To start, and to stall a little, I wasn’t sad when I heard this criticism. It felt more like the ground had been pulled from beneath my feet and the last breath that I had taken – an unsuspectingly normal volume – was all that was keeping my body buoyant above a boiling mass of nothing. I was shocked to that extent and terrified that much more – how could I ever recover certainty in my life after he had uncovered that for me? I’ve always liked a challenge though, so a part of me was glad that it had happened; that I’d had the chance to see the nothingness before I escaped it – what if I didn’t escape it? A deep deception like mine would be hard to throw off.
It was my English tutor, at the time, when I was the tender age of seventeen, who told me that I was a morbidly self-indulgent, clueless child, who had never had a work ethic separate from her fear. Every word that he delivered, I immediately recognised as true – the cadence of the words just right, their after-image dispersed into a faint noise through the air, adding authenticity to the memories before my eyes as, with time rushing past my ears, his words pulled me along the damning sequence.
Fuck. I was shy, I always admitted to myself, and I excused myself from volunteering answers, solutions, help when I wasn’t directly asked for it. I indulged my shyness and allowed myself all kinds of childish behaviour under its justification. I didn’t know a thing about the world because I had excused myself from interacting with others with a “shy note”. I didn’t know a thing about the world because I had only ever done my homework so that my mum wouldn’t get mad. I never did more than my homework because she wouldn’t mind if I didn’t. For the past seventeen years, I had been a slave to fear, and now I came out of it as independent as a newborn and with a habit of self-indulgence. The future looked bright.
I can’t remember what happened afterwards, so, no, it wasn’t my scene of peripeteia. The class went on, and for the next couple of days, I went around in a grim sort of daze, thinking over his accusations and tallying up the guilty count. After that though, I began burying my weaknesses – they were simply too hard to throw off. All of a sudden, I had to dispose of all of my defences and start confronting all of the things that I had spent seventeen – or thirteen, if you insist that I had an innocent childhood – years avoiding? I had to do this as a sort of self-motivated torture? Sorry, the fear-motivated child has to motivate herself into whole sets of fearful circumstances? Sorry, how, how do you propose that we do this? …
And so, the criticism was buried then. Does it still apply today? What is the difference between being self-indulgence and “following your dreams” and “doing what you like”? Do you have to be working towards a goal and not running away from what you find unpalatable? How does one figure out what they like without trial-and-error anyway? I would say that I am still quite a bit self-indulgent but I try to avoid it now when the consequences will be morbid. Each to their own path, I guess, I suppose disciprine worked for my tutor, and I hope some judicious self-indulgence will work for me. Ah, great.
I’m definitely still clueless but I’ve learned to live with that; it’s just my current stage. I am going to level up.
Happily enough, I think my work ethic has improved. I work an engaging waitressing gig at a local cafe and even though I receive a svelte and sexy pay packet, I don’t give it up for a similar one from Centrelink. And, I’m writing this blog! This is a lot of effort purely for my own enjoyment, self-discovery and training.
So I’m on the mend! Probably. Hm. For some reason, I have no desire to ask that old English tutor of mine.