Further ramblings on narcissism

Hi, blog. It’s been a while.

I haven’t made an effort to write here lately. My focus this summer has been so insular, I figure it would be useless to blog. I get tired of thinking about what I’m doing, and others get tired of reading it.

It’s been a year since I reflected here on one of Joan Didion’s essays and I’m still in the same rut. I will never not see myself as a narcissist, even with all the self-loathing I harbor. (It is possible to be both narcissistic and self-loathing. Just look at how many sentences I start with “I,” and then how many blog posts I write about social ineptitude, self doubt, etc.) And I will never not view that narcissism as an ugly quality, even when it occasionally propels writing that helps me, be it through leading me to a new understanding or mere catharsis. I always punish myself for my narcissism by relegating it to the pages of paper journals and private Word documents.

It’s evident that my self-loathing carries more weight than my narcissism, which is why I don’t end up blogging: I have no business writing about myself for an audience for the umpteenth time and nobody wants to read my drawn-out thought processes. Not when they could be clicking through animated GIFs or Googling nearby laundromats or watching porn.

But today I’m allowing myself to channel Narcissus. I need to write. It’s been so damn long, I don’t really remember how to do it. And this is embarrassing (to me, at least), but today’s kick in the pants comes from a Thought Catalog article.

Lookin’ good.

I have a problem with most of what goes up on the Thought Catalog, because (if I’m being totally honest) I think those writers should be more like me: shut up and stop typing, lest they say something stupid.

There’s a lot of garbage that’s posted to the site. A lot of silver-spoon-fed Millennials assume the position of Wise Sage on relationships and jobs and living abroad and everything else, and it makes me regret being born into the same generation. As if I ever had a say in the matter.

But there are occasional gems, and in spite of the nonsense that often overtakes the site, I still read the Thought Catalog. Hell, at the start of 2011 I even inquired about contributing. I heard back: “I took a look at your clips and you seem like a good fit for Thought Catalog.  Feel free to send [sic] polished, unpublished article our way and we’ll consider it for publication.”

I never responded, though I did start working on my article — a criticism of journalism school, penned with what was at one time my signature snark. I let the piece rot in a Word document because it was abysmal. The problem: I was writing with the knowledge that it was for the Thought Catalog; I was writing with the awareness that the Thought Catalog’s comment trolls would rip it apart within moments of publication. I decided to retreat and to stay here, on my own blog, where commenters (and readers) are scarce. There’s less at stake here.

(Of course, if I don’t write at all, it makes no difference where I intend to publish it.)

But OK, more to the point: I stumbled upon a piece by Stephanie Georgopulos (“A Collection Of (Some Of) The Worst Things I’ve Ever Written”).

I’m helplessly drawn to the self-deprecation and masochism of others. So I read. I laughed a few times. I appreciated her sincerity. But mostly, this part slapped me in the face:

 

The fact is that the more you write, the better you become at it. This, of course, comes with the business of putting yourself out there and allowing your ego to be bludgeoned. Because you will be very, very bad for a long, long time, and the only way to get better is to recognize how very bad you are.

 

Yes, it’s a trite mantra: To do anything well, you need to practice. You need to do it often. (Related note: to be a better writer, you need to read, so it would help if I could commit to one of the library books abandoned beside my bed).

I think the more striking part was about allowing the ego to be bludgeoned. If I’m waiting to publish until I’ve got a masterpiece on my hands, I’ll never publish anything. Because who finishes writing and thinks, “This is amazing. I’m fucking brilliant. Pulitzer Prize me, now.”

Actually, I know people who think that even when they write something as menial as a grocery list. They’re the ones with a different fatal combination: narcissism and confidence. The rest of us, the folks that linger back in the self-loathing camp, will never experience that feeling of accomplishment, We’ll never write something that we think is worthy, and we’ll never allow our egos to be bludgeoned because they probably already have been, which is how we got to this point in the first place.

So I’m going to keep doing what I’ve started doing, which is writing about myself, which is ugly and uncool and overdone and easy, but it’s alright. Bludgeon me. I need the practice.

Here’s what’s been going on:

Since the end of the year in Spain, I’ve been working in Iowa. There was no interim period of unemployment or floundering. This is good, because I’m a desperate seeker of structure. Besides, we all know what happens when I’m left alone with my own thoughts for too long — I write a 5,000-word monologue and spew it onto the web.

