This story is going to have such painfully nerdy trappings that I’m already cringing, but it’s not like you guys thought I was totally cool and hip, right? You didn’t believe that I was super-slick and totally hipster and down with the hip hopping. Oh no, you knew that I am a nerd who likes video games and reads terrible nerd books about vampires and things. This story involves my computer nerdery.
So I don’t like to be bad at things. In fact, it is one of my top five most hated things, and that list includes communists and baby-kicking and Hitler. I hate being incompetent and I hate demonstrating incompetence, and the idea that people can look at me, note my incompetence, and make nasty, snarky remarks about my exact degree of incompetence and the extent to which I am tragic and lame drives me absolutely batshit nuts to think about it. Oh, I hate that. I hate feeling so vulnerable and wide-open and sockable.
But it’s something I recognize as holding me back, it’s a trait I am
not proud of, it’s a thing I am trying to get over. To that end–I am
not a good photographer. I have not got an especially good eye for
composition and framing, and I am way to impatient to read the little
manual that came with my camera, but I really like to take pictures.
For a long time, the fact that I was (am) a mediocre photographer
prevented me from even pulling out my camera, until one day I said, Forget this. I like to do it. I’m going to do it and load them up on
Flickr and I do not care if they are not great, because they make me
I’m not a great sartorial master–but I’m putting together outfits I
like, and doing the wardrobe remix thing. I’m a lousy cook, but I am
doing my damnedest in the kitchen to not kill myself and maybe even
pull out something edible. I have fallen long and hard from my comfort
zone as a fiction writer, as someone with ideas and a grasp of language
and an ability to tell a story, from my peak at the end of grad school
when I had the first draft of a novel in hand to now when I can barely
stand to look at three sentences I’ve strung together, and I’m sending
out stories anyway (and getting them published, sometimes!) and I’m writing flash fictions
every weekday, 100 words of story within ten minutes, or bust. And now
that I’ve finally got my postcards in hand, I’m going to write tiny
postcard stories to send out.
I’m not good with people, or talking off the top of my head, or
teaching or being an authority but I signed up to coach them, an
unfiltered segment of the wide, washed masses, how to write. I’m not
especially coordinated between my hand and my eye, and I still screw up
the navigating and I’m not good with the chatting or the silly, fun
roleplaying the people I play these (social) computer games with like
to play (I am self-conscious and awkward), but I play anyway.
It’s all pushing me way, way far out of my comfort zone, these things.
It’s all difficult to do, unpleasant sometimes and frustrating and
worrisome, but I’m doing it anyway, because I’m tired of being scared
all the time. I’m tired of being worried all the time that I’m not good
enough at something. I’m tired of feeling judged not just by the world
but by myself, for not being good enough.
And I’ve been so proud of myself for doing this. But the other night,
we were playing that computer game, and we were supposed to play with a
couple who have been online forever, who are good at it, who make
everyone laugh, who are so fun and great and make every gaming session
a real-live party, and I froze. I completely froze up. There was no way
I could be gamely incompetent, mildly awkward and lame in front of
these (let me emphasize this) complete stranger on the computer. I
panicked, I fled, I sat in E’s bedroom and I cried. Cried! Because I
felt so lame for being so lame; because I had acted so weird; because I
am so weird and I will never stop being weird and awkward and
E came looking for me. You have nothing to worry about, he said. You’re
not incompetent, he told me. You’re wonderful, he said. It’s not a big
deal, and Don’t worry about it, and It’s okay.
It’s been days, and I still feel ridiculous. I still don’t understand
what came over me, and it still feels like a failure, to have all my
bravery falter at such a dopey time, and over such a dopey thing. It is
a small thing, and it really is okay, that I had a bout of social
anxiety over a dumb game and ran off like a lunatic. But it is
frustrating. And why is it frustrating? Because I am not good enough at
overcoming my fear of being not-good enough. I think that might be irony.