As I begin to walk, my left foot stumbles over my right, a not-so-subtle reminder that I have not done anything remotely resembling exercise for far too long. I take a deep breath, and think to myself that the air outside tastes decidedly fresher than the stale particles hovering around my apartment — this is true, despite the obvious aftertaste of pollution. Oh, take me down to the windy city, where the people are loud and the air is shitty, I think to myself, and immediately understand that the only reason I find this ditty at all humorous is that I am horrendously sleep-deprived.
I have a lot on my mind, and my current mental condition grants me limited resources with which to process the mass of information. I decline to allocate any thought to the organization of this tangled web, opting instead to tackle the topics one by one as they drift through the fog that has temporarily replaced my brain.
The first order of business: Is there is a full moon out? There is. This is not the first time that I have made this observation on a restless night, but given that I am neither sprouting fur nor fangs, it is not likely to hold any real relevance. Moving on.
Next up: I need to decide for myself if I am in fact an arrogant asshole, and if so, consider whether or not I should be afforded any arrogance. It didn’t start with my Reverse Job Application, but that was really the thing that solidified it — as I was writing the thing nearly a year and a half ago, I knew I needed to be exaggeratedly pompous in order to get attention, but there was a part of me that secretly understood that there was more sincerity in my “fictional” arrogance than I might like to publicly admit. The resulting page was fairly polarizing, and a lot of the feedback I received was not at all constructive. I laughed off the naysayers though, and still do, because honestly? They were bitter, stupid and wrong, and if thinking that makes me arrogant, I’ll own up to my hubris in a split second. I did get a job with my ridiculous self-marketing tactic, and I’m proud of what I accomplished.
But tonight I’m wondering, what was it about me and my writing that seemed able to evoke such real hatred and anger from people that had never even met me? I briefly consider the possibility that I am a mild sociopath with no real tools at my disposal for understanding the factors that can emotionally charge a situation, acknowledge that this is a fairly realistic option, then return to the question at hand. Why did I make people mad? I almost immediately discard the possibility that I did something wrong, because that sort of moral absolutism is childish at best.
I have a sudden realization that many of the people who were upset by my words and actions were probably really upset with what seemed like an undermining of their values and experiences. These are people that probably struggled through their lives to make sure they could provide for themselves and their families, that put together proper résumés and won their jobs by understanding their fields and being truly qualified. And here I was — lazy, unemployed, yet claiming that I could do any job just as well as they could, without having put in any of that work. Their frustration makes more sense to me when I think about it from this perspective, and I wonder if this feeling I am experiencing is “empathy.”
My feeling of understanding quickly gives way to some frustration of my own, however: I wish I had needed to struggle when I was growing up. I wish that things had been tough for me, that I’d needed to push myself to do well in my classes, that I’d needed to work night shifts at a fast food restaurant to pay my way through college. Because as obnoxious as these people might find me, I find myself completely sickening.
I’m unmotivated, selfish, gluttonous — in fact, you could probably replace my weekly calendar with a checklist of the deadly sins for a more accurate depiction of how I manage my time. And I blame myself for this. As far as I can remember, my parents taught and encouraged me to apply myself and to be honest and responsible, and I would have a hard time blaming any of my faults on the people that raised me and set an example for me. All the same, though, something about my upbringing has resulted in a detestable creature with little to no discipline and self-control.
It occurs to me that none of the angry, hurtful people that professed to hate me back when I was trying to get a job could possibly hate me as much as I hate myself. I hadn’t realized why they felt so angry — and in the same way, they didn’t understand my intention. The reverse job application was never about claiming to be better than other people — it was about asserting my own self-worth. That, at the very least, was not an act of laziness — it was an act of desperation and necessity. It was a way for me to put the only talents and skills I had ever developed to use in finding a job.
As I think, my frustration grows and grows, and I am struck with a sense of complete and utter envy of all the people that have experienced real difficulty in their lives. After all, that difficulty gave them a strength and character that I now lack, because I was never faced with those challenges. And I hate myself for it. I hate myself for always finding school work and life in general so easy, and for then growing up to be the sort of person that always looks for an easy way to get things done. I hate myself for putting so much opportunity and talent to waste, and find myself wishing that nature hadn’t squandered its resources on me, that it had given my brain and my chances to somebody that would have put them to real use and made a difference in the world.
And then I start to remember what I already knew, that hating myself for being who I am is awfully unproductive. If I dislike myself, I should simply make the changes necessary to become a person I no longer dislike. I should find a way to put my talents and opportunities to use; maybe the real manifestation of my sense of entitlement is that I think that I could make a difference, and then shunt the blame for my laziness off onto some fictional third party that is expected to put my abilities to “real use.”
I almost feel like vomiting at this point out of self-loathing. How many chances have I given myself to reform? How many times have I identified my laziness and resolved to clean up my act, then fallen right back into my old ways? I think to myself that this is how drug addicts and alcoholics must feel at some point, and start hating myself even more for the simple fact that there’s no chemical dependency here. What the fuck is wrong with me?
Yes, I am an arrogant asshole, and the worst of it is that no matter how penitent I feel at this moment, I know in a matter of hours, I’ll be back to lounging around, watching television shows and playing video games in a subconscious effort to waste as much of my own time as possible. Why am I so self-destructive and completely unproductive? I have a vague sense that I might be experiencing a bout of major depression, but am I really supposed to allow some mental condition to define who I am as a person and what I can accomplish?
I want to do and be so much more than I am right now, but I’m struck with the horrifying realization that I don’t know what I want to accomplish. My life up to this point has culminated in such an utter sense of apathy toward everything and everyone around me that there are now no causes I believe in, no problems I want to solve, nothing that I feel I can accomplish. I’m so far removed from orphaned children that I feel volunteering on their behalf would be doing them an injustice. I’m so disheartened by the corrupt, convoluted state of the government that I feel political activism would be utterly meaningless.
The only thing that holds any meaning for me now are my friends and family, and even those I let drift away too far and too long. I now barely acknowledge the people I used to talk to and spend time with every day, and it’s not because I dislike them — it’s that I’ve come to feel my presence is so pointless that I’d be doing them a disservice by imposing myself on their lives. And this makes me wonder — my crippling laziness and lack of motivation, are they simply manifestations of my fear? Is it possible that I’m simply afraid to really apply myself, afraid to try anything new, because then I’ll find out that I’m not as good as I consider myself to be? I think I might be, and I hope like hell I can be brave in the face of that fear. I don’t want to be the person I have been lately.
I want to be a better person. Stupid rhymes about the air quality in Chicago seem a lot less entertaining than they did forty minutes ago.