An Advice Column I Write to Myself, Letter One— Q: Dear Kelly, What if I think I’m a total piece of shit?
I have long been the person my friends turn to when they are seeking advice. Friends I haven’t heard from in some time will suddenly show up in my text string, saying, ‘Girl — can you help me?’ And I never, ever, ever resent it. I straight up LOVE IT. I love giving advice. I’m good at it! I often hear these real jewels and gems just slide out of my mouth while I’m talking to them, and I’m like WTF HOW DID I KNOW TO SAY THAT — AM I SERIOUSLY THAT SMART — AND HOW HAVE I NOT CAPITALIZED ON THIS????????
But I have. Of course. Because I am a friend that friends turn to when they need advice. And I do have a couple people I turn to, too. But sometimes I don’t want to be desperate in someone’s text string. I don’t want to dial their number, whilst crying. So I am going to give a go at writing my own damn advice letters to myself. I need one today. Here goes.
What if I think I’m a total piece of shit?
I mean — I can shed more light on the why. For one — just because. Because I have never had great hair (it’s so thin you can see my scalp from like a mile away) and because I’m so anxious I jump when things fall to the ground and because my temper is a boiling pot of water that is always threatening to boil over. But also because I’m turning 39 and I still, still, STILL have not found a way to make a living off of the actual talents that I know I possess. Did you know that I am really funny? People have told me I should do stand-up! Did you know that I sing fairly well? But the sound of my voice coming out of my body makes me feel vulnerable, so I hide it unless I am feeling very, very, very safe — which is a state I don’t find myself in often. Did you know that I write? I’m sure you did. But I don’t send my writing to any of the places I want to. Because the places I want to are considered ‘good’ and who would I have to think myself to send them there? I would have to think of myself as good. And though I toy with the label sometimes, what I really think, deep down in the pit of my person, is that I am a piece of shit. And this belief is stopping me from my labors of love more than any other thing.
I’ve just moved to a new city for the 75th time in my life (*small exaggeration, but feels spot on) and I am once again, scrolling Craigslist and Indeed.com for jobs that feel like empty vessels of void. Administrative Assistant, Kennel Cleaner, Cashier. The ones that feel most right pay just around $9 an hour, but I have this child now, and a partner in life, and a dog and all of us have to eat like 3 FUCKING TIMES PER DAY, and those wages aren’t cutting it. Never mind that the real work I want to do is paid like $0 per hour. I want to rescue dogs. From horrible situations and comb their matted fur and sing to them and kiss them more than they have ever been kissed and find them safe, warm homes. I want to travel around, rescuing ALL OF THEM because the only proof of God on the Earth I have yet to find is each of their sets of four paws. I also enjoyed some freelance writing for money last year, but every time I think of something I want to write, I think of how unqualified I am to write it — or how silly and empty and trite my stance is.
I’m in pain. I can’t seem to get up off the floor and figure out how to make my life as beautiful and full as I want it to be. Can you help me?
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I can’t. Really. I mean, I kind of can, but I can’t — but you can. Here. Listen.
I can remind you of the things you have done and just URGE YOU — BEG YOU — to find the person within you that did them. Get back to her again. She is not a piece of shit. She is bold, and brave. Do you remember that you once ran A FUCKING HALF MARATHON? You. In fact — that it was the first organized run you ever ran? You were sitting on your couch one day and you were like, ‘That has to be an amazing feeling…’ — to run THIRTEEN POINT ONE MILES — and you were like ‘I want to feel that!’
And then you picked a beautiful place to do it in. You called up your friends in San Francisco and you said, ‘Should we?’ and they said ‘No way.’ and you said ‘But we should.’
So you trained and even when you had shin splints so bad you could barely walk, you went to the gym and watched One Tree Hill (what a bore) on a treadmill (bc lower impact than the street) and you walked/ran for two hours at a time to get yourself ready. Every Sunday.
And then you ran the damn thing — even though you walked a couple times and thought you were at 8 miles when you ran into a sign that said you were at 3 (worst moment of the whole run and you made a vow to not look at ANY MORE MILE MARKERS NO MATTER WHAT UNTIL YOU WERE AT THE FUCKING END.) And when you were at the end…you were on the heels of other runners, and someone on the sidelines yelled, “GOOD JOB, RUNNER…!” and you looked around to see whom they were yelling at and it — honest-to-God- took you like a full 180 seconds to realize THEY WERE YELLING AT YOU.
YOU WERE THE RUNNER. YOU HAD BECOME SOMETHING YOU DIDN’T BELIEVE YOURSELF TO BE.
Also — you flew to a country after college where you DIDN’T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE and you took dance classes in that language, when you could ONLY UNDERSTAND THE NUMBERS BECAUSE THEY CORRESPONDED TO THE BEATS — and you also walked into THE OFFICES OF VOGUE ITALIA wearing a FUCKING BOWTIE and told them they should hire you, because you had your finger on the pulse of fashion and a pair of balls that would aide you.
Maybe they didn’t see you like you saw yourself that day — maybe they suggested instead that you babysit their daughter — but GIRL, REMEMBER HOW YOU SAW YOURSELF THAT DAY.
I don’t know.
Did those work?
I hope so. Because you are capable of what you dream. But you might have to TRAIN. You also might have to convince both yourself AND other people. And it won’t be fun. And I don’t know how to draw the line for you of what your path will even look like.
But beyond that, I need to tell you this.
Even if you end up never doing stand-up and never singing, and never writing a thing that anyone loves or gives you money for — and you work a couple hours in an office and a couple hours at a coffee shop and a couple hours cleaning dog kennels and you piece together a shitty wage and you keep using your credit cards to buy groceries —
Acknowledge that your life is still beautiful — right now. I think I know you know that. But be diligent in your acknowledgement.
Your dog’s chin hairs. Your son’s amazing little feet. The way Nic makes you laugh every second you are around him. The tiny ass apartment you guys just moved to. Yeah, it’s too small. But it’s warm. Warmth is a gift.
Also, get some therapy. It’s really bad to think oneself a piece of shit. I know it seems super natural and has been a self-identifier for a long time and sometimes doesn’t even feel totally true when you’re having a great day — but it’s bad to call yourself and think yourself a piece of shit. SOME PEOPLE DON’T EVER DO THAT.There are literally SOME PEOPLE THAT DO NOT BELIEVE THEY ARE PIECES OF SHIT.
Those people don’t let their jacked sense of self-worth get in the way of finding work, or curating passion. They just LIVE.
So do all of those things I told you to.
And for what it’s worth — I think you’re amazing.
(this post originally appeared on my personal blog on Wordpress, at www.kellygrain.wordpress.com