I am zero, I am infinity. I am one, I am zero. I am God, I am nothing.
I’ve always been a weird kid, and being a weird kid is difficult. It makes you feel like a round object in a world built for square pegs. The other side of that dichotomy is that being weird makes life so much more beautiful and scary and funny and exhilarating. While a normal lifestyle still has all those ingredients, they are delivered in moderation and often at “appropriate times.” When you’re weird you give up a lot of control but in return you often find these incredible feelings overlap. That terror-beauty cocktail is wonderful, but it comes at a steep price.
There’s the fear that you’ll never meet anyone who could understand and care. There’s traveling around aimlessly and indefinitely to avoid knowing people long enough to disappoint them. There’s chronic unemployment. But oftentimes the most expensive price to pay is the one that attracts you the most: constantly living at the emotional extremes of the human condition. When you’re not the shit you’re just shit.
The idea of seeking an official name for this condition or trying to cure it is on par with Frodo taking off The One Ring. From a logical standpoint, it seems like the best move to secure a stable life. From the standpoint at the bottom of this well, it seems like giving up the only thing that gives a weak adventurer his power. For now, I choose to roll the dice on “making it as an artist,” but that can only come with the decision to take personal responsibility for paying that price in all of its forms.
The lows are some of the deepest sufferings the world can provide, often devoid of any profound meaning at all. Everything you create is nothing more than a shallow vanity project, and for all the credit you give your potential, your actual creation always seems less than average. You can’t ignore the deep, wide gulch between your creations and “professional art.” You are absolute garbage, from the surface to the core and everyone knows it just as much as you do. If you tell people otherwise you’re a liar. If you’re told otherwise, it’s by someone who feels sorry for you. You can take one look at yourself and understand why a nice person would have that reaction, but you can’t figure out how to prove to them they are simply wrong. It’s no wonder you can’t make friends, let alone hold a job. The hospital bill your mother paid to give birth to you is a debt you were only able to pay off as a baby before everyone could realize how fucked up you really are. You are the emotionless mistake of your parents manifested in protein, calcium, and regret.
The highs are some of the best I’ve ever felt. You are the only person like you who has ever existed and likely ever will. You pride yourself on the unignorable difference between yourself and most people. You refuse to be unremarkable as you etch your markings on the stone tablets of history. You can effortlessly produce unimaginable amounts of poetry and music limited only by the tools in front of you. The stories you create in your mind are so beautiful and complex that they seem too perfect to be written down. All the great parts would be lost in translation. Your creation and inspiration flow so easily that it often seems like your best ideas are accidental. If all the great artists could see your mind they would be envious of its capabilities. As you look out on this world, you feel like everything else is gilded on the surface to mask the total abscess of any meaningful substance below. What you feel may be painful and terrifying, but you are so grateful that it isn’t hollow. The lows are the price you pay to know you are alive with purpose.
My diagnosis I suppose is the label “weird.” I’m scared that if I get fixed then I’ll become a normal person who never feels amazing beauty and terror again, and somehow that seems more terrifying to me than living with those lows. I’m sure the reasons we live at these extremes could be attributed to chemical imbalances I wouldn’t understand. Something I do understand though is how we forge our identities from our past experiences. The events and lessons we were exposed to (especially at young ages) have direct correlations to the fundamental pillars in who we are, what we value, and the decisions we make. Personally, I have been shaped for the worse through my father’s experience with money, my mother’s experience with religion, and my own early experiences with the truth.
As a child, I did as all children do and mimicked the behavior demonstrated by the adults around me. In fear of someday being trapped inside of debt, I’d never spend a cent on myself or others when I didn’t absolutely have to. There was a shallow and cold pride that I derived from never accepting unprovoked kindness or money, regardless of how much I needed it. I saw the world in terms of moral and factual absolutes and forced myself to ignore the several logical contradictions that came with that. As a child (as all children are), I navigated life being wrong by default. In attempts to counteract that, I surrounded myself with all the people who had the same opinions as myself. I did this digitally as well, subscribing exclusively to ideologies I saw as the only right ones and surrounding myself with a close network of people who would be quick to confirm that. These most agreeable people made me feel entirely correct and unconsciously, I was the same to them until I was unable to identify or stand up for any beliefs that were truly my own.
I’m not special for any of those reasons. They are extraordinarily common and that makes the situation all the more beautiful. These combined factors lead to years of countless nights where sleep couldn’t find me through the heavy, hot air that was thickened by misery and apathy. Awake late into the dark blue skies of the morning, I would uncontrollably laugh myself onto the singed carpet of my bedroom. Some nights I would climb out my window onto the roof and look at the moon for hours on end, pretending I was talking to someone, practicing all the things I might say. For the longest time, I believed that this feeling of illness and total solitude was who I was. I didn’t just see myself as a product of the factors that built the perfect conditions for my misery to thrive, I saw myself as the misery itself.
The experiences we undergo in our youth fundamentally shape the person we’ve grown up to be but in no way do they limit who we can become.
Although I lived within these circumstances for all my life, deep down, I fundamentally understood that the life I was living was not compatible with who I am or the person I want to be. I had made it this far, but it just wasn't working out. Before graduating high school, I packed a bag and left on a whim to experiment with a few alternative lifestyles. That decision was probably not thought through and definitely made on the behalf of my infinity side. It led to many mistakes and several run-ins with the lowest of the lows, but overall, making that decision was absolutely worth it. It gave me some semblance of control over my life where I was allowed to try and balance my zero and infinity. I had to take responsibility for both but for the first time I got to steer that ship. It wasn't until I came back to my hometown to live the life I had before that I was able to see how passively miserable I actually was. I wasn't alone either; there were so many people who were living in my old shoes, accepting lifestyles that are slowly deteriorating them as if they couldn't consider another way to live.
Seeing this made it easier to understand why there is so much suffering and loneliness in the world. The defining factors and influences I experienced when I was younger are in no way at all specific to me. In fact, they are so generic that they may as well be a film cliché. As proof, the John Lennon quote, “Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks that I’m God Almighty” is so common that the first five Google results are from websites that all have the word ‘quote’ in the URL. The fact it’s so common almost makes these widespread feelings of uniqueness, absolute loneliness, and solitude a joke that writes itself. These factors don’t make us alone, they make us human.
The regard I hold myself in is jumping back and forth between that of a Demiurge and a new recruit on the lowest echelon within the Church of Scientology. The best thing we can do in that position strives for a balance between an inflated ego and low self-esteem. When you’re high, admit when you’re wrong and be considerate of others; seek out the people you’ve hurt and apologize to them. When you’re low, reach out to someone you trust and keep in mind a general understanding that all the flashy things in life labeled as success are just as tangible as smoke in mirrors. It’s all show business. No matter where you find yourself on the ego scale, it always helps to expand your perspective beyond yourself. Be mindful that who you are is an amorphous concept that changes every second. Don’t attach your identity to zero because that’s not who you are. Unfortunately, this also means you’re not infinity, but accepting that should relieve a lot of pressure. You are what is left after your limitations are subtracted from the larger concept of whatever you decide to be. Come closer to that concept by identifying each of those limitations as specifically as you can and categorize them by whether or not you can change it. Change what you can and live with what you can’t. I’m not saying this will make your life easier, more fulfilling or even happier; oftentimes these are the case but they are not guaranteed. What is guaranteed is better than all of that; better than eradicating zero or conquering infinity: It will make you the true and authentic version of yourself.