I Have, on Occasion, Been Wrong

I bill myself as a purveyor of opinionated garbage and, although I pepper my essays with a liberal helping of self-deprecation, I tend to write from an elitist perspective. I hold myself in very high regard, both intellectually and morally, but the facade only serves to disguise my crippling self-doubt.

Claiming I’m the depressed artist is as much a humblebrag as it is a cry for help. As John Green said in his NerdCon Stories Talk about Mental Illness and Creativity, mental illness is often romanticized. I’d argue at times that it’s even fetishized. In a culture where there’s “a fine line between genius and insanity,” it’s easy to feel as though one absolutely must walk hand in hand with the other.

It’s only reasonable that someone struggling with mental illness might desire some justification, hence the persistence of such proverbs. It’s more comforting than surrendering to the fact that one may simply be the recipient of a malfunctioning brain. I’ve fallen victim to this need from time to time, knowing somewhere in my defective mind that I needed help but wanting desperately to believe there was some purpose to this otherwise meaningless agony.

I have long draped myself in a thick layer of false arrogance to keep the darker thoughts at bay. I was summoned to jury duty earlier this year and, during the juror interview process, I made it a point to constantly remind the judge and everyone in the courtroom that I have a tendency to be right. Near the end of the interview process, when the pool of potential jurors was asked if there were any final clarifications they felt needed to be mentioned, I raised my hand and stated, “I’d like to clarify that I have, on occasion, been wrong.”

I was, of course, not chosen for the jury that day, somewhat to my dismay. Though it would have interfered drastically with my sleep schedule, part of me was excited to participate in the legal system. Unfortunately, it turns out they didn’t need a class clown.

I often silently judge the people around me for being so transparent in their quest for attention. I get so preoccupied with my own hubris that I forget how transparent I myself must seem. We all want something to be noticed for. While some of us are inclined toward negative attention, I try to be adept at receiving positive attention.

My sense of humor, however, while often the cliched defense mechanism, can sometimes be a cover for bitterness and cynicism. I never considered the possibility that this gross misuse of comedy could cut so deeply. Today I was reminded of this blindness.

A person I must acquaint with regularly, someone whose feelings may often lie in the periphery of my concern, recently expressed the damage I’ve dealt with my words. I was brought nearly to tears by this revelation and I began to apologize profusely. I was forgiven, but it’s one of those moments that compels us to rethink everything we’ve ever said, maybe even everything we’ve ever thought.

Life may only be a series of these reassessments, these constant revisions of ourselves, reaching ever after for a perfection we’ll never achieve.

My name is Mark Thomas McLaughlin and I am, however inexcusably, human.

I am sorry.