Here’s What Changed When I Grew Up And Stopped Self-Deprecating

istock.com / EYEemCLOSED
istock.com / EYEemCLOSED

Over the past few months, I have spent more time wallowing in self-pity than I care to approximate with a metaphor. And that’s not because I can’t give you a good metaphor.

I could have said something like, “My sadness is deeper than the Mariana trench, which is a notoriously deep trench, almost seven miles deep, which is why this works as an approximation of my aforementioned sadness, which is deep.”

But I didn’t give you that metaphor. Because I’m better than that. And because constant self-deprecation is not a Hot Take.

Denying your humanity is easy, especially in the service of getting a laugh. Laughs feel good. Joking about your toilet-existence is medicine when you feel like shit. But medicine has dosage warnings. You have to take it with food or water or a sound sense of mind. And too much can kill you.

There’s nothing more shame-affirming than cornering an unsuspecting audience with the constant worst of you. You have credit card debt and an ass flatter than B.O.B.’s worldview. You can hear a breeze in your wallet; tears are your secret sauce. Something something prostitution. You hit the nervous bone that exists in people, that voice big or small that says “I am not worthy, I am not deserving, I am not anything,” and it gets you a laugh because, like I said, we’re all a pack of nerves strung together by sheet-thin epidermis. It’s shocking, your ability to recognize despair and flaunt it like a winning Powerball ticket you stole from Dorothy Parker. But who cares because it works, it gets you that quick fix, and then you’re gone. You deploy your self-hating Slip ‘N Slide and slime your way to some next fresh hell.

This mess is cyclical. It’s circling the drain. It’s gross and no one asked for it. There are people dying. You are not dying. You are a psychological maelstrom. You are not a psychological maelstrom. That was lousy hyperbole, cousin to self-deprecation. Which is reductive. Not a maelstrom, you are psychological. You are a person.

It’s acting as if your name isn’t on the guest list when you should be making the guest list. We have to throw our own parties.

I recognize all of this, and yet have not been able to stop my tour through the pity parish. It’s made me wonder if I don’t have the makings of someone who can consider himself deserving. If I don’t have the stuff. The stuff being whatever mashed-up atoms Kanye West is made of.

But that’s bullshit. Of course I have the stuff. We all have the stuff. We’re all the same, we’re all conscious; we all have keys to turbo-speed confidence. It’s just hard to access. There’s a trash heap of I can’ts before the I cans. There’s a course in chutzpah (self taught but Beyoncé T.A.s). There’s a gold-plated shovel to bury haters. And there’s an adhesive-cased treadmill to make sure you stay on this path. Because it’s so easy to fall back into garbage. But you don’t have time for that. You have worlds to conquer.

It’s easy for me to say all this with the guise of you as my weapon. But it’s a letter to my own sense of self. My life has been recently muddied by the expectations I’ve set—that I can do it all by myself because accomplishment means nothing unless it’s individual (thanks capitalism). So instead of seeking help or humanity or Taking Back My Life, I’ve been masking doubts as failures. My honest emotions have become targets for disguise.

But I’m on a journey toward the good. I don’t plan on becoming a motivational speaker, or worse: a bro with no sense of fault. Too much of what I find funny involves revealing things about myself Marco Rubio’s focus group would find appalling. I like relishing in a perceived otherness, which is really just a universal weirdness we’re all working toward. And sometimes that means locking myself in a room of mirrors and shouting shortcomings until I faint. But by no means can that be my primary mode. Too much of anything is grounds for boring. And I’d rather melt than be boring.

What a refreshing thing it is to look at life as a never-ending conga line with an olé-when-you-want-to attitude. It’s something to hold myself to. It’s the confidence to shout my worth. It’s breadbaskets on my table. It’s rapid-fire fist bumps set to glam rock beats. It’s jazzercising my way to a fat-on-life ass. It’s dancing to the sound of my demons tossed overboard. And splish fucking splash because this is my story, but you can share in it too. Co-opt this self-affirming promise.

Or watch it weeknights in primetime, which is what I call the part of the day set aside for boogying. TC mark

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