Actually Trying

"I'm alright—I'll get through it—I've been through this before. This fear and anxiety—it's a fact about me, not about the world. In early 2007, I spent weeks being terrified of either accidentally commiting plagiarism or being accused thereof. In late 2009, I spent weeks being upset about which form of my name to use in which contexts. In late 2010, I spent some time being deeply upset about having violated copyright law by writing fanfiction. All of those episodes, and the others that I haven't mentioned, seem so silly in retrospect ... so maybe now I'm sufficiently self-aware to pick up the pattern: that my brain just arbitrarily latches onto ideas to feel threatened by, but that this process isn't actually useful, and there are probably learnable techniques to dampen it."

"Sounds good."

"But now that I've returned from madness—relatively speaking—there remains the question of what to do next. I had been angry at the University because it's allegedly a place of learning, but in practice, it's just an obedience test: everyone talks about grades and teachers and classes and degrees and no one says a single goddamned word about grace, beauty, or the true structure of the world beneath the world. I felt betrayed that it turns out that there is such a thing as mathematical beauty and no one had told me, that I needed luck to find out. To the extent that I do have access to recondite magic that my classmates know not, it's not because I'm innately brilliant—I'm not—but because four years ago, I somehow got the idea that I was actually allowed to try. Not just show up and obey instructions, but actually try. I ended up continuing with the college thing because it was easy, because it was the default, because Father was paying for it, all the while hoping that at some point someone would appeciate the beauty that I had worked so hard to uncover—but ..."

"But?"

"But maybe now I'm sufficiently aware to pick up another pattern, which is that no one cares. Ever. I kept expecting arbitrary people to respect me for being 'smart,' and kept getting disappointed when it didn't happen. But isn't that, properly, my problem, not theirs? My internal sense that I'm superior because of my vaunted book-learning is only justified insofar as it actually helps me make better decisions; expecting respect from those who don't respect book-learning, or who read different books, is just inaccurate. So now ... I just need to switch strategies. Now that I've glimpsed a little bit of what it feels like to actually try, as opposed to just subordinating oneself to the local authority figures—what happens if I throw that same energy and intelligence to the problem of how to make money and carve out a life for myself? What does that look like?"

2 thoughts on “Actually Trying

  1. Probably a wise decision, a thwarted sense of entitlement never helps. But "no one" is an overstatement. Most of your Less Wronger friends care.

  2. :(

    This is one of the standard horrors. I've seen people go through this a lot.

    You're unhappier than most people but you're also happier. That's probably the consolation.

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