My most powerful achievement in life was developing a staggeringly negative self image. I realised I’d reached perfection when I went out one night amongst the cabbage people of an awful little village wearing a kurtah I’d brought back from India, when I saw myself through their eyes as a fat little bald man alcoholically passing time amongst them wearing a dress.
Was I really that scary?
That’s how I saw myself; or rather that’s how I saw them seeing me. No confidence. No charisma. No posture. The accumulated effects of spending time with people that you know are challenged in some way the instant you say hello.
Whenever I was with people for any length of time, even seconds, I would start to be repeatedly struck by lighting - a dread - fast and sharp and random yet disturbingly uniform and creepy as though made entirely of tiny silver white electric spiders, all scrambling for who knows where. There were too many symmetries yet no discernable order. I would feel the discomfort and sensation of alarm scurrying up my spine, leaving me shivering as I was enlightened to ever greater depth as to inadequacies of my soul for a world full of people who had almost nothing in common with me or even with themselves. Total strangers.
Clearly I didn’t belong. I sensed that they sensed it too; instinctive animal fear all around. An unavoidable natural distrust between our two species, like small dogs passing raised-heckle cats in a street with nowhere for either to hide. Great steps were taken by all simply to avoid. But we each of us sensed when the other was there.
I’d probably been happy a million times and down several more. But I had never before so thoroughly endeavoured to undermine myself as I managed at that time. There had been months of awful, fascinating, careful preparation. I'd made an effort and some might think I should have been proud. But I wasn't.
I had learned nothing after all. Perfect.
And the most intriguing thing about it was that it was beautiful. Seeing nothing of significance or intrinsic value in oneself is scary on the approach but once you land it’s about the most beautiful thing anyone can ever see.
It means you can do what you want with your life. It means there’s no reason ever to worry except to experience worrying itself.
It means that you are free.
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