Humility is acceptable, right? Itâ€™s not so odd to stare at the ground–or my big-tongued Adidas sneakers, black or burgundy, depending on the mood–and take the compliments in stride, as in silence, instead of feeling full of myself? Am I asking a larger social question here? What am I asking? Should I switch to declarative statements, instead?
Iâ€™m trying not to turn my column into the musings of a newborn literary magazine editor, though that is my life these days. Not so much writing, however. My therapist asked me why. I said I donâ€™t know who I am anymore–which is to say, Iâ€™m no longer depressed and, as a result, Iâ€™m no longer driven by the feeling that writing, cathartically speaking, will help parry madness.
The words come easy–easier, maybe–because the murk is gone, but Iâ€™m in search of topics. The few scraps I do jot down raid my childhood memories, a writerly habit long overdue. Beyond that, what I have is my literary magazine, my role in it. Donâ€™t ask me for its name; seek it out, if you want. This is PANK; I want to be PANKish here instead of skanky, a suitable word for someone promoting his mag on another mag without permission.
Iâ€™m no skank. I am, however, a fan of the word.
In this, my chemically-regenerated life, Iâ€™m quietly teaching myself humility. Re-learning it, maybe. Or, perhaps, attempting to slot it back into my life, figuring out where it fits, what it means. Humility before the anti-depressants was mere ownership of a situation I couldnâ€™t change, akin to an unattractive man calling himself celibate.
I didnâ€™t choose to be humble; it was a requisite for survival, since I wanted to avoid eye contact. Eyes say everything, more so than words and on par with kisses, and I had to parse my meager ability for intimacy carefully–as in, I saved it for my wife. My beautiful wife. My literary magazine partner. My genius.
But as I said, Iâ€™m no longer depressed. I no longer default to humility and Iâ€™m scared. I stand in line for a pack of cigarettes, keenly aware of my increased smoking rate (not out of nervousness, but because I enjoy the slight high), and the cashier looks me in the eyes. I stare back. She smiles. I smirk because sheâ€™s not attractive to me, but Iâ€™m attractive to her and being attractive to anyone always triggers a smirk, even a socially awkward one. She says hi and I say hi and I feel the looseness in my limbs, the ease of being self-assured (?). I do nothing else but pay for my cigarettes and bop, not walk, out of the store. This is life, I think to myself. Cool.
What is life as a literary magazine editor? Odd.
Iâ€™m never one to question a personâ€™s motives; if you can believe it, this approach isnâ€™t rife with pitfalls, since peopleâ€™s true selves always come out–no sense digging into flesh and sentences only to find a vaultâ€™s door set to a timer. Anyway, I receive more and more compliments for my work. And I say thank you.
I pause and think You could say more. You could expound on your overall artistic goal–undefined as it is, but I could fake it. I could also be a clown or a chest-thumping gorilla: be the writer who attracts guffaws for outlandish one-liners; tower over other writers, look down on them.
In the last few days, Iâ€™ve tried both permutations. They feel awkward. Inauthentic. Iâ€™d rather be humble (re: boring) than inauthentic. When called out on it, all I could say was My man, youâ€™re right.
What that means for me tomorrow, Iâ€™m not so sure. Tomorrow is what it is, so Iâ€™ve heard, and today ainâ€™t over. Iâ€™m no longer depressed; I no longer default to humility; all I have is authenticity: as pure and hopeful as the blank page.