuous indignation camouflaged by self-awareness put together by a grammatical cacophony of words spiked by the occasional fuck always brings me to a singular feeling. Hope.
Because every essay started out without it.
When I go back and read one of the earlier essays, because I am circling around the hopelessness in trying to begin the next one or because I want to make sure I have not already written the exact same essay I am trying to begin, which is particularly sad–I am both astonished and inspired with my bygone naivete. Just enough to remember how little I knew but not enough to not begin the next essay. How little I know.
I write because my delusions surpass my shame.
When are we going to make peace with our younger selves, whose very selfhood hinges on a need to be seen, the very thing you detest looking back because of how full-frontal it all seemed. As we get older, we live through the corner of our eyes. Still very much the need to be seen, just sly. Sophisticated. That’s what makes me cringe. The fact that I am becoming increasingly afraid to see what’s, and whoever is, in front of me.
Your past works as a reminder for how far you have it made and how much you know–and better, but you can’t shake off the voyeuristic twitch that is looking back at This moment from the future and having the exact same thought: “I was so stupid!” You are so stupid. If you want to cringe at all, this is what you should cringe about. Your abiding need to convince yourself you are making something of your life by exchanging it for a time when you didn’t care so hard about what you made of life, much less yours. A period you call dumb for its lack of sophistication, when really what was dumb about it was your belief that it would last forever. The timelessness. You know you can never bring yourself to feel like that again, and so you tell yourself it was stupid anyway. Sour grapes; Dry raisins, anyone?
Writing was easy when I got started. It poured because I couldn’t tell if it was good or bad. I did it all sloppy. I did it all foolish. Occasionally, perfect. The dumb confidence. I used to remember every essay. It was all so pointless and yet I never wanted to know what the point was. The point was to write, no?
Somewhere along the way, now, there’s got to be something more. Just write? No. That’s can’t be it. Where’s the whole self-actualization shit I was promised if I only got better at it? Worse, after all this time how could I still be struggling to fucking write?
Now, you may think I write just fine. Consummate. Inimitable. Transcendental. Okay, okay, sure. All that. If it makes you feel any better. Because it’s exasperating when writers of the books I hold nonpareil look back at their own books and go, “Oh, so cringey!” What a dick move!
I cringe at the present self that knows so much more now and yet has so little to say in the fear of looking unselfaware. I loathe every bit of the show–writing–I need to put up to sustain a selfhood, a level of having to appear as someone that’s written over 300 essays before this one.
How difficult it has become to love something that asks nothing of me but to be there.
How all the gain of growing old has been balanced out by a loss of the innocence needed to love.
How insane I have become in my sanity.
How long, prey tell, does timelessness take?
Someday, as I wonder for the sextillionth time if I have anything to write any longer, I am going to stumble back on this essay. I am going to hate how self-indulgent it all sounded. What do I know then which I don’t know now? I will never know the answer to that, but here’s what I know now I wish I still know then: I am not here looking for answers, I am here to let go of the questions. And while I have future-me: I hope you are still doing some stupid shit. If you’re real lucky, I hope it’s still writing.
I want for You there to be at least one part of life you never took seriously. A part when you felt timelessness, however briefly.