"What, and suck all the spontaneity out of being young and stupid? I'd rather live in the dark."
"You're not gonna be young forever."
"Yes, but I'll always be stupid! . . . . Let's not all rush to disagree."
-- Xander and Willow, in the Buffy episode "What's My Line? Part I"
I have from a very young age considered it a massively unfair burden that I must make some dumb and ill-informed decisions before I can learn enough to choose well.
I'm not exaggerating. I hated being corrected as a kid. I don't mean that I fought with grown-ups, or pushed my own view, although I'm sure I did. I mean I can remember the deep sense of embarrassment and shame that used to wash over me when I attempted an answer and was mildly and politely told that no, actually, it was this other thing.
(It is so tempting to blame this sort of thing on one's parents, isn't it? It's a hobby of mine. But in this case, I can't imagine they had anything to do with it; they took a great deal of care to instill confidence in me and encourage me to learn and try new skills, and persevere through mistakes. No, my friends, I blame my parents all the time, but I believe this one is on me.)
When I started college, I swore up and down that I was going to do every reading and attend every class. (See, rather than bypassing young-and-stupid, I merely morphed it into a bizarre, twisted mutation of itself.) I am not joking. I took it seriously. I didn't miss more than one class a semester until half way through my third year. Because I was knocked so flat with the flu that I couldn't get out of bed, really, for a week. Even then I tried to go to class, only to leave halfway through and get taken to the doctor by a caring university nurse. (I still made it to my philosophy seminars, and sat in the corner, contagious and miserable.)
If I only take things seriously, I tell myself. I can just avoid that whole mistake-making, not-thinking-through element of the human condition. That's other people's problem, I decided. I will do better. I just need standards.
I'm putting all this in the past tense, but I am barely, edgily, inching my way out of this way of thinking.
Because a lot of things did work in that way of thinking. I sure attended a lot of college classes. It gave me a bizarre kind of confidence in myself, and a way to feel in control of my life. Just learn enough, that's the ticket. There is somehow a level of knowledge you can achieve that will make you ... what? Confident? Responsible? Intelligent? Impossible to overlook? Whatever. I was going to find out, because I was going to get there.
And it was all fun and games until I looked around and found myself living in a Bryan Fuller show, but without the supernatural element. And I'm still looking around being like, well, I thought that going to high school, and going to college, and then traveling, and working, and traveling more, and getting a master's, I thought that would be enough. And I don't really see how a PhD would help me. But something went wrong, because it wasn't enough.
Every person older than me (and maybe 85% of the people younger than me but older than say, 17) is shaking her head, the way I do when a fictional character has just made a really boneheaded move. (You thought that would work? You're cute but stupid!)
I can't illustrate this all adorable, like the clever person who runs Hyperbole and a Half would do. And I can't seem to make it deep, or about anything other than my confused floundering. (I mean, I'm sure it's a metaphor, for, um, politics! Everything is a metaphor for politics, right? It means, um, personal responsibility, or something.) It's not a feminist issue, except for how I'm bitter at people, some of whom are men, who seem to have their lives better sorted. It's not even about culture, or pop culture.
It's just that universal human thing, of wait, how the fuck did I get here? Because I honestly thought the map was going that way... and now that I am here -- can I do anything about it?
You know what this relates to? Being fucking 26. If I were older, and knew more, I wouldn't have this problem! FOILED AGAIN.