It’s hard to think that you might have peaked at age 16. That’s just a thought that pops into my head every so many hours, and I thought I’d share it with you. You have to understand that when I say peaked at 16, I don’t mean that I had some sort of huge, giant, arching tower of an adolescents either. I mean that I’m pretty sure the tiny little step ladder of life I’d climbed my Junior year of High School is the highest I ever really got. It’s not a phenomenally comforting thought.
Looking back over the events of the last 13 years, though, I think it might be more accurate than I realized. I’ve aged, but I don’t really think that I’ve grown. I actually feel a lot more lost in the world now than I did when I was a confused teenager. That’s something no one ever expects I think. Teenage me would probably kick my ass, actually…
…or probably not. More emotionally stable doesn’t really mean that he was a pillar of granite or anything.
I’ve never been sure of when the fear started strangling me. I know that we’re supposed to lose our sense of invulnerability as we age, but at some point I went from being timid to being cowardly. That’s probably not the adjective a lot of people would use to describe me, but it’s accurate, I assure you.
Maybe a better, more poetic turn of phrase would be gun-shy. That’s part of it, I suppose. I worry that the things I say and do might have a negative impact on not just how people see me, but on the people around me. I worry that I might cause problems for other people.
That’s not something I worried about 13 years ago.
Some of you might call that maturity. You might be saying that I’ve grown, learning to think of others beyond myself. You might say that it would be selfish of me to say and do things that might hurt those around me.
You might be right. It doesn’t mean that I am.
Being true to your own nature is hard.
Admitting that maybe your nature has changed into something you dislike is harder.
I don’t like being timid, anxious, and indecisive.
I was taught to analyze problems, look at the picture from all sides and then be prepared to defend or attack from every position. I was trained for debate, not just in school, but in life. No, that’s not accurate, the skills of verbal combat I was taught by my father are not accurately described as debate. They’re intelligent, reasoning argument. Calling those skills debate would be like saying that a MMA fighter trained in self-defense.
I was raised to stand my ground and defend my beliefs. I was raised to use my brain to decide what that position should be and not just accept the word of someone else.
I was taught to be confident.
I’m not confident. I’m faking it.
Something in my life rattled the core of my being sometime around my 18th birthday. Maybe it was the World Trade Center attack. Maybe it was just my fragile psyche snapping under the weight of one too many fantasies. Whatever it was, it scarred me. It terrified me at the very center of my soul and I ran from it.
I kept running.
I ran from who I was and who I could have been. I used friends, and booze, and pills, and self-hatred to build a barrier of denial and contempt between me and whatever that was. I’m still not sure what triggered it. I’m still not sure why I just stopped going to school, or why I gave up on every dream I’d ever had to hide in a hellish rat hole for years.
It is the same fear that keeps me pinned into a job I don’t enjoy. It is the same fear that makes me back down from things I feel with conviction because they might be unpleasant for others to hear. It is the same fear that gnaws at my mind and eats the words that I try to put down and forces me into inaction and lethargy.
It’s the same fear that fills me so to brimming with self-doubt that I actually seek to manipulate others into bullying me.
God… I bet a therapist would have a field day with that one.
Some little part of me still thrashes with rage, screaming at that binding, over powering fear. It aches as I starve it to death. I force it to slowly entropy inside of me in favor of hiding from discomfort by isolation and redundancy. It sends pain and depression, nostalgic memories of emotions long dead across the waking thoughts of my mind.
Those are the death throws of a desperate, cornered soul.
It’s the part of me that says I’ve let myself fall back into a safety net.
It makes sure I know that I haven’t grown at all.