OK kids, this morning I feel like sharing (read: oversharing) a bit with y’all.
You see, today I fly home after 18 (18! Yikes!) days on the road. The last time I was home with my dog Mabel, she was a zygote. She is going to jump all over me and then give me so much attitude when I see her in a bunch of hours. I am punch drunk and exhausted and that’s when the oversharing is most likely to occur, I guess.
Anyway, this morning I feel blissful and transformed. This has been simply an epic trip, where epic things have happened. I got married. I read with Rainbow Rowell. I saw Judy Blume. I ate too many fried Ipswitch clams. I learned to appreciate how f***ing great Bill Konigsberg is.
And it occurred to me that perhaps I would share this with you, seeing as I am probably not the only kid who ever sat in the school hallway, scrawling lines in my notebook because I felt like I didn’t have a friend in the world, and I was a total piece of shit garbage loser face, and no one loved me, and no one would ever love me, and maybe I should just die, because no one would miss me.
I promise you. This and more. This is how I felt about me. Some of it because I was gay. Some of it because I was a teenager. Some of it because maybe possible I suffered a little bit from depression, I don’t know.
The truth is I am a f***ing miracle of the universe. I am kind and good hearted and talented and yeah maybe a little bit of a freak but that’s okay because I am the only Bill Konigsberg that will ever live, and you are the only you who will ever live, and you owe it to the world to be that to its full capacity because when you do that the miracles start to happen.
So let’s do an exercise. It’s an annoying one for sure. It’s called “Affirmations” and it’s the kind of thing they make fun of on SNL and they should. It’s so cheeseball that literally as I talk about it I am eating a piece of cheese that has formed in front of my nose simply from thinking these thoughts. It is also the most important thing you can do for yourself. Affirm yourself. Because the world will tell you all this bad stuff about who you are and what you will amount to, and it’s up to you to turn it around and find the truth. And there are so many assholes out there who will try to make sure you never find out this truth about you.
I will do the affirmations for me, and you do them for you. Promise me you will.
They are actually reverse affirmations — the things I always thought about myself — followed by what is actually true about me.
1. I am not good enough. I will never be good enough.
I am actually pretty great. I grew up thinking that there was something permanently wrong with me, awkward about me, whatever. I put everyone on a pedestal always, from classmates to teachers to strangers, and I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. They have their shit together, and it’s all I can do to get up in the morning and brush my hair. This is what my brain always told me as a teenager, and then as an adult. This is a lie. What is true is this: when I do my best, it is, by definition, good enough. Because I cannot do better. And that same personal struggle is going on in most people, just behind the curtain. I’ve never met a person who thought they were good enough, always. I have singular talents that have begun to manifest themselves when I began to believe in myself, and they don’t need to be compared with anyone else’s talents. They are mine, and they can’t be taken from me.
Here I am yesterday in David Levithan’s Prius, with David, Rainbow Rowell, Paul Rudnick, and Elliot Schrefer.
First of all: wow. Quite the car full of talent, smarts, cleverness, you name it, right? David is the voice of a gay generation, and beautifully so. Rainbow is quickly becoming John Green, and rightfully so. Elliot is a National Book Award finalist. Paul wrote one of the funniest movies of the last two decades (In & Out), and one of the most moving plays (Jeffrey). Can I just tell you that the jokes in this car were coming kinda fast and furious? I mean, like pinball fast. Like nothing I’ve ever seen. And the truth is I can do that. I can hang. Just being me, I can hang. The little scared boy who thought he was worse than everyone else didn’t see that one coming.
2. I am ugly.
There’s inner beauty and outer beauty. I happened to go to a high school with some of the most beautiful people in the world. Kids of the extremely wealthy. Great genes. Think Gossip Girls. I went to those schools, actually, and I always felt horribly ugly in comparison to others. Compare and despair, they say.
This is me and my husband, Chuck, on the night of our wedding. Is my nose too big? Could I have bigger muscles? Is my face getting pudgy? WHO THE F*** CARES??? Look how cute that guy is! And by that guy, I mean MY guy, Chuck, the one on the left. He thinks I’m the most beautiful man in the universe, so why do I need to care how I match up against the most (outwardly) beautiful men in the world? That’s not a comparison that is going to help me in any way. And look in my eyes. How happy is that guy? Happiness is very attractive.
You may be fat, acne-pocked, less blond than you wish, too blond, too white, too black, not black enough, have a face that’s too big for your body, a body too big or your face, a huge honker (nose, I mean, not boobs), too (or two) huge honkers (breasts) that you wish were smaller, whatever. I felt at least five of those things. Learn to worship whatcha got. The more you embrace the individual beauty you possess, the more that will translate to others, and that will lead you to the one (or, hell, the three, I don’t know!) who will find you more beautiful than anyone else in the world. And vice versa.
3. I always screw everything up.
This one has followed me around all my life. My brother and I have a joke from just a couple years ago. I was working for him, and I used to say, as a joke, “I’ve ruined everything.” It was like a verbal tic. We all know that underneath every joke is a kernel of truth. I always felt that I was a ruiner of things, and the reasons for that are many and personal, too personal even for this blog posting.
The truth is that I am human. I screw SOME things up, SOMETIMES. As a human, I am prone to folly, whether that means saying the utter wrong thing in front of people I’m trying to impress, or tripping while walking down the street, or farting on an elevator. Are these things we should aspire to? No. Might they happen sometimes? Yes, though with the last one, we should definitely endeavor not to do that if we can at all help it.
Here is a picture of me reading at Brookline Booksmith yesterday with Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, and Paul Rudnick:
For so many years, I chastised myself for screwing up my career. Everyone else after college got steady jobs and I didn’t. I bounced around a lot. I didn’t stick to anything. I was lazy. I was a loser. I had good opportunities, and I flubbed them. These are the thoughts I had all my life about who I am/was, and those are powerful things to say to one’s self, aren’t they?
Yesterday, I spoke in front of 400 people in the afternoon, signed some books, and then I read in front of 150-200 more folks and signed some more books. Do I know exactly how I got from Point A to Point B? No, I do not. It’s hard to say, really, what the defining choices have been in my life to this point, and the places where I might have made (better?) choices. What I know is that here I am. I am doing me, and I do it very well, and if indeed I screwed everything up all my life, I screwed them up wonderfully. Do yourself a favor and stop telling yourself that you’re screwing up, because the truth is you have no bloody idea if you’re screwing up or not. You may think you know, but we lack the foresight to know what we need to do at any moment to get from A to B. Do your best, and be good to yourself. The rest will work itself out.
I could go on and on. I just want you to know that I am you. You are me. We are we. There is not a nasty thought you’ve thought about yourself that I haven’t thought about myself. You don’t have any secret thoughts that are more deplorable than mine. That’s just part of life, the whole not being perfect thing. Cherish it all because it’s what you have. I never thought I’d feel this way, but I am so damn grateful for my life. Every part of it.