When I was about 12, my stepsister and I went to stay with my aunt for the summer, and a family friend had enrolled us in “Sports Camp”. As a nerdy, shy teen starting to question her sexuality, this was not the sort of thing I was cut out for. My stepsisrer could be athletic. She was on cheer in high school later on, and she was always very active as a child, playing soccer on a local team and doing karate too. I, on the other hand, preferred to stay in my bedroom and read and fantasize about what it’d feel like to kiss a girl and then feel ashamed because I was a girl and everyone and everything around me said that that meant I was broken. We didn’t exactly see eye to eye. I failed sports camp, needless to say. I was downright miserable. Then, a year later, we stayed with her again and this time our family friend enrolled us in art camp. Now this I could handle!
Until I started realizing that “art” meant something entirely different to everyone else than it did to me. To me, art is personal; an expression of who’s making it, a statement they wish to say or an outlet for their pain or happiness that they want others to witness visually. But to other kids, and because kids are especially cruel and competitive, they turned it into a competition. Who could be the best artist. I failed that as well. I didn’t enjoy making art for a while after that. That school year, 8th grade, I took an art class, and I failed that too because I refused to simply become a shell of what the teacher thought we should be; an embodiment of her failed achievements as an artist herself, so she could live vicariously through her students. So far, my track record was 0 for 3, and 2 of those in something I enjoyed. After that art class, I didn’t make art for a year. However, that teacher liked a flower painting I did so much, she entered it into a local gallery contest for our town. I lost that too.
0 for 4 now.
A pattern was starting to emerge to me. I was no good at stuff, especially stuff I thought I liked and maybe could be good at. I stopped trying. The way I saw it, why bother? I clearly had a 0% success rate, so why continue to humiliate myself simply by participating. Soon this began to leak into every aspect of my life, and by middle school I’d stopped caring about homework, believed I was truly stupid and that I wasn’t someone anyone would want to be friends with. Failing at everything you do isn’t good for your self esteem. Things started to look bleak, and I was starting to become unsure of my future in any sort of career, especially an artistic one. Plus, it’s not like I was trying to succeed to impress everyone else. I was doing it to make myself feel better. If I couldn’t even achieve my own pathetic low standards, then why continue trying, right? I became apathetic and depressed beyond help, to the point of waking up everyday and wanting to be dead. It’s a weird feeling when you really decide you want to not exist anymore. It makes everyone else more uncomfortable than it makes the person contemplating their soon to be nonexistence, which I find odd, but that’s how it is. I enrolled in film classes at a trade school during high school, and things got even worse.
When you have siblings who outshine you (sometimes in hobbies they thought were stupid originally then stole the spotlight from you in later on), and then classmates who steal ideas for the film work you wish to do and then your film crew who tells you they’ve had enough of your work and are tired of doing what you’re doing, and when your parents split up, and your grandmother and your dog die at the same time, I think it’s safe to say that you’ve hit rock bottom. That’s where I was; rock bottom. I moved to a new town after graduation and I stayed in my bedroom and snacked and watched netflix and read and played video games for about 4-5 years solid. Only this past year did I really start to make art again, and have I been happy with it too. I’m happy to say I’m no longer at rock bottom. But when you get pushed that low, low enough to the point where you stop trying, caring and waste 5 years of your life doing nothing but watching crappy b movies and eating fritos, it’s a tough road to recovery.
See, I wasted a lot of time that could’ve been used to create things. I won’t blame the others around me for hurting me. I’m not going to do that, I want to be responsible, and mature, and accept the blame for my own problems. I was damaged, but I was also the one who reacted in an exceedingly negative light towards my own self worth for the next few years. I essentially wasted 5 years of my life doing absolutely, literally, nothing. I surfed the internet for 5 years solid, essentially. I’m not proud of that fact, believe me. But I’m trying to pull myself up from that, and I’m doing a pretty good job, especially with the great support system my girlfriend has become, who constantly believes in me, helps me edit my work and tells me how much she loves what I do. I have a positive support system now, instead of one that consistently told me that I wasn’t good enough even if they didn’t say it directly (ie; school, family, friends). If I want to get better, if I want to heal, I need to start accepting that while others hurt me, I was the one who should’ve reacted better to it. Sure, it’s only human nature to want to recede and disappear and feel terrible when people hurt you, but I’m at a point in my life where I can’t spare that expense anymore. I need to be strong. I need to be happier. I may need some help along the way, who doesn’t? But in the end, if I want to catch the worm, I may not be the early bird, but I’ll get there around brunch time.
I’m growing. Or at least I’m really trying, and that has to count for something.