I Am Confident That I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

Although I am a devastatingly beautiful Child of God, I haven’t always been this way. Once upon a time, I was a chubby Child of God who looked middle-aged despite being 10 years younger than I am now. Through my ugly duckling-like transformation, I have learned many valuable lessons about life, and people, and trees. Did you know that Dame Judi Dench loves trees? There’s a documentary about it.

One of the tools that I picked up on my travels was confidence. I had always figured that if something needed to be done, it would probably be better to let someone who knew what they were doing handle it. This probably was also influenced by my laziness, but I genuinely did not think that I should be throwing my hat into the ring. Being a leader felt cocky. I’ve always been extra cautious never to appear too confident or arrogant, which is ironic because there has never been an instance where I’ve ever been mistaken for either of them. I have been correctly identified as a self-pitying, self-effacing hermit with low self-esteem, but somehow no one has ever thought me arrogant.

I realized lately that this fear of being viewed as a know-it-all had been hindering me. I had been limiting my ability to bestow greatness unto the world. I first realized that I had something to offer when I was Assistant Stage Manager in college. When we ran out of mini cupcakes for the night, I had the idea of cutting them in half to make extra cupcakes. Several people marveled at my ingenuity. I blinked. Was I a genius? I simply cut a cupcake in half. Not one to miss out on an opportunity, however, I added “Thinking on my feet” to my list of special skills on my resumé.

When I started working full time, I was again surprised at my problem solving skills. I started tackling problems head on, instead of telling my boss there was a problem and then walking away. I ended up becoming someone that people actually asked questions of. Me! Granted, most of the questions were about whether or not our pastries were gluten free, but still! Me!

When I first began writing, I would write these short sketch-like plays filled with jokes that I found funny. People liked the humor, but criticized the lack of structure. So I wrote plays with structure, that looked and sounded like what I saw on tv, with stale sounding dialogue that I felt like I could hear someone say maybe if they were just really standoffish and strange. People told me they liked my humor better. It didn’t occur to me until recently that perhaps I could combine my sense of humor with the structure necessary to tell a story. I thought I had to make my writing become what I saw on TV, instead of learning the proper form and then injecting myself into that form.

As my confidence began to improve, most aspects of my life did as well. I began to think that perhaps my many thoughts that sought to save me from embarrassment were actually holding me back. I started chatting with customers at work instead of shunning eye contact. I started to be vocal and enthusiastic when spotting my buddy at the gym. I stopped lying there immobile like an opossum during sex. And lo and behold, people were responding positively to the new me!

Looking back at my past, I see that I didn’t have a whole lot of agency in my own life. But I decided that instead of getting in my own way and wishing that I could make the changes that I wanted to make, I would just throw caution to the wind and shape my life the way I damn well please. And if I make mistakes, I’ll learn from them and grow. But if I hold back and only give 50% for fear of looking stupid, then I’ll stay exactly where I am while the rest of the world keeps moving.

-Theodore Dandy

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For My Birthday God Decided To Strike Me Down

When I was a little boy, I used to love getting sick. There was nothing more exciting to me than the first pangs of a sore throat. I’d feel a rush of anticipation when my forehead got slightly hot, and if I ever got to the point where I needed to throw up, I might as well have won the lottery. Being sick was my golden ticket. It was an escape from the world. It was like a snow day that only I got to experience. It relieved me from any and all responsibility. I didn’t need to go to school, I didn’t need to do anything. For one day (two if I was lucky), everything revolved around me. I got whatever I wanted- sprite, chicken noodle soup, fruit roll ups. I got to stay home from school and play video games all day long. It was heaven. But better than all of it was that magical combination of attention and sympathy. That was my cure-all.

As I got older, like all things, being sick began to lose its appeal. In high school, missing school actually mattered, and I was at risk of failing if I missed too many days. I made sure to miss exactly six days each semester- no more, no less. I didn’t want to get in any trouble, but I also didn’t want to actually be present and attend class. When I got to college, it was pretty much the same. I missed as much class as I possibly could without being penalized for it- in some cases, though, I was penalized for it. Being a drama major meant that most of my classes were primarily about participation, i.e., showing up. It didn’t fly too well with many of my teachers that I’d miss class without an advance warning, or even sometimes without an explanation at all.

There was no need anymore to even fake being sick, since I had no one to answer to but myself. No one was there to verify my symptoms. No one was there to feed me chicken noodle soup and fruit roll ups. Being sick stopped being so much fun. I also started to get sick in different ways. I wasn’t so much throwing up because I had a stomach bug, as I was because I had been drinking massive amounts of alcohol and was hung over. I began to associate being sick with drinking. It felt like I wasn’t in control of my body, and it scared me.

After I got sober, surprisingly I stopped throwing up pretty much entirely. It turns out that throwing up is rare when you don’t binge drink. Along with getting sober, I changed my diet and exercise drastically, and ended up becoming quite healthy. When I did feel under the weather, I took care of myself. I stayed away from sugar and anything that might make me feel worse, and I got better much quicker. I decided that I didn’t actually like being sick, or at least not when I was actually ill.

This past Christmas, I began to feel sick the day before I left for the break. By the time I’d arrived in Fresno to spend Christmas with my boyfriend, I had a very bad cold. I was annoyed that I’d gotten sick just in time for the holidays, and that my vacation would be marred by this feeling. I got through it all right, but it certainly put a damper on the festivities. My cough never quite went away, and ended up coming back a little stronger a few weeks later.

Then, last Wednesday, I came down hard. I thought I might have the flu, as I’d read dozens of articles online about people dying from the flu this year. I woke up in the middle of the night with chills, coughing and crying. “I don’t wanna die yet,” I said to myself in the mirror. Thankfully, I survived, my penchant for drama aside. But I was shaken by that feeling that I hadn’t felt since my drinking days, one that scared me. It was the feeling of being out of control of my own body. It is not a feeling that I want to return to.

Luckily, I live with my boyfriend, and he took care of me while I was sick. Unluckily, it was my birthday yesterday, which meant I was sick on my birthday. I’m grateful that the harshest symptoms had passed, but I still had the mental symptoms, as well as a cough. It was the one day of the year that truly was all about me, and I felt nothing. I felt like I could be anywhere, doing anything, with anyone, and I would feel similarly miserable.

I try to be of service to other people, and have a mindset of what I can do for others rather than for myself. But I’m not going to lie. Occasionally, I like to feel special. I like to feel like I’m important, and that people care about me. I like to feel like I’m worthy of attention and care. But the one day of the year that I could truly feel like that and get away with it, my body and mind were in a state where I was completely unable to appreciate it.

I could have given in to that feeling, and felt miserable and self-pitying. I certainly felt capable of that. But I knew that the truth was, I am cared for. I am incredibly lucky to have a boyfriend who loves me, a family that cares for me, and friends that I love. And even though right now I don’t feel any of those things, and I feel like shit, and I feel sick and miserable, I know that I am loved. And I know that soon I will feel better, and I will feel grateful that my boyfriend took care of me while I was sick, and that he made my birthday something special. I don’t like being sick anymore, because I don’t want to check out of my life anymore. I have a lot of things to be present for.

-Theodore Dandy