Here’s the story of piffling, oddity, and cobblers.
You’re a star. That’s nice. I’m rarely called nice things. I’ve been called boring. Stupid. Not funny. Ridiculously ugly. Weird. Nerdy, but not the clever kind, the dumb kind. Not very useful. Badly dressed. Overly hairy. Mr. Odd Eyebrows. Lumpy head. I could go on and on and on. But I won’t. A piffling twat. But never ‘a star.’ Aww. I got a weird feeling inside. A lumpy feeling in my heart, almost as lumpy as my head. I mean, I don’t think it’s lumpy, but when that geography teacher stroked my noggin’, he definitely leaned toward the lumpy opinion. I don’t have much of an ego. But being called a star really inflated it, like that sex doll you put in the attic before you got married and re-inflated after the marriage broke up after you discovered your partner slept with the cobbler. Oh, in case you’re not familiar with the expression, ‘You’re a star,’ it means that you’ve gone to exceptional lengths for someone and they’re really grateful, not that you’re a flaming ball of fire. Although that would be an improvement over ‘Mr. Odd Eyebrows’…
When you don’t really have much of a sense of self-worth, you become convinced that any attempt from someone to compliment you is a thinly veiled threat. “I really like your hair.” “ARRRRRRGH!” you shout as you run away screaming. Admittedly, it isn’t a great example because my long hair is rather dashing, but still.
You see, I had this client who I’ve been looking after for some time. He didn’t ask for much. Just for me to design him a folder, a booklet, a business card and a huge menu for his restaurant. In a week. For those of you not in the graphic design game, a menu alone is a weeklong job, a business card will set you back a good day’s work and as for the rest of it, one is in uncharted territory. Now imagine all that is your job for the week and then imagine you’re not getting paid for it. Now imagine you’ve been doing all that for seven months. You with me? Good. That’s my life. Oh, he also wanted a website. After managing all that in a week, you’d think the prospect of not getting paid for any of it would render the words, ‘You’re a star,’ rather meaningless. Not quite, readers. Those words were worth millions, to me. I would’ve preferred the millions, but still…
You see, I’m someone who is incredibly shy. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that in the previous 290 posts. Maybe once or twice or 290 times. Shy people will have you believe each day is an unending catalogue of misery, but the truth is, once you enter your own little bubble, you’re quite protected from the horrors of everyday life. At work, for example. People soon discover you’re that bloke in the office who sits in the corner and never says anything. Never goes out for a drink with colleagues after work. The miserable loner who nobody buys a gift for at Christmas out of fear you won’t like it and will go mental and go on a shooting rampage. Some people wouldn’t like being branded these things, but shy people in our little bubbles are rather adept at drowning out this ‘background noise’ as we call it.
Sure, it would be nice to live like common people. To do whatever common people do. Like, I don’t know, go to the cinema without feeling like a billion people are staring at your naked body, pointing and laughing, or rocking out to bitchin’ Pulp songs from… Jesus, is that really 22 years ago? Holy shit I’m getting old…
You just about manage. You can get on the bus and ask for your weekly card to be topped up. You can just about muster a, “Can I have a plastic bag, please?” because, apparently, we’re not allowed them anymore. Oh no, they keep them under the counter out of sight, like the cigarettes, surely the biggest mismatch in comparison since me and Brad Pitt. You’d be better off comparing me to a lumpy rock, in case you’re wondering. You just about get by in the fervent hope that, one day, you’ll stop managing and start living.
You become convinced it’s never gonna happen, like a day when Madonna stops stealing children from Africa or the day when a woman decides to sleep with me. Little things like, ‘You’re a star’ just mean the world, they really do. ‘Really? I’m a star? Aww. Most people hate the things I do. Like… everything I do…’
It’s been a strange seven months and I can only hope what I’m doing will lead to a paid job, because, although the thought of living alone and trying to keep myself alive for more than two minutes is a thought that keeps me awake at night, it’s something I want to run towards. And I don’t know why. It’s scary. But work was once scary. I became convinced I could never work. I can’t talk to people. Babies cry when they see me. Nature puts a mask over all our faces when we’re born and I’m sure she put the mask of an ogre over my face. She does this to protect us, a mask like a shield, but she doesn’t put any thought into it. She just rummages around in her spare parts bin and gives us whatever protection she can, like the Home Guard using pitchforks and kitchen appliances for weapons during the war. It’s our job, as a human race, to show people what’s behind the mask. Sometimes the mask is evil and the real person is lovely. Sometimes, it’s the other way round. More often than not, it’s a grey area. I’m not a bad person, really, but my mask is superglued on and I cannot get rid of it.
So what does one do? Get good at face painting? Potentially. But then you end up with a mask on a mask on a face, so it’s a bit too ‘Inception’ for my liking and also… it would also be really difficult to breathe. Yet here I am. Part of the common rabble. Getting up, saying ‘hello’ to the bus driver, going to work, saying ‘hello’ to my colleagues, having meetings with clients, chatting openly with the boss and asking questions. Having debates and discussions. It’s all work related, sure, but it is scary because I don’t know how I’ve done it. I still feel like a little kitten curled up in a ball, no more confident than I was seven months ago, but, somehow, I’ve become better at… being human. It’s a strange feeling. It’s a bit like constipation, really. I’m expecting the bubble to burst at any moment and be left with an almighty mess to clean up…
If I can get to work and manage, through all the stress and criticism, part of the job of being a graphic designer (“You said you wanted a yellow background!” “No, I want a blue background!” “But you didn’t say that!” “That’s hardly my fault, young man!” “What, so am I supposed to be able to read your bloody mind?”), can I do it elsewhere? Can I be an adult, for once? I don’t know what one is. I’ve never really known how to be one. Maybe it’s happened and I didn’t notice. Maybe it’s coming and I shouldn’t be afraid, even though I am alone and I have been for nearly 27 years and I’ve always found a way. That said, mum and dad are going away soon for a month, what will be the single longest I’ve ever lived on my own, and it will be interesting to see if I’m still alive come the end of it. They even bought an extra freezer so I don’t have to go to the shops, something every shy person struggles with.
There’s no denying something has changed, readers. A sense of self-importance. That you’re wanted and needed. I’ve never felt these things before. My boss this week called another menu I designed ‘excellent’ and praised me for something else I did, “Good lad.” I’m managing better than I ever thought I could, yet the more I cope, the more scared I become. Like I’m sinking in to quicksand. It’s a strange paradox. You don’t believe what’s happening to you so you convince yourself it’s not real. You’ll wake up any minute now in your old life and the status quo will be restored.
You’re a star. So maybe it’s time to start… believing. As much as I know it’s tempting fate, which, famously, has wanted me dead since I was born, maybe it’s time to start hoping and praying that, for once, something good will happen. I’ve never asked for anything and I’ve never deserved anything, but maybe I deserve this. And, if it’s not too much to ask, can I also beg Mr. Fate to rid me of this bloody goddamn flu…
Maybe things are changing. And maybe I shouldn’t be so frightened.
After all, in a matter of weeks, I’ll be heading to the mosh pit at an Iron Maiden concert. If you told me I’d be doing that 10 years ago, I’d be laughing in your face.
Now, however, I’m hoping to get on stage and do a couple guitar solos…
English writer and modernist, Adeline Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), once said: “Growing up is losing some illusions, in order to acquire others.”
Peace Out :|:
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