When I was 15, I couldn’t have cared less what the world saw me as. My style was mine (though, now admittedly I see why I never got dates). My mind was mine. My interests, my dreams, and my passions were entirely up to how I saw them, not influenced by anyone else’s thoughts about me and who I was “supposed to be”. Allow me to be slightly immodest when I say that I was wonderful to be around. I was happy, energetic, incredibly positive about life. Of course, I made mistakes that everyone makes as they grow up that turned people off every now and then, but I wasn’t a bad kid. I was inherently as good as I knew how to be. Like my beating heart, I never needed to tell myself to be good. I just was, as well as I could be. But that version of me is now a distant memory to my almost-23-year-old self.
When I was 17, my family moved to New Zealand. We were in a country where we knew few and whose social landscape we knew even less about. It was a difficult time that I was nowhere near emotionally prepared for. My parents split up (I knew it would happen one day, but not before I was in college), I would continue to have problems adapting to new surroundings, and my late bloomer body finally started exhibiting damaging examples of crippling insecurities. Unsureness of my standing as a person amongst my friends and family.
I don’t know that it was anxiety or mild depression, but rather a sign of some late stage puberty that hadn’t decided to infect me with its cruel hands of change. Puberty’s a dick.
With so much going on, coupled with the fact that, at age 19, I had just been fast-tracked into managing the family-owned (now Dad-owned) cafe that I had worked at since we had gotten off the plane, and my psyche was cluttered by thoughts of being too young to know how to deal with anything that was going on around me at the time. I was still a kid in my own eyes, and I had at least that much intelligence in my noodle to acknowledge that. Initially, I began questioning every decision I made in the cafe as the manager, and then even began to ask the staff if I was doing a good job. And I asked a lot.
I began to wonder what being good was, and always tried to consider all of the way-too-many variables to any situation before doing anything. I became overly careful and self-conscious, and considered anything that was really done to a good standard with the utmost negativity. I was so hard on myself that I convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough.
Insecurities inhabit everyone’s mind. What I have to remind myself all the time around other people is that they’re too busy thinking about themselves to think about you. It’s not a shallowness thing; it’s literally remembering that everyone has the same fears in this regard that you do. I know now that I’m not alone in the struggle to maintain a balance of humility and confidence amongst my fellow humanoids. It’s a vicious cycle of self-inflicted mind games that we play with ourselves at a young age and allow to bring us down to a place where we think is impossible to leave.
Fun fact: in our 20’s, we’re still in the late stages of who we are going to become for the rest of our lives. We’re not little baby birds learning to fly anymore, but we’re still trying to figure out how to get the other birds to accept us, or even just like us, even though many of us think that we have an awkward looking wing that those asshole birds will make fun of.
I thought I’d be over being so self-conscious by this stage in my life. That, at 22-ish, I’d be able to look at myself in the mirror and say, “Kid, you’re doing alright,” or, “Everything will be alright.” But it’s still not happening. In that same mirror in the real world, I’m still looking at the guy looking back at me with those piercing, unwavering eyes, and he’s saying, “You’re not doing it right.” It’s not anxiety or depression, but it’s still something I’d consider a formidable foe.
For years, I’ve been put into positions professionally and personally that make me feel like I’m becoming an adult faster than I can catch up. Conversely, I’m still yearning to do things that make me feel more adult-y, like having my own apartment, making the choice to get ultra-fast broadband because I’m my own man, and having a job that helps me save multitudes of moolah in the bank. But it’s not the moment and its contents that make the man. Rather, it’s what the moment means in the grand scheme of growing up and achieving great things that make the man. I have hopes, I have goals, and I have dreams. I just need to start giving myself more credit for being the person that I really am.
I’ve been told over and over again by so many customers at the cafe that I have great service. They appreciate my sincerity and my humor, and they tell me to “keep it up”. I shouldn’t just let that roll off my shoulders, but rather take it in and let it fill my heart with the juice I deserve to push even further in my quest to do better. I’ve been told by friends that I have a real talent for writing, and they tell me I should “keep doing it”. And yet, I barely write in my blog anymore, but I should take those words of encouragement in and really, truly, deeply believe that they’re not just saying it for the sake of being nice. With that said, can you see me making progress here?
The truth to the whole matter of having both confidence and humility working within you in unison is this: remember that you’re always going to be good at the things you love doing as long as you remember that you can never stop growing.
Watching my mother struggle with being on her own for the first time, and the great strength and bravery that she’s handled it has given me an appreciation for the fact that we never stop learning. We never stop growing up, because we’re always experiencing new things and with those new things come new problems to learn how to deal with and overcome. Those insecurities and fears don’t leave you, but definitely listen to them less as you grow up.
I know for certain that things I was worried about four years ago are, like After Earth to Will Smith, now dark remnants of the past (why Will? WHY?). Without the pursuit of happiness, humans would be without a path (yeah, I just made a double-Smith reference). If we were given happiness and emotional security at every turn in this increasingly judgmental society we live in, we would be without challenges and competition. Put it this way: in video games, if you’re not coming across enemies in your path, you’re not going in the right direction. Life is like that, too.
So, the things that make you feel terrible about yourself, make you question your goodness as a person, and/or create impossibilities in your head about how to grow up are all but chapters in the story that create the finished product that readers are searching for when the struggle is over. We’re never going to stop finding reasons to doubt ourselves in the face of adversity, because it’s just the way we learn. When you get your first late fees letter from the power company and see that you do actually have to pay that, you learn that that stuff is real (ugh).
So, as I continue writing my blog posts every week (and this time, it will happen), I will continue to work on being as observant as I can to educate myself on the ways in which I can one day achieve my dreams of…whatever I fucking decide, thank you very much. I will persevere, I will fight, and I will continue to make my own happiness wherever I choose, because I’m going to be alright. Internal or external, my insecurities will guide me, never own me.
After all, what’s a good movie without some conflict?