I’ve always theorized that the stories hardest to tell are the ones most worth being told. This toes the line of being too hard to tell, and posting will assuredly be a challenge. I suppose that’s why stories like this that include self-harm are so rare.
Note: This is deeply personal and very hard for me to post. I’ve always had a hard time believing people care about this kind of content. Making posts about my life is highly experimental which means feedback is even more appreciated than usual. If you like this post, please tell me. If you don’t, please tell me. I will always appreciate good, well thought out feedback and will not take relevant criticism personally.
To achieve Greatness
The story begins in India the summer after my Sophomore year of college, making it nearly three years ago. I had spent the last six weeks in Yunnan, China studying traditional Chinese medicine and learning more about myself than imagine most people learn in their lifetimes. One lesson, taught to me by the many people I interacted with during those weeks, was that I was far more powerful than I had previously imagined. Young, strong, healthy, and with all the privileges and opportunities that come with being a 20-year-old attending a top university, I genuinely could do and be most anything I wanted. And what did I want? Everything. Well, rather to be good at everything. A renaissance person. In my words, I wanted to achieve Greatness.
While I have never been foolish enough to believe true Greatness can be achieved, I made a decision to strive for it. Not knowing where my life would take me but sure that I wanted diverse experiences and travel to be a part of it, I decided the approximation to Greatness that would work best for me would be to attain a high baseline skill level in as many things as possible. The idea was that if I and another novice attempt to do the same task, I will do it better.
With that goal in mind the next few years I strove to achieve Greatness.
A foolish aspiration
The funny thing about achieving Greatness is that as impossible as the goal is, moving towards it is relatively simple. Since I want to be good at everything nearly every activity has the potential to push me towards that goal if done properly. Do I feel like playing video games? Great, then I’ll play well and actively work to increase my skill. Do I feel like writing a blog post instead of a homework assignment? Fantastic, not only do I enjoy writing when I feel like it but it will help me to grow as a blogger.
This strategy worked quite well for me. I have a large variety of interests and at any given time there are one or two that I feel like doing any number of them which I do not. Adopting a mentality where all growth is considered equal proved effective, and over the last three years that philosophy brought results.
Of course, as always the idea of achieving Greatness in some soft of absolute form remained absurd. As the song goes,
From the day we arrive on the planet // and blinking, step into the sun // there’s more to see than can ever be seen // more to do than can ever be done
– “Circle of Life”, Elton John
Such noble self-harm
Ok, NOW we get to the part that’s hard to write. As such I am going to start by going on a tangent:
I don’t like trigger warnings, as I fear they give people permission to not read something that might make them uncomfortable. Feeling uncomfortable is important to gaining a fuller understanding of others, the world, and diverse humanity. That said, I have two rules, and one of them is “Don’t be an idiot.” So on that note if after reading the title of this section you know it would be actively stupid to read this section at this time, then follow Rule #1 and don’t be an idiot!
Now that I’m out of excuses, let’s get started! One of the things I dabble in is energy work. This is not the place for a proper explanation but effectively I am pretty good at reading the physical energy of other humans. I usually use this to find pressure points and areas of tension when I give massages, but I can also get a sense of deeper things like emotions under the right circumstances.
One day late last November I was teaching my friend Thalia how to read this type of energy. One of the exercises I gave her was for her to move her hand over different parts of my body and describe the color of what she felt. (This works because people associate tons of things from feelings to taste to sound with color.) During this exercise she found a “gross dark blue” area deep in my lower abdomen. I focused my attention on it and took a few guesses as to what it was but mostly kept them to myself.
A few weeks later I was teaching a different friend the same thing and they also pointed out the area, although given my attention was on it one shouldn’t put too much stock in this.
That big blue/black chasm in me is anger, and here is where we return to the plot.
One of the tactics that I have used extensively in my quest for Greatness is high standards for myself. I am a master of double standards. While it may be acceptable for others to get drunk, let go, and do something stupid, it isn’t ok for me – I can and should do better. Being bad at things went from understandable to failure, and with every failure I poisoned myself just a bit with self-directed anger. You see, along with my two rules, the other of which is “Don’t be an asshole,” there is an important clause: Everyone messes up sometimes, and that is both understandable and no reason to break the rules further. My double standard removed this clause.
Last Monday morning I arrived London. Last Tuesday night I went clubbing. Some time during the drunk-sitting the lid on that self-directed anger came loose.
I don’t know why but there’s something about the physical scars brought about from self-harm that I find beautiful. It’s one of the very few things I believe could captivate me for a full hour. I doubt I’ll scar, but for the time being it’s weird having that beauty on me.
When a friend self harms it is scary, and I would never give any one of my own permission to do that. That said I am a believer in Yin and Yang, and one of the things that philosophy teaches is that within Yang there is Yin and within Yin there is Yang. In other words and in context, there was a lesson to be learned from the marks on my wrist.
Achieving Greatness is noble goal, but the way I went about it meant denying myself the ability to make mistakes. I live by the principle that if one is going to do something they outta do it right, and still hold to that. Will I stop my quest for Greatness? Perhaps, for for now it is only on hold. I’ve tried to be everything, and actually done a damn good job at it. Now it’s time to remember what being myself is. Perhaps when I do I’ll once again take to the road towards Greatness. For now though, I suppose I’ll just have to be content with being great.