“Now that I am opened up, let me do the same to you
I can’t digest your insides but I can still chew
you look so beautiful, you look so sweet to me
you look so edible, it’s time for me to feed…”
-Knife to Meet You, Guts
“I sing for the damned
soulless hand in hand…”
-William Control, Damned
“I am not your friend
I am just a man who knows how it feels…”
-Brand New, Sowing Season (Yeah)
I just don’t know how people see me. I don’t even know how I see myself. I constantly go back and forth between thinking I’m good-looking to thinking I’m ugly. It goes beyond the skin. Sometimes I think I’m an ugly soul as well. And no one understands because they don’t see what I see. They don’t know what I know. I can spot every imperfection on my face and body and mind and I do my best to cover it up with spot spell and sarcasm but I fear if people see me as I see myself, they won’t like me.
People tell me I’m attractive. Smart. Funny. And sure, I can come up with a good joke every now and then and I can clean up well when all the elements combine and I’m having a good hair/skin/body day, which is rare. But most of the time I feel like a mess and it messes with my perceptions of myself.
Another fact that should be pointed out is most of the compliments come from the Internet. I don’t want to negate the positive comments but I wonder how these Internet entities can say such things when I get no interest from anyone in real life. Where’s the disconnect? Am I different person online? Am I some inadvertent catfish? Am I “hooking” people by presenting myself in some falsified manner, some idealized version of a tortured soul, but displaying an uglier, more genuine version of my vexations once the connection gets closer than a tweet or blog post? If anything, I would have guessed the online viewers would think I’m a freak show based on the things I write about. I think I’m actually more subdued with my psychosis in real life.
But I guess that goes back to not knowing how I present myself to others, not knowing what they are picking up despite what I’m putting out.
I spoke with a co-worker several weeks ago and told her about some of my insecurities and she said, “Don’t you see how everyone here gravitates toward you?” It was a simple statement but it was also something I never thought much about. I know I get along well with everyone I work with but I think it mostly has to do with the fact that I don’t do drama. I wouldn’t say anything necessarily “gravitates” toward me, sans work girlfriend. I just don’t get caught up in gossip and backstabbing and when I see it coming my way, I do my best to circumvent such scenarios. People know they can just have a good time with me and a good chat with me and I guess that’s a good quality to possess but I just see myself as a reprieve from all the garbage that goes on at work. I’m a safety spot, a place to stand still among all the whispers and dirty looks.
But so what if I am? That’s still a good thing. It’s still a desirable quality in a co-worker and, yes, even a friend. Does it really matter why people like me? It doesn’t have to be because I’m the best looking guy in the room or the funniest or smartest. Maybe dumb jokes and an open ear is enough. I don’t need to change someone’s life to be good company. I need to know and realize that. I put too much pressure on myself to be this perfect human being, the guy who has it all and knows it all and can fix it all. I don’t have to be everything to everyone and I need to learn that it’s okay not to be.
Several months ago, a high school classmate randomly texted me and we filled each other in on what we had been up to. I told him I didn’t do art anymore and he was shocked because he thought I was so good. I explained that I was good for my tiny town but once I stepped out into the real world, I wasn’t as good as I needed to be. He said he was jealous because I was talented and smart and was friends with everyone. I told him I thought I was a mess and he said he was shocked to hear it because he thought I was so put together. And I was shocked to hear that.
Again, I just don’t know how people see me. I can’t help but to think of all the things and people I missed out on because I thought I was too hideous to participate. All the while, they sit around and think I have it all together and never know the depth of my pain. Kind of tragic to think about.
So I’ll try not to.
What is my attraction? I’ll concede that I can provide a decent presence. With a little photo trickery, I can give a good picture. I have time to think of a good pun between text messages. Maybe I’m just attractive enough, just tortured enough to catch someone’s eye. Maybe I’m open enough to provide a voice to the vagrants. I’m a beacon for the berated, a magnet to those who have been torn down by people, violated by misfortune, killed by the world. I search the littered bodies and pick them up and cradle them one by one. My words are tiny visits, palpable connections through a recognition of pain. It’s a safe spot where the blood can be cleaned away for a while, a respite from the ravages of body and circumstance.
I’m not an expert on pain but I think I’ve felt it for so long and have written about my own struggles to the point where I can convey it in such a way that is accessible and easy to understand. Suffering is universal, after all. It’s not like I’m tapping into a niche market with my musings. People can walk in and sit down and take in my madness and appreciate it. Some stick around and stay for something else.
I think I’m so hard on myself because I have potential I’m not utilizing. I could have been an amazing artist had I not stopped drawing. I could have been an amazing writer had I not stopped writing. I could have been well read had I not stopped reading. I could have been a good boyfriend had I not stopped trying. I could have been all these things but I just stopped for one reason or another and now I feel like a waste. Sure, I could continue drawing and writing and reading but it feels more like starting over rather than picking up where I left off. I don’t have the energy for that.
Despite the pressure I’ve placed on myself to be perfect, I’ve made strides toward just accepting that I am not. I don’t know if it’s wisdom or old age or just looking in the mirror and giving up but I’ve grown to realize this is all I am and I can only go so far with my looks and my talent and my personality. I’ll never be a model or find my books in the stores or be the life of the party but I can do my best within my limitations. I can do my own thing. I can keep creating. I can keep striving to be the best person I can be and find acceptance with that because there’s no logic in wanting to be something I’ll never achieve.
Maybe I just need to try to see what others see. Maybe I need to try shift my perspectives and trust that I am more than a waste. The potential can still be tapped. The progress can still be made. I can still reach out. Maybe one day I’ll touch someone and it will resonate within them and they’ll be better for it. And maybe I will be too.
After all, we’re all feeding each other energy. Sometimes it’s bad energy but sometimes it’s good energy and it’s that nourishment that helps us get through the work day or the school lunch or the lonely nights at home. We take in other people’s pain through their art or their pleasure through their laughter. We use it like medicine and pull it out when needed.
I’ve always said I wanted to do that for other people. I want to help. I want to make a difference. I know what it’s like to be lonely and weird and different and I want to make someone’s loneliness and weirdness and differences easier to digest. Maybe I already have. Maybe I’ve just been looking in the wrong direction.