I have an awful habit of comparing myself to other people. I do it with near obsessive constancy. I compare my writing ability to anyone who as much as composes a sentence on Facebook about their baby’s hair, I compare how I look in a t-shirt, I compare funniness, ease of conversation, walking ability, nonchalance, taste in literature, I’m not really picky. You do something that I also might want to maybe do, and chances are I’ve wondered if you do it better. I have another awful habit, that of being so obscured in my vision by others achievements (or indeed, basic daily functions) that I become convinced incrementally, every time someone does something* that I am the most stupidly average person in the world. That by comparison everything I do must be fairly shit. I have a third awful habit. This one I think I’m only just learning I do (my friends will be face-palming in their lack of surprise but I’m pretty slow, alright) as I watch myself tell me I’m probably naff anyway, all the time. Here’s how it goes:
- I do something/think about doing something.
- I assume it is/will be shit.
- I make verbal pronouncements to that affect.
- I hereby save anyone who would have been disappointed/angry/embarrassed at my efforts the bother of saying so, having cleverly circumvented their criticisms with my own.
Hahahaha. I am the most nefarious mastermind of all time.
It’s not like I spend my time crying about my lack of philosophy skills or not-quite-right skinny legs or am completely unaware of any mote of skill I might possess (my playlists, I kid you not, are award-winning**), I just am super good at pre-empting the sad faces I feel I’m sure to receive by trying my bestest at some stuff and very aware of people that are good at stuff that I dig. Which is normal. Maybe.
I read Marieke Hardy’s book You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead (several months ago now, I’ve been brewing this for a little while) and I dug the shit out of it.
I had assumed the book would be funny and shoot-from-the-hip-honest, but to find it soft and elegant in parts and so bleedingly straightforward you wanted to call her up and say “thanks for being so sweet I’m also a right spaz” was a little unexpected. I found it totally mesmerizing and obviously hilarious.
After I read it I was a little desolate. She is just… so… good. AND she’s only a few years older than me AND she’s been writing columns for everyone for ever AND she’s written a TV show AND started the successful and entirely whimsical and lovely “Women of Letters” thing AND NOW A BOOK.
I began to resent my life. How have I ended up this bland and irritatingly unprovocative woman, at only five years Ms Hardy’s junior? How am I not writing columns for some such over a glass of wine or laughing loudly in public places with my roughly-the-same-amount- of-famous artist/writer/musician chums? I blame my friends. Why, as a middle class Australian attending a private Christian school I could not have had the decency to fall in with a crowd of no good, up all night, lets do whatever the hell we want, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt types is beyond me. How’s a girl supposed to accumulate ex’s like empties and anecdotes that would make your nostrils sting when the gang she hangs out with is PG at the most?
I at several points during and after reading thought “OK. We’ll just have to drink a shit load more. It’s not too late for that at least”.
I was also at several points during and after reading, when my disgust at my stubborn refusal to be anything but a regular, non-alcoholic person had stepped out to have a smoke, convinced that Marieke and I would be magical and life-long friends, should we ever meet (you see, in a secret cavern in my mind lurks the stupidly confident Carlynne, the one who still believes she will one day appear as a telepath with mad fighting skills in an indie superhero flick and who fortunately (or not, depending on viewpoint) takes over when I’m on the dance floor. Now, having read Marieke Hardy’s wonderful book, the weeny, inner, vim filled Carlynne cheerily tells me that one day, Marieke will stumble across this blog, be both stunned and chuffed by my skillful wordplay and humble affectations of hero worship and ring her publisher to tell them they’ve got another hit on their hands. She (inner sociopath Carlynne), was responsible for my 11 year old “Mark Gosseler’s limo breaking down out the front of my house and he has to wait for a tow but I’m not phased by his celebrity or blindingly white smile and he’s really impressed by that so we fall in love” fantasy and I suspect this one will be as unrealized) but mostly it was “aaaiii- my blinding lack of publishable material! Woe” and the gnashing of metaphorical teeth etc.
Now you see I write a little bit, but my only semi regular outlet (what you’re viewing. Gorgeous isn’t it) is a blog dedicated to how undeniably pedestrian my efforts are. Also note that I was here comparing myself to a woman who has actually attempted to do things that I’ve never tried. So of course I haven’t had the same level of success, publishers outside of my brain don’t ring unknown bloggers and ask permission to publish them. But by reading and bemoaning how much better she is, I got to remind myself that I’d probably never have her level of success anyway just to keep drilling the point home. You dig?
This is obviously all very amusing and Carlynne-like, but actually the last couple of months of the year, despite my powerhouse 30-is-still-alright-with-me performance got a little shit. I was both busy and exhausted, I was in the throes of a bout of loneliness to rival any I’d had for a few years that was kicked off, unfortunately, by a really lovely wedding and only exacerbated by the hideous timing of my first viewing of Jane Eyre, I had thrown a sort of unsuccessful weekend party a couple of weeks ago, I had put on weight and felt fat and inelegant most of the time, I doubted myself in social situations; I was for once, almost convinced that what I say about myself a lot is true.
It all culminated one night when faced with icing a mountain of gingerbread that I’d rather ambitiously constructed the night before and that refused to be iced either well or expediently in my bursting into tears over biscuits cut into the shapes of trees, bells and ninjas. Not a high point.
I went home to Adelaide shortly after and got a lot of rest, which was what was dearly needed, and also a lot of thinking time. I began to breathe again and found myself at the beginning of a new year, rather hopefully musing on the changes I wished I could make.
Wrapped in the protective cocoon of my mum’s house, far away from most responsibilities and the pressures I’d placed on myself, I decided that as no one else could claim to be in charge of making my life more palletable to me other than… me, that I would seize the dubious power of the Yule-Tide and make the new year an opportunity to be better. And not in a “you’re shit- be less shit” way.
Firstly I realised that being so thoroughly convinced of my shittitude was very, very unhealthy. I would need to work on that. Secondly, if I want to be healthier, in a physical sense, then I can choose to do that! I am a capable, mobile woman! If I want to eat better and exercise more, than by jove what’s stopping me? Huzzah! And finally, if I want to be a writer, then I probably need to fucking write! There’s no conceivable point lying around moaning about how successful someone else is when you don’t even update your blog regularly. Being good at something has to be worked on. Surely. So I resolved to be better, and while I was at it, better at being me.
And so, 2012 began, and with it a slightly more updated version of Carlynne.
More on that later…
Ps. I was planning on writing this closer to the start of the new year, but luckily enough, I’m hideously disorganized and have therefore had time to heal even more thoroughly than I did in my post-horrid-times time.
Pps. I honestly don’t write this stuff in the hope that people will read and feel sorry for “poor badly self-esteemed me”. I really do find this the best way of processing my thoughts, need the drive of a published medium to push me to write and also figure if someone else who thinks they’re naff reads it then maybe they’ll find something better to do with their time than think they’re naff.
*It has to be something I enjoy/feel is important. I am in no way envious of any athletes, sports players or producers of dub-step, reggae or trance music.
**Of course I’m kidding. There are no awards for playlists. Or are there?! Oh my gosh. If there are, that’s weird but please nominate me. I’ll enjoy another chance to be self depreciating.