maybe it’s me

by s.

There are things that, as people who are decent and generally kind, we never say to each other. We may couch them in terms like “self-esteem issues” or perhaps “lack of self-confidence”, but we do this to illustrate that objectively speaking, there is not a problem with us.

I want to say something bold about this, and I apologize in advance because it will also be unpleasant. I want to tell you that sometimes there is something actually wrong with us. There is this: We are not always the ones chosen. Every relationship involves other people, and as much as we say to ourselves that they are the problem, it is mathematically unlikely that this is so. People can be shitty. Probably you can be shitty. Probably you are shitty, and someone will tell you that you are shitty, and you will say that they are the problem, which might even make you shittier. It is not always this dire, bu the fact remains. Sometimes you have to stop and think about all of the interactions that you’re hard-pressed to explain and wonder…maybe it’s me.

I am very, very good at blaming matters of my brain and my heart on mysterious, third-party factors. I chalk things up to karma, to bad timing, and to the wildness of self that usually feels more like a devil on my shoulder than a part of me. “I have gone over these things in my head a million times,” I said to one of my closest friends the other day, “and I don’t see how this is my fault.”

This is where it gets sort of interesting. “Of course it is your fault,” she said. She is not one to mince words. She then explained the whys and the hows, and they all made sense, though the specifics are unimportant. A lot of what she said hurt, and I am sure that it was not easy to say. Sometimes there are things that are wrong with me, but that is my point: there are things wrong with all of us.

Her response boils down to a simple matter of choice: we choose to put ourselves in situations, and while we cannot control the actions of others, we are responsible not only for how we decide to respond to them, but for anticipating what could happen based on what we – and they – have chosen to do in the past. It is what we actually do rather than what we intend by it that ends up making a difference, and it is usually in our failure to recognize that distinction that we start to screw things up. Screwing things up is also necessary and can be a good thing. None of this feels groundbreaking and all of it is true, but for some reason it is the hardest thing to remember when you are in the thick of your own decisions. It is even harder to say to other people in a way that might help. Lately I have been watching some people I love fail, and it is not difficult to understand why we are wretched at calling each other out. I would like to suggest, unfortunately, that it is our job as friends to do so.

The bad news is that we fail sometimes. The good news is that we are meant to learn from those failures, but the only way to do that is to admit that you failed in the first place. Maybe the problem is you, and maybe that is a really, really important thing to know.