Competition is naturally a big part of life. We perceive others simultaneously as friend and foe, as ally and threat, and no matter where you go and what you do, at some time or another this mindset will interfere with everything you have going for you. Per example, as I ‘worked’ (no pay, not really working) in film journalism it was always great to see friends rising up, getting cushy gigs, the bigger junkets, but of course it was also a hard hit when you didn’t get anything close to that, when you watch people younger, fresher, rising faster and higher. Eugh. One only need spend ten minutes on Facebook, seeing the lives other people present to the world to feel like you’re not doing well enough, that they scored all the winning goals and you’re still on the bench wondering when you’ll be subbed in (The world cup is coming, so naturally I’m finding ways to make this relevant). The term FOMO seems silly, it’s a catchy little acronym for something that also seems ludicrous, like some ‘millenial angst bullshit’, fear of missing out. It is very real, of course, but the cutesy attempt to name it kills the seriousness inside. Sure, you may get ‘a mild case of FOMO’ or ‘FOMO like a motherfucker’ when you see someone’s at a big event of an evening, and in most cases it’s simple envy, but things can build. I fear missing out on everything. Not on the latest film, not on a party, not on a trip abroad (Although, guys, seriously, let’s do something) but on the whole damn ride.
I write essays about myself from time to time, I’m a writer so it’s natural to just splurge a word count on the self, I think more about myself than anyone else ever will, so apologies if this hits boxes ticked before, there’s not a lot going on with me actively, which is what this is about. A few years back I had a real down period as a film journalist (unpaid) and took a back seat on it, seeking out something else that could become both love and profession. It was when I managed to get a job as an editor at a post house, and it felt like good things do happen. This came tumbling down as a series of mental health deteriartions, intense working conditions and narcissistic tendencies from other folk turned life into a nightmare where it was keep working and throw myself under a train within the next month, or quit immediately and try and reahbilitate myself into the world. I quit, saved the train for another day. And I quit. Everything.
In a bit of an experiment I exiled myself from everything except the cinema, social media and whenever people invited me to something. So, basically, I sat around in the dark for the majority of the last 18 months. It’s not a great feeling when you realise people don’t just get on without you, but seem to flourish, and I’m sure folk will say ‘that’s not true, we love you’ but, I mean, the results speak for themselves. It put my mind in a dark place, naturally, as what good have I given the world? Ultimately all I want to do is make people happy, make things, art, that makes people feel something beautiful and maybe smile. As it stands, I’m at a crossroads and utterly lost as to how, or who, or what, or even why I should keep aiming for that. I’m not a normal person, I’ve become wildly aware of that over the course of my life, as I watched friends at school become normal people. I had FOMO before they had a name for it. I watched folk at college and uni grow from teens to adults naturally, they had a sense of what they were going to do, and had friends, loves, a sense of themselves and the world around them that led to confidence, an air of an ability to make things happen, and independence. As I sat around, writing so many things about the worlds I envisioned around me, about people I’d want to follow, to watch go through trials and tribulations, and forgot to live my own life as I created others. And then I became an adult.
You read about folk that made their big statement in the world when they are in their 40s or 50s, authors, painters, designers, and you have a nice moment feeling there’s no rush, art will happen, it’ll find an audience eventually (Herman Melville died in poverty but Moby Dick is forever considered a masterpiece and one of the bigger-selling books along with The Bible and my upcoming book Please Buy Me – I Will Update This Title Later), but then you think about how these people lived before, wrapped up in building their dream but also having a life, adventures, something more before they broke through to the entire world. That’s terrifying. How does one be a person when all they think about, day and night, is something internal, something they want to, nay need to, put out there? How does one create and be true to their inner self when doing ‘normal person’ things take over so much, and stop you from being the you required? Is that when you give up? Is that when you give it all up? Is that even possible? Like some sort of artistic rehabilitation, or worse, lobotomy, so you can finally ingratiate yourself into human society? I’m scanning for answers myself, these are questions I think almost all the time. I, personally, oftentimes wish I was born of normal stock, to grow into something more average person-ey. Being weird is a burden I’m not, as I stare into the late twenties of my life, able to handle still.
I’ll get into myself a bit more now. A few months ago I finally decided to ask my mother the true story of how she and my father met. For years they fed a convenient story of how he was an electrician that she called out to her flat to fix the fuse, and they fell… Thing is, from a child, my father, who was an electrical technician, was scarred by an electician who was electricuted in his house becuase he worked with the mains still on. So, why would he Batman it up and do the one thing he’s scared of? (Not because he’s brave, my father, bless him, is not an outgoing or self-confident person, he’s just a loud introvert) So my mother finally dishes the reality on me, and don’t tell anyone I told you this, because she used that story for cover for decades. They met through early electronic dating. This was the 80s, and these two people couldn’t find someone for them in the world as normal, so through the will of new technology and money they were paired together. Were it not for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Oscar-nominated role I wouldn’t be writing this essay. This threw my head through the ringer.
I struggled being normal when I thought my parents were normal folk that met through usual ways, meet-cutes, banter in a bar, a quirky date, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but now here we are, my parents couldn’t find weight, meaning, love in the world they occupied so had to pay to search for something. And for what? All my life I’ve seen two individuals who sleep seperately, live seperately and maybe have dinner and/or coffee together, they’ll watch sport together, and that’s it. It’s not a spark, it’s not a beautiful happily-ever-after, it’s not for the ages, it all feels like two people who decided that they could tolerate one-another JUST enough (And even then…) to proceed living a life together, starting a business together (Mother doing the admin side, father doing repair work) and for some reason creating life together.
It has fucked me up royally to think about these two, and what I must be as I come from them. Despite all the things I have done, all the places I have gone, all the people I have met, I still feel like some glitch in the universe, from two folk that were never meant to have met. And yet I have a brother. Two years older. Just hit 30. Married to the love of his life, they show passion, dedication, real love for one another, they have two angelic boys that bring smiles to the coldest hearts. Wh…how? Is it that he got everything, and I’m the ‘other bits’ of