So Brave, So Cool

I have this idea in my mind of who I’m supposed to be. A brilliant artist type who up and moved to the city that never sleeps on a moment’s notice. The brave, resilient, hilarious Latina, striving to make a change in the way we’re seen in the media. One of many to break down barriers and stigmas. Her journal in one hand and poor social media presence in the other. The light, funny gal with terrible impressions and a heart of gold. The one that people who knew me way back when would say, “Wow, she really did it.”

Okay, so I’m no Betty Suarez. But the real me? I’m a fraud. My story only sounds far more fantastical than it actually is.

You’re so brave. The phrase makes my stomach turn. People say this to me because I moved across the country by myself. And boy, do I hate the stringing of those three words. So what? I got on a plane! I packed my favorite books and clothes! My privileged ass bought a plane ticket. Sure, I put in my two weeks’ notice to move across the country but this plan didn’t come to fruition in one night and bam! Instead, dreaming about working and living in New York City was fodder for my insomnia- for more than a decade. It would keep me up and keep me from excelling in perfectly normal and loving environments. I was a woman obsessed. I spent most of my year in Austin curled up in bed, crying and trying to be normal. Crippled with fear and anxiety and depression and not really having anyone who got it. I’m no hero. Moving was, for me, survival.

Much like my body needing to escape, I type out the things that are stuck in my head because they need somewhere to go. They don’t need to be fed or watered. The thoughts just need to exist elsewhere. Sometimes it’s with the hope of helping another person feel less lonely. Other times, it’s purely self-indulgent. And most of the time, I just to it do walk through my fuck ups. No, really. Ever since I moved here I have had too many “What. Are. You. DOING?” moments to count. Finances? Shitty. But it’s NYC, so I get a pass. Friends? Moved here knowing a lot of acquaintances but still figuring out the friends part, and I’m treading lightly. Health? What is that again? Men? I went from having zero romantic cards to having to buy a rolodex. None of which, have meant more than a punch in the card. Dating sucks but I keep doing it. I’ve learned a lot about myself- it’s not always the men being shitty, I’m pretty awful too. And just when I think I can’t fuck up anymore, I repeat my dumbass decisions. And proceed to write about them. I’m not brave, I’m human.

That’s what your twenties are for. Okay, I get it. I’m young and dumb and broke and now is the time to be ALIVE. But damn it all to hell if I wind up nothing more than a Salinger cliche.

You’re so funny. I often experience a gross physical reaction when people compliment me. And not a good one. I get queasy and then the endless evolving lump forms in my throat. Compliments don’t make sense to me. I don’t feign being humble, I actually get ill. When I tried to explain this to my sister a year or so ago, she gave me a funny look, like she couldn’t fathom someone not liking or even accepting a compliment. It wasn’t until I would share some of my own essays with her that she began to understand what I meant:

This is so well written! I love it dude. Great job! *tears*

No, it really is! Why are you crying? *tears*

I don’t… *tears*

…should I say it’s bad? *more tears*

It’s so difficult to describe this feeling. It’s not just that I don’t believe it, I reject it. And I don’t think I’m wholly inadequate- at least not 100% of the time. That’s why it’s so strange to me. Sometimes I like what I write and oftentimes, like most people, I enjoy (and need) some form of validation. I can get a “Way to go!” on a Tuesday and say “Thanks, Dave! Xoxo.” But by the time Thursday rolls around and Jess just HAS to say “Great work!” Well, all hell breaks loose.

She’s only saying it because of the subject. It was timely. Everyone is writing like this. It was written so simply with zero nuance or depth. Of course it was accessible. I read a piece similar to it once, I think. I lack originality. It definitely has nothing to do with my words or my “talent.” There is no technique. It’s honestly garbage. I think I judge THEM now for liking my work.

It’s fucked up, I know. And I know I sound like a crazy person. While it’s partially my self-esteem issues colliding with my Leo tendencies, it’s something more. There’s a word, no, a phrase for it. Impostor Syndrome. What a fun name, right? Almost like a nerdy, self-deprecating superhero. I like to pretend I’m like the Hamburglar’s cousin with a super cool suit. Maybe a Canadian tuxedo? But like, I steal vegan and gluten free shit because it’s 2018. And I live in Brooklyn.

And ya know what? It’s super common. A lot of us feel fraudulent at one point or another even though we may have earned the respect and/or accolades. While I’m no expert, I’m pretty sure social media doesn’t help us out either. But I’ve found a way, I think, to use it for the greater good. Hear me out here: I use Instagram stories as a way to hold myself accountable. I put very little thought into what I post on there, intentionally, and because it’s public for all to see, it’s like in those few moments, I’m completely unfiltered and natural and beautiful and not hiding from a single soul- the way I wish the world to really see me. I can’t doctor it like I can when I post a photo. There’s no time to create a great caption or capture the perfect image. It’s quick and real and raw. Sometimes I’ll go back and look at the stories after some time has passed (they automatically back up to my phone) and think “I can’t believe I put this out there” and I move on because what’s done is done. In my stories, I cry and laugh and joke and ask for advice and share my opinions and lip sync. Oh man, do I lip sync.  Living life less filtered has helped me feel and see myself as less of a fraud.

Another way I (directed by my last therapist) get out of these cycles is by listing facts. The sky is blue. Beyonce is royalty. Kylie Jenner is pregnant. Okay, maybe not those facts but facts that tie to what is immediately being directed toward me.

So if I were to get a promotion or a new gig, instead of jumping to “I’m their last choice. They literally could find no one else to do this job so they’re stuck with me,” I may try stating some facts:

I applied for the job. I met the skill requirements A,B, C, & D. I was one of three candidates. Etcetera, etcetera until the shit storm going on in my head settles down to a silent hiss. The facts tend to work for me but I have to say, it’s a royal pain in the ass to have to take that time to yourself and convince yourself of your worth. I mean, who has time for that? You. You better make time for it.

Sorry to burst your bubble but I’m not the cool girl. I never will be. In fact, I shouldn’t be writing this because any self-respecting, aspiring comedian is taught to hide their loathing and their pain- “all the greats do it.” Outwardly, we should appear care-free and hilarious, the life of the party. Nothing can keep us down! Here’s your joke! And here’s YOUR joke! My charisma is staggering, my bits unending!   

But this is how the jokes are made too. They come from the real and the painful. I’m just giving you and all-access pass.

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