*Spoiler alert: If you're looking for a funny, light read, today might be a good day to go elsewhere. I recommend Sometimes I Make Lists, Just Humor Me, The Typing Makes Me Sound Busy, Finslippy, or Mimi Smartypants for a guaranteed laugh. Seriously, just go, look away. Nothing to see here but a self-indulgent pity party and some metaphorical wrist-slitting. (Calm down, I said metaphorical.) You have been warned.*
That being said, on with the self-indulgent, sad sack show...
The nature of humans is complacency. The nature of life is to plod along from day to day without necessarily taking notice of every minute change and pondering its implications. Humans are enormously adaptable, and this is a good thing; if every moment was filled with existential possibility, we would never get anything done. But every once in a while there comes a time when you take stock of your life and say to yourself, Holy shit, how did I get here? I find myself asking the same question, after spending five years in Boston and one year in Paris, and then waking up one day in a small town in central New York state, marginally employed, living paycheck to paycheck, and grudgingly driving a car that isn't mine to work, to the grocery store, to the bar, and to anywhere else I need to go because you can't walk anywhere here. I am six months away from my 30th birthday, single, childless, petless, essentially friendless, and I have never lived on my own. Neither have I lived with a boyfriend. Almost one entire decade I have spent sharing bathrooms with people I sometimes don't even speak to, cleaning other people's pee off of toilets and trying to ignore comically loud one-sided phone conversations through paper thin walls. I am almost 30 years old, and I don't even own my own furniture. My bed is a mattress on the floor, and it is not even my mattress, though I do own the down comforter, so thanks, Ikea, for helping me achieve one small step towards marginal independence. I don't have health insurance or a savings account, and so I live one health disaster or one car breakdown away from financial ruin. I can't afford to go to the doctor, and I can't afford to go to the dentist, and I definitely can't afford to buy a new car, so knock on wood that things keep on tickin'. As I've documented, even my best attempts to try to dig myself out of this hole, my efforts to take even the smallest of steps forward have gone unrewarded, and so yes, lately I've been asking myself just what exactly I have done to deserve all this.
In class I am teaching the superlative, I mentioned to a friend (ok fine, an acquaintance) during a bar room non-versation last night. "Oh, the superlative is cool," he said.
"Yes!" I said brightly. "You see, the comparative is not as good as the superlative... but the superlative... the superlative is the best." And then I had a good hardy har all by myself, because nothing beats a good grammar joke, am I right? (You know you want to drink with me, admit it.) But it got me to thinking about superlatives I once knew... You had superlatives in high school, right? Best dressed, best smile, class clown (which sort of stretches the grammatical definition of superlative to the breaking point, but we'll let it slide). I had one too. I don't even want to tell you what it was, because it sounds so la ti ta, and I don't even want to think about it, honestly, except that lately I can't stop thinking about it, and the rest of this blog post kind of hinges around it, so fine, I will tell you that I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. There. It's in the yearbook and everything, PHS 97-98. Now, I'm sure that no one else even remembers this but me, it's not like everyone else in the class of 1998 is sitting around thinking about me and wondering if I have succeeded yet, thinking, Damn, I knew I should have voted for Molly instead. What a waste. But all the same, I can't help feeling disappointed by the way things have worked out, or rather, the way they haven't worked out. And I know, I know, there are many different definitions of success, although in our yearbook photo, my cohort, Mister Most Likely to Succeed is flashing a fistful of dollar bills at the camera, so I think we can guess what his definition of success is. Although, if a fistful of bills constitutes success, then hey, look at me, I also have four dollars! I totally win. (Yes, I understand symbolism. Moving on.) So maybe... maybe success isn't always about money. Some people consider success to be marriage and kids and... oh, right. Well, so what. I mean, pffffft. You don't have to have money or a family to be successful, right? As long as you are making a positive impact on people's lives, if you dedicate yourself to helping people and working for a worthwhile cause... I mean, no one's going to call Mother Theresa a failure, right? So... yeah. Helping privileged, upper middle-class college students fulfill a language requirement and learn the finer points of grammar that they will immediately expunge from their brains after the final exam in a language they will surely never use... that's... helping... right? No, I am a useful, contributing member of society, I mean, if it weren't for me... oh dear god, who am I kidding. I am less important than one of Britney Spears' purse dogs. But, so what. The only thing that really matters, the only definition of real succcess is if you are happy. And clearly I am, if not happy, at least... I'm... I'm sorry, I can't even pretend anymore. I'm not happy. I'm not. I mean, would you be? Don't answer that.
Somewhere along the line things have gotten away from me. My life has gotten away from me. I am not living the life I used to think I would live, I am not living the life I used to think I deserved. But I don't use words like deserve anymore, just like I don't use words like God or destiny or purpose or plan. Because really? This is my destiny? This is what I deserve? Because fuck that. I am trying my hardest here. I try my ass off every day. I look, I evaluate, I make plans, and I try to make it better. I make changes, I try new things, and I try to make the best of it. I am fucking trying, goddammit, and yet I am still here, and I am still stuck in this situation, in this life, in this person that is me, though sometimes I wish it were any other way. And I know that there are people that are successful, that are happy, and yet even though they may be good people, I still can't think that they deserve it, any more than I don't deserve this. We all play what we're dealt, is all. Some people get the aces. And some of us get a really bum hand.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, Molly, chica, it totally should have been you in that yearbook photo.