If you were born in 1990 or the years clustered around that sweet spot, then you’ve been prepped to “find yourself” since you were eating Go-Gurt and chatting on AIM with your friends. Unless of course you grew up in the dark corners of the party, like me, and were actually chomping down on raw carrots and playing Dungeons and Dragons. Either way, somewhere in the vast ambiguity of childhood you heard people slightly older than you talk about going off to find themselves so frequently that you began to believe you were lost.
Fortunately for mental health practitioners and unregulated Asian airlines, my generation has realized that the best way to find yourself is to either have sex with a cornucopia of strangers in college, or travel to Southeast Asia. If you are 25 years older than me, feel free to substitute Southeast Asia with Europe — our parents grew up during different wars so we had to adjust the destination to carry on the tradition of challenging their notions of “safe foreign land.” I really have no problem with either of these things and this isn’t a tirade against girls posting over-saturated photos of themselves wearing $250 bikinis while petting malnourished tigers in Thailand. I’m more here to complain about the fact that the whole time I was growing up not a single person braced me for how fucking scary it would be to find that “self,” and how little traveling the journey would involve.
Up until the year I finally I met myself, every goal I set out to tackle in life seemed to be inexplicably difficult. I didn’t appreciate it at all. In fact, I appreciated the struggle so little that I decided it was time to do something really artsy. Correct me if I’m wrong as you so faithfully do, internet, but it seems that these are often the circumstances by which people make the decision to drop everything in order to do something “artsy” and actually use that word. The “artsy” decision I made immediately sunk me into a black hole in which I was ripped apart and scattered across the now-more-unfriendly-than-ever universe. On my head was the pull of the gravity of the selfishness of others; on my feet was the gravity of the pull of my own. I realized that in order to have an intimate relationship in which neither person cried more than 3 times a week, I would have to stop being a manipulative piece of shit.
The first question I asked myself was, “am I lost or do I not just like the person I am discovering myself to be?”
Cue the Radiohead on repeat for hours. Cue the nauseatingly warm car filled with dirty coffee cups parked on an residential East Los Angeles street in the summer.
I barely had a moment to process this revelation when, through a series of unfortunate employment-related events, I learned that the world not only requests, but demands effort from you in order to succeed in anything at all. This broke me. My entire life I had pressed forward with confidence, assuming that I would excel at something simply because it was a good fit, and that someone would “love me for me.” I know through field studies that there are living, breathing human beings in this world who use Pinterest to find quotes that essentially posit “if he loves you he will even love your flaws.” This is complete bullshit because certain flaws may make you a poor life partner, and apparently having the impulse control of a 4-year-old is one of those flaws. A mental breakdown and few terrifying diagnoses later, I learned that in order to transition from someone who fell asleep watching Netflix on my laptop alone every night, to someone who fell asleep watching Netflix on my laptop next to someone else who was working, I was really going to have to make a change.
This is a long way of explaining why I no longer feel special, and why that’s made all the difference. Where I once subconsciously viewed myself as the exception to almost every rule, I now understand that I am a cog in the machine, but that it is a complex, awe-inspiring machine. This may sound as though I’ve given up entirely, and in a sense I have. I saw the ‘self’ who stands outside the circle, whole-heartedly believing that she is the first person in history who could be loved without first giving love.
That girl is a bitch.