on advice + resolutions
In the true Something Old fashion, I wrote something serious and people subscribed so now I must write something overly personal. It’s a short one. Maybe you’ll like it.
As I’ve thought about resolutions for the new year i’ve known not to go too big. Not that I’ve ever been one for big lofty goals. Usually i’m just trying to be nicer to myself, which is just code for hoping this year is the year I can consider my eating disorder past tense. Will 2021 be that year? I don’t know. Who’s to say.
But, in considering my goals for this undoubtably bad year, I’ve been thinking about the glaringly flawed ways I’ve built my sense of self while just trying to stay afloat. There are all these coping mechanisms I’ve created in order to just get through that I’ve built myself this embarrassed, horrible cage obsessed with doing everything alone. Obsessed with the idea that I know myself best. Resigned to anything improving for me out of fear of, well, everybody and everything.
I am impressively bad at taking advice and worse at asking for it. That’s probably the best place to start.
I got my fall semester grades. If you’ve read this newsletter for a while or follow me on twitter, you might have been able to feel my level of frenetic depression as it grew and changed throughout the fall. Being alone in my apartment all the time because it was online sucked.
When my boyfriend confronted me gently with the concept that, hey, maybe I don’t actually have to be alone all the time and definitely don’t have to be inside all the time.
“You don’t have to suffer through in the same way just because you made it through last time”
But instead the defensive wall in my chest goes up and my brain is screaming that I know myself best. I do my best. I understand myself. I got through it.
I’m always just getting through and I’m viciously uninterested in your suggestions for improvement.
I’ve always been so sure I can do everything myself and deal with everything myself. I know it’s because I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t know how to everything. It’s also because a lot of things work out for me to a level I’m happy with.
I prepared for the LSAT entirely on my own. Took it one time. I could have asked for help or done classes, but I got into every law school I applied to with majority full ride scholarships, so why would I?
I made zines alone and figured out how to find an audience for them without any help. I’m proud of them and couldn’t hope for a better result from it both socially and as something that makes me feel calm. I didn’t need to seek out zine community or tests to have that, so it doesn’t matter I was just too scared to go to events.
Maybe I ruined the first five rolls of film I ever shot because I was too embarrassed to ask my dad how to use my camera. Who cares though, right?
It’s not that I don’t see the potential value in taking advice or asking for help, it’s just that I’ve built this aversion into myself and who I think I am.
I was too afraid to ask to contribute to the blogs my friends work with, so now I do this and I think I’m better off for it. Doing zines without input and developing a writing style without input has worked for me to the level I need it to.
My aversion to input is as narcissistic as it is insecure.
Even an incredibly kind gesture like writers offering to be resources for questions is painful. It’s something I appreciate deeply as they don’t have to reach out, but at the same time, I feel like a crumpled up piece of paper thinking about it. It might as well be a career services office email I’ve already convinced myself I don’t need.
My brain screams this almost valid pattern:
I don’t have questions. I never have questions. There’s an art to having questions that give you face time with interviewers or to endear yourself to staff or your boss or your professor. I’ve never been good at that. I don’t want to ask you a question I know the answer to or I know I can find the answer to easily. I appreciate you’re willing to answer, but I don’t have questions.
The reality of that is somewhat true. I’m uninterested in pointless questions just because you’re told you’re allowed to ask. I always feel like I’m wasting someone’s time so I tell myself I don’t need anybody’s help or answers.
What’s undermines it is that one of those people who offered me support in the form of being available for questions or anything is probably the only person whose advice I have ever taken seriously.
If you’re interested, I asked him how to take myself more seriously without becoming insufferable. He told me a few things but what stuck was not to call myself a bad writer, I’m just a writer, and not to say I make silly little zines, I just make zines. Nobody wants to deal with your self deprecating neuroses. And that’s good advice. It’s something I probably needed to hear. Maybe you might need to too, I don’t know.
Point is that it helped settle something in my brain a bit and it was easier to just send him that email than it would be to find a perfect essay or podcast or whatever that would tell me that very simple thing. I realized while watching a Mike Birbiglia special today how much I usually read books and watch tv shows and standup comedy trying to learn something I don’t have to ask for. I’m searching for something Important™️ I can sap from every piece of media I pay attention to. Practical advice, metaphoric emotional advice, questions I can ask myself. It doesn’t matter if someone else says it, I just need to be able to warp it to myself on my own. If I do that enough I can pretend I know myself well enough I am exempt from needing advice.
Even when someone is trying to make my life easier or suggests I could make my own life easier, I rarely engage with that because it feels like a loss of control I can’t handle. It’s weakness, it’s loss of control, it’s an admission of cracks in myself.
Or, well, it feels like it.
As I move into this year I guess my only real resolution is to break down this neurotic obsession with control and not needing input. I’m aware my favorite things to do are the things I get to do collaboratively with my friends or other writers. I’m aware getting advice from people with different points of view can help me and it shouldn’t feel like being patronized. I’m aware that my most positive memories of the fall are drinking coffee and wine in a park with a girl I’d like to be better friends with. I should be able to admit to myself that other people can help.
The world sucks more and more everyday, I am begging myself to let other people help.
Miranda Reinert is a zine maker, music adjacent writer, and law student based in Philadelphia. Follow me on Twitter for more on music and other things like which Cartel album I think is best: @mirandareinert.