Ever since I was old enough to listen, I’ve allowed people to define the way I view my own success. I was born into a generation that was told that we could have anything as long as we wanted it bad enough. But I have spent my whole life wanting and asking and working and every time I find myself within inches of the finish line, I fail.
For awhile I blamed myself. I wondered why I was standing in my own way of success. When I got angry enough, I would blame the world. I started writing when I was 12 years old. My first work: a suicide note. After being bed ridden with an illness that rendered me unable to take care of my own basic needs for 6 months, I could think of nothing else that I wanted more than to go back to school. But when I got back to my 5th grade classroom, I found that my classmates had stolen my possessions. They filled my desk with trash and ripped up my artwork.
My classmates thought I was dying. Maybe they wanted something to remember me by, maybe they wanted to destroy my painful memory. But nothing hurt me like the day that kids started telling me that they wished I was dead. I had just beaten an infectious disease that nobody had ever heard of and that was my reward for such a great success.
I didn’t fucking ask for a participation trophy.
There are defining moments in our lives that shape who we become as individuals. My illness did shape the person that I was going to become. My definition of success shaped my character and my future and fuck, it probably shaped my morals and parenting and just about every other aspect of my life. At 12 years old, I thought it would be better to end it all than to continue living with that fucked up vision of myself. But I didn’t.
I remember my first day of college. I got lost in the science building. I felt like an idiot. My science professor was an asshole. He made every person in that lecture hall feel like a piece of garbage. I wanted to raise my hand and ask him why he had to make us feel inferior in order for him to feel like a successful teacher. I never thought that the teachers were supposed to belittle their students. I left campus feeling pretty shitty about myself that day. I found my car, navigated the one-way roads, went north instead of south on the freeway, and cried “wee wee wee” all the way home.
I approached my parents driveway slowly, wondering how I was going to tell them that I wasn’t cut out for college like I thought I was. I’ll never forget how I pulled in the driveway with tears in my eyes, feeling like the tiniest fleck of shit that had ever graced a public restroom. As I parked my car and wiped my eyes, I looked up to see my father standing at the top of the driveway. I could see his eyes glisten with pride as he smiled. His only child had just finished her first day of college. I had surpassed him in graduating high school and setting out to do things that he never could have imagined for himself.
I’ve spent my whole life telling people to fuck off and I’m not going to stop now. If you don’t like the way that someone paints your success, you have every right to tell them to fuck off. Not everyone is going to have the perfect paintbrush to highlight your best features. I’ve been struggling through adult life for awhile now and I’ve learned that age defines the things we hate, not the people we are.
As a teenager, I hated children. I hated that I was forced to transition into a different part of life before I was ready. I hated that I was sexualized before I was fucking ready to be. I hated that children didn’t have to care about what they looked like and I did. I hated that I was forced to be picked last for sports. I hated that I was still treated like a child, even though boys were allowed to touch me in ways that I didn’t even want to touch myself.
My twenties made me hate teenagers. I despise how they make mistakes and don’t learn from them. I don’t understand how they sleep all day and stay up all night and don’t pay attention to the world. I hate how they feel the need to be the center of attention. And then I stop. Because I do not want to be a part of the generation that hates the younger generation.
Every age comes with it’s own challenges and defining moments. When I’m 60, I will not be criticizing the only people who can save me. If I die at 70, a plate of success will be my last supper. I will decide what is on that plate. You can dine at my table or you can fuck off.