I think perhaps part of what led me here is a failure to adjust to reality, in comparison to those around me. There were others dealt far worse hands in life, who still managed to make something of themselves. It seems they confronted the cruelty of their circumstances, adjusted their expectations appropriately, and worked out how to make the best of what they had. I don’t think I ever understood how to do that. When confronted with a harsh truth, my response was generally to retreat into fantasy. Whenever I hit a real obstacle, I gave up.
I’m not sure why that was. Perhaps things were just too easy in my early years. I never really wanted for anything, so I never had to learn to deal with not getting it. We weren’t rich, and I wouldn’t say I was spoiled exactly. Just sheltered. My world was a narrow filtered ideal. I enjoyed what I had, and I generally wasn’t aware of what was beyond me. Maybe at some point I was mildly jealous of a richer friends computers or trips to disneyland. But it didn’t really matter. None of that stuff meant that much to me.
But then suddenly I was living in a new area, aware of hostility around me for the first time, and I had no idea how to cope. How do you deal with people who don’t like you? How do you make friends when you can’t relate to the lives of those around you? I responded by shutting down, obsessively censoring what I said and did, trying to hide all my weaknesses, and withdrawing into fantasy worlds.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I first had the experience of really wanting something, something that felt important. The reality check was crushing when it hit me, that what I wanted was so far beyond me. I had no idea how to deal with that reality, with the feeling of inferiority it solidified in my mind. That I was unpopular. Socially awkward. Kind of average looking. Weak, hypersensitive, and timid. It was absurd for me to ever set my sights so high.
Now there are two ways I could’ve responded to this terrible feeling of inadequacy. I could’ve resolved to do everything possible to improve myself, my character, my capabilities, to fix the huge weaknesses I’d somehow managed to develop over the preceding years. And maybe if I’d really set to it I would’ve eventually reached my aspiration. Or at least found something similarly meaningful along the way. Who knows. It would’ve been a long shot, but I can’t rule it out.
Or I could’ve simply adjusted my aspirations, and moved on. Accepted my place in the pecking order, and focused on making the best of it. Stopped wanting what I couldn’t have, and returned to appreciating all I already had. This is what seems to have happened with so many people around me who had it harder than me, and I have no idea how they did it. How do you move on? How do you accept a world that sees you as less than, and not let it bug you? How do you stop wanting what’s beyond you? How do you make what remains to you seem meaningful again?
So instead I chose a third option. I would obsessively fantasise about what I couldn’t have, while doing next to nothing to change the things about myself that made it beyond me. I told myself that if I just carried on following my flawed instincts long enough, eventually I’d be magically rewarded with success. Guess how that worked out?
So now those dreams are far behind me, and getting further away by the year. It’s not possible anymore, not in a way that I’d want. And yet that part of me is still as strong as ever, obsessing away. It’s ridiculous. Pathetic. Move the fuck on. But I don’t know how. Perhaps it’s just a kind of stubbornness that runs through me. A refusal to adjust when it comes to what seems significant.
Reminders are constant and painful, but they also feel good. It feels good to want something, anything, so strongly. To have that kind of emotional clarity about anything in my life. To feel that if only I had this impossible thing, I would be at peace again. Everything else is tedious and bleak. A slow shuffle toward decrepitude and death, dominated by fear and confusion, where nothing seems worthwhile. Surely preferable to be reminded of something that feels like it would actually make life meaningful again, even if now you can never have it? Fantasy is the opiate of the failure.