Seems Medium ain’t the proper platform for my rantings anymore, so we’re sticking to the blog.
I was about 15 or 16 when I failed my first school test. It was chemistry. I hated the subject and the subject hated me.
Before this, I was a solid student. I coasted on As and on bullshitting when I didn’t have all the answers—and I was fucking great at it. I was a “gifted” kid; basically, capable of recalling general information I read a few times and committing the relevant bits to memory. When I was younger, this made me a shining star.
Then I got older. Then I failed. Then I got addicted to failure.
Failure was easier than coasting. It opened the door to every possible excuse I could pull out of my ass! The teacher hated me! The subject didn’t make sense! Why did I even need to know any of this, I’d never use it in the real world! Those statements were plentiful and delicious and like the cuddliest blankets in the known universe. All I needed was to develop the perfect excuse; to frame the world against me narrative and I was safe again. If I always expected failure, the next logical step was to just skip to the part that felt good—the excuses.
So maybe I was addicted to the excuses. I digress.
Obviously, many people do this and have the potential to do it their entire lives. We’ll find others who enable the you to make your failure excuse blanket into a full-blown failure pillow fort with a big old sign out front that reads, NO TRYING ALLOWED.
This mentality would carry me through three colleges, multiple attempts to lose weight, and my ever-growing list of writing endeavors that remained unwritten (clearly, the work was too high brow for me to commit to since folks would only work against me if I bothered). I opted to smoke, drink, and waste away in a meaningless job because I’d fail either way, right? Bothering to act wasn’t even worth it by that point. It was safest to remain tucked away and working through the motions content to get a glimmer of satisfaction that indulgences gave me.
Pretty sure I got into World of Warcraft around then too. And yes, I also quit that once it got too serious. Nothing was worth my time if the success wasn’t immediate and unearned.
I’m not entirely sure where everything turned around. I can point to a lot of things. I can point to my relationship with my now wife (how she stayed with me all that time is beyond me. You’d think I owed her money) growing into something that made sense, my need for an actual income as life wasn’t going to hand me everything anymore in my mid-20’s, or the death of a man I’d once idolized (though was nothing like) at far too young of an age. Whatever it was (spoilers: it was all of those), I realized that I was a terrified, stunted man who had worked hardest at ensuring he’d never take the goddamn step that would either lead him forward or flat on his face. Standing still was better than any other option; other platitudes, etc.
Like any addiction, I had to crawl out of that comfy space slowly. I had my moments of weakness—falling off the wagon and allowing all those fears to envelop me and freeze me up. Sometimes I needed help to get out of those ruts and sometimes I didn’t—those latter moments becoming inspiration to take the little steps towards a fearless existence. Step by step, things happened. Renting an apartment became home ownership. A marriage became a family of four. Learning to drive became owning a car (hey, I was a city kid, took a while). Smoking two packs a day became running an actual marathon. Finally typing the words stuck inside my brain pan became publishable work.
Low hanging fruit doesn’t go away, it’s always right there in front of you waiting to be picked. Truth be told, sometimes it’s OK to pick that fruit—depending on what needs doing. Other times, it must be more difficult and it hurts but at least you get through it and you learn from everything that came out of it—success or failure.
On paper, it all sounds easy and sometimes that’s the problem.
Maybe it comes down to admitting nothing will be easy but that’s OK. The last part there’s the tougher bit.