It’s been quite a while since I’ve been a teenager, but I’m always struck by the variety of impressions people I have of me from that time whenever I talk to someone who knew me when.
To some folks, I was larger than life in a good way. An overachiever. Incredibly gifted with music. Honored academically. A winner. A go-getter.
But to others, I was a flake, a loser, a disappointment.
And I suppose it all hinges on what particular experiences they had with me. Because I was very talented, but I was also inconsistent and irresponsible. Not when it came to music. Or my friendships, really. But the rest of it… the rest of it was where I made room for the parts of me that wandered.
I can remember vividly being called on the phone to volunteer and quickly saying “yes, of course I’ll do it,” wanting desperately to please the caller. To be a good person. To help out. Only to feel that sense of dread as soon as I hung up. Knowing I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t have time. And I was possibly in over my head.
But I’d rarely cancel even in circumstances like that, counting on myself to find some fortitude in the eleventh hour. This was about a 50:50 proposition. I dropped a lot of things I’d agreed to way back when.
And even though it’s been years and years, I still feel bad about some of it.
I was great when I showed up. But that wasn’t a sure thing. And when I finally hit bottom in my 20s, after a series of traumas, I essentially stripped down and rebuilt my personality. And in the process of that, I become the reasonably responsible version of myself that I am today.
I can’t shake the feeling that I was considerably more brilliant back when I was hit or miss, but I’m aware that could have been an illusion of confidence as much as anything else. That said, I don’t concern myself as much with brilliance these days. Or perfection. I privilege showing up.
I have to say, however, I do still find one aspect of things difficult — it’s tough to stay in the moment and yet plan for the future. To reconcile what you say you’ll do with what your body and mind are telling you are possible. Most of the time these days, when faced with a conflict, I ignore the present mood and honor the commitment. I show up, even if I don’t feel like I’ll perform up to standard.
The most disconcerting thing happened when I first started doing this, when I showed up feeling like I couldn’t perform or be me and just went through the motions — people reported they couldn’t tell a difference between that and my times when I felt like I was on fire.
I try to keep that in mind on days like today when I don’t feel up to the task.