The job is great. I’m the digital editor at a daily newspaper. My head is spinning most days; in two months I have yet to encounter a slow day. It keeps me busy, meaning it’s nothing like my bogus English-teaching gig in Spain. It’s in journalism, which is exactly where I want to be. I was ready to start copywriting for any company that would throw me a bone before I found this job listed online.

I love working on the digital end of the newsroom. The only thing I miss is writing, but hey, it wouldn’t be right to have my cake and eat it too. I can write outside of work. At least that’s what I tell myself, and then I never do.

Working in an environment that challenges me but that I’m comfortable navigating is crucial to my wellbeing; now that I know what happens when I’m understimulated, I never want to go back to that.

But the job doesn’t provide a solution for all of life’s quandaries; namely, the things that were easier to piece together while living within the cozy structure of school.

For example, I live in Iowa City. I was not nervous about this — I went to college here. I know the area well, maybe better than I know my hometown.

But college towns are tricky. Though the city may not change much, the inhabitants rotate every four years. I knew plenty of people in 2010, but two years later, it’s another story.

I can count on one hand how many friends I still have in town. The social structure of being a student was pulled from under me. That part isn’t surprising; I’ve struggled with it ever since I graduated. But it’s a challenge nonetheless.

I make good efforts, and I’m generally positive about my social situation. It would be no different in any other city right now. It takes time, and it’s just a matter of putting myself out there and letting everyone get to know how strange I am. I’ve done that before and I can do it again.

But then there are the other pickles we find ourselves in. Like when a relationship crumbles; picking up and moving on seems to be both harder and easier each time it happens.

I know the way these things work. I know how to do a break-up the proper way, in that I know the steps I need to take to move on with my life in a healthy manner. Of course I don’t always follow those steps. But knowing what to do doesn’t quell this nagging fear that’s almost too embarrassing to admit: That I’m destined to die alone (but only after appearing on an episode of “Animal Hoarding,” or maybe “Intervention,” depending on the way my life turns at this fork in the road).

I have a knack for melodrama in my discourse about all things romantic. If we want to dig deep, maybe it has something to do with the obsessive crushes I had on boys that took zero interest in me starting back in middle school. By the time I “finally” landed a boyfriend just before age 15, I had already convinced myself that I was some kind of leper. Stupid? Yes. But deep-rooted stupidity. The worst kind.

So dying alone has occupied a lot of my brain space recently. I’ve learned that I should stop telling people this, because it doesn’t leave a good taste in anybody’s mouth. But it’s stuck in my head. I can’t talk myself out of contemplating it when there’s nothing else rattling around between my ears.

This is what I’ve concluded about dying alone:

  • It makes for a bad Google search term. Be my guest, Google it, but if you hit the “Images” button you might start to feel weird about yourself.
  • It makes other people uncomfortable when you talk about it. I think some people view it as a ploy for attention or pity. I don’t want your attention or pity. You telling me, “Oh my god you’re amazing you will NOT die alone!!!!!” does not make me feel any different. Unless you say, “You’re amazing and you’re not dying alone because I’ll move into a trailer with you and we can hoard exotic animals together,” then you’re not really saying anything, and then I’m probably going to die alone.
  • It makes my mom particularly agitated. “Lauren, do you SERIOUSLY think that?” Sure, maybe. Why not? What makes anyone so sure of the alternative? Even if you’ve got a partner — what if they die first? What if you don’t have any children? What if you outlive all of your exotic animals?

List ends here now before I have the opportunity to be any more morbid.

 

Now that I’m back in a job that inspires me, maybe I’ll resume “normal” blog posts, or at least stick to giving my two cents on current events, feminism, blogging, etc., and stay far the hell away from topics like “dying alone” and “hoarding animals in trailers.” Talking about things like this probably won’t help my progress rebuilding a social life, either.

But for now, this is the bologna that’s on my mind. It could just be one of the many stages of 20-somethingdom, since being a 20-something feels like a disease that everybody is entitled to diagnose and break down. If you think I’m insane, don’t worry about it. You just haven’t hit this stage yet. Pretty soon you’ll catch the dying-alone panic and start thinking about adopting a pet.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll keep working with this topic and make it into something zippy and witty. Maybe I’ll pitch it to the Thought Catalog.