Mommy’s all right
Daddy’s all right
They just seem a little weird
But don’t give yourself away
I’ve been propelling myself all day through the things I had to do so that I could get to this point. I am not well right now. I have infections in my face from lingering colds. I’m really worn down.
But on my way to work, about 9:45 this morning (yeah, I go in late on Tuesdays), I was thinking about a post my wife made to Facebook and about how she’s been feeling lately. And I needed to hear “Surrender” by Cheap Trick. So I blasted it. I couldn’t figure out why I needed to hear it so badly– it was like an imperative.
Then I understood what my brain was doing.
“Mommy’s alright. Daddy’s alright. They just seem a little weird.”
I’ve been thinking about something related to my study of identity that crosses over with what Julie was thinking on the other day. We live in a machined world. We calculate our every move, at least in digital space. Well, except the President. I don’t think he’s paying close enough attention to his brand. But then again, his brand is that he shoots his mouth, so more power to him.
What I mean is that we create these fake plastic trees all around us until we can’t see the actual forest anymore. I try to avoid people who do it too heavily, but we see everyone doing it these days. People build these impressive lives on social media, often so busy crafting the moments that they miss the ACTUAL moments. And it’s all about looking happy, happy, happy and successful and amazing and world-beating.
Very few people are beating the world right now. The world is holding its fucking serve. If you’re really crushing it, good on you, but I’m pretty sure even the most well-off I know are feeling the boot heel of the world smashing its windpipe.
We’ve made a stigma of being depressed, or having a hard time, and we transfigure it so that it becomes a rallying point or a reason to avoid people, it becomes a shared scar or a taboo. We aren’t real about it at all.
Point in case. This picture is me, not retouched, not posed. It’s just me.
I’m not pleased with how I look. Some days it’s worse than others, but I’m a weird lop-sided faced fat dude with thinning hair. I feel bad about it much of the time.
Now when my wife shares with me that she feels that way about herself, I tell her not to feel that way, because I don’t want her to. I respect that she’s allowed to feel that way. The fact that the world thinks people aren’t allowed to feel how they feel is part of the problem that we’ve created with all these fake plastic personas.
I love myself.
But I also hate myself.
And I am willing to bet you do, too.
The differences in us are that we hate ourselves for different things, for different mistakes, for different weaknesses, for not living up to whatever we felt like we needed to live up to.
In my case, fat and not fat, I have always been considered “weird.”
And I’m alright. I guess.
But sometimes I’m not. I have had bouts with pretty serious anxiety. I had a crisis that I would have considered a nervous breakdown between undergrad and grad school had I not picked right back up and gone forward (the only way I knew to not collapse).
I tried to please so many people. I don’t think I ever really did.
I wanted to be the best at things, and I worked hard for that, but I often was made to share or was ignored when it was time to receive any glory or status for it. I shared jobs. I shared appointments that I worked hard for. I shared awards.
There’s a Barenaked Ladies song called “Second Best.” I used to play it in my grad office at MSU, as I sat alone, thinking about where I’d landed. I had some hard in that place. It almost broke me, and when I talk about it, I feel like everyone who is listening is just annoyed. The other day I opened up about some of it to a co-worker– someone I know I can trust– and instead of feeling unburdened I felt lost in the conversation, like I needed to stop and be professional, like it was wrong.
And you know why I felt that way?
It’s not because I wasn’t telling the absolute truth. I know I didn’t make things I got into there better by being stubborn and sometimes being outright combative.
It’s not that it was wrong for me to talk about it. I mean it probably was. But that’s not it.
The reason I felt wrong was that my version of how my time at MSU went is not what everyone else says about that time and that place. So I’m weird, I’m the one breaking the sunny day real estate into tiny parcels of self-loathing.
And you know what?
I get to do that.
I think as an academic I have to respect the code and not talk to other academics about it.
But I had a few really bad years in Michigan. And I feel bad about it, and about them, and if I could redo most of it I would (I am glad for the suffering due to meeting my wife, but if I could go back knowing what I do now I could have spared her, too).
And here’s the kicker, the thing I’m posting about right now, the reason I’m bringing it up…
I have every right to complain, to deal with what happened to me there however I want. No one gets to tell me how to feel, how to process things, how to be.
If you think you can, go back to your fake plastic life and leave me be.
Denying our feelings paves the road to us losing our humanity. We’re not Instagram posts. It’s messy and ugly and gritty sometimes in here. There’s no filter to make it all look glam.
Stop fucking with your own head and be real. Or at least be considerate to those who are being real.
I don’t care about your well-manicured virtual life. I’d love to get to know you, though.