It was a short but busy working week, and at 4.30, I knocked off early to have a drink with one of my work buddies downstairs. Because it was the last day before the Easter break, and because the equivalent of our financial end of year had just ended, the crowd swelled with people from different departments of the company. It became very festive.
I was in the thick of it. I didn’t intend to stay long but got carried along. Besides the girl there was a guy there I think I’m forming a strong friendship with (more of him another time), and at one stage we ended up at the bar having a shot together.
On the surface of things, it was a fine night. I didn’t get to speak to the girl much, but it was clear she was open and receptive, and the signs, in general, are better. I mixed with others, chatting about all manner of things, including one young guy who is a budding drag queen. Later in the evening, one of the girls who works for me arrived. She squealed when she saw me and gave me a big hug. Later, by text, she told me she loved me – though she means it in the platonic sense. I left soon after the girl did, getting a kiss on the way out from another girl I hardly know.
Somewhere in all that were sown the seeds of dissatisfaction I’ve felt this whole weekend so far. At one point, I sat next to a lovely girl sympathetic to my character and fascinated by my writing. We talked of that a little, and then I let slip my story in its very abbreviated form. She was surprised to the point of not knowing how to react, and for the first time, I didn’t feel the usual flush of satisfaction.
I’ve got about my business as normal, feeling this distant sourness. Always a giveaway for me, my sleep has been busy with dreams, and when I wake, I feel lost.
In a way, I expected something like this at some point. I mean, there has to be a reaction. I’ve had a good run, confessing my tale without consequence, all positive. I’ve floated along feeling good about myself in general, and in general with life. That’s changed.
It’s as if I see my story from a different perspective now. From where I sit I look like a tryer, someone who used to be, someone who has recovered from some nasty stuff and three cheers for him, etc., but ultimately a loser. I played, I lost, and all I’ve got to show for it is the t-shirt. Pathetic, that’s what I feel, a try-hard with a story.
And though things are probably more positive than they’ve been with A since before Christmas, I’m dismissive of it. I’m not worthy. Who am I kidding? Why would she want to have anything to do with me? Suddenly I feel deluded and foolish. I want to crawl back into my hole.
I know such negative feelings are not uncommon. A lot of people suffer doubt. I know people who live their life by it. I was one of those people who rarely did. For decades I reckon I was free of any major doubt. I had my ups and downs, I wasn’t always happy, but I never really doubted the fundamentals – which was me.
Things have changed now, and there’s good reason for that. Doubt entered my life again a few years back when there were lots to doubt. Throughout I rarely doubted myself. There were moments, but mostly it was the situation. I’m older now though, and maybe that’s part of it – I’m not as shiny as I used to be. And when it boils down, what do I have to offer – a choice story and nothing in the bank. No thanks.
The funny thing is that I know that’s not altogether true. I posted something to Facebook yesterday about having received an email from a recruiter I know asking if I would be interested in a role based in London. I put it up there because it was interesting and momentarily tempting, and to highlight the fact that while it seems impossible to get much happening in my hometown, I am getting invitations from abroad.
The reaction was surprising, though perhaps I should have known. All of a sudden, I had people urging me to do it. I fended them off, a little embarrassed, regretting that I’d posted anything. As I wrote, I would have jumped at it years ago – but not now. My life has moved on from that phase, and as I realised contemplating it, there were other things more important to me. I thought of A in that context, not wanting to leave her behind – but she was a symbol for me. What I want is a home here doing the things I want with the person I choose to be with.
My first reaction when suffering any doubts like this is to shut up shop and batten the hatches. I close myself down, looking to minimise damage. I don’t want that this time. I know I can’t be that way even when every instinct screams for it.
I’ve opened myself to vulnerability, and this is the price. I chose it though, and can’t refuse the bill. The pay-off in time will be much greater than the cost – I will be that more open and honest man without thinking twice, without fear or favour. Doubts such as these should be expected. As always, I want to be a better man, and the only way to be that is to keep going.
It will turn. It always does. I don’t doubt the great reserve of self-belief remains in me, but to feel doubt for a while may not be a bad thing.
PS. I wonder if the occasion, Easter, is a part of this. I heard all these stories of people spending the break with their families, as once I knew so well myself. When I was asked, I couldn’t say the same, and I miss that.