Many people know that I fill most of the hours of my day in front of various computers. As a web guy, I spend a lot of time designing, coding, testing, and (once every scattered guilty moment) browsing. During much of that time, I am subconsciously aware that this path chose me. While I can say that I actively sought out my current position, the path that led to it was one architected of primarily passive approaches to life.
I’ve often rationalized that my passivity is born out of a “laid-back” attitude. Even better, it is from such an abundance of blessings that the universe routinely had thrown at me that I simply chose a card from my hand and played it.
As every good card player knows, though, there are only so many aces that you can pull. After that, it’s all about the bluff.
I’ve written about this before. The notion that I had been relying on a passive existence was first introduced to me by a wonderful therapist in my Asheville days. It was a milestone moment for me. I will (quite literally) always cite that day as a moment when my life drastically shifted direction. There was (and perhaps still is) plenty of ground to recover.
One of the struggles continues to revolve around a sense of security in my self : self-confidence, if I’m honest. Whether it’s volunteering to sing harmonies in a band (something I’ve been doing practically my entire life) or recovering from the disappointment of being rejected for a new position, my “self” suffers a disproportionately large and long-lasting blow.
Oddly, it’s neither a matter of a fear of failure nor a fear of embarrassment.
I used to think it was a timidness – a “Who me? Put myself out there and do that? I couldn’t do that?” but I’m no longer convinced that this goes far enough in describing the situation.
Instead, it feels like I have a need to be pursued. For some strange reason, I seem to ask people to prove to me that I’m at all important to them. I don’t know where this comes from.
More importantly, this approach doesn’t seem to make that much sense in my adult life. I wonder if this comes from my background in church communities where you often had to beg and/or plead with people to get them to volunteer. Now, of course, this seems dysfunctional. In a thriving community, people readily, willingly, and confidently step up to fill the needs. In this scenario, you aren’t defined by a functionality that you can provide but by the leadership that you’re able to show – by the personality that you bring to the table.
My communal past (not just my church community past) more resembles the story line in which my friend only calls when a computer needs fixing. I get frustrated with these “functional friendships” (as I call them) and yet and I give in and fix the computer. Without fail. Every time.
It’s not because I’m being pursued – but it provides the illusion of pursuit. Instead, what is really happening is that my skills are being pursued, my knowledge, some small, compartmentalized component of myself. Here, my self is the vehicle that delivers the technical knowledge; my personality and being are simply along for the ride.
Now, as I begin to emerge from my cocoon of self-doubt, I’m learning that pursuit requires reciprocation: I’m only going to take so many steps towards you; if you don’t take a step or two in my direction, I’m assuming that you’re not ready, you want nothing to do with me, or you think I’m a creep.
Therefore, consider this an apology.
(To most of you,) I don’t think you’re creeps – and I want to learn more about you, enjoy dinner with you, and help you fix your computer. It’s just that I’m so used to living my life in such a way that I waited for people and things to come to me that I’m not used to having to step forward myself in return. It’s the classic, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
And so, to quote, Stuart Smalley:
I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!
But, does any of that really matter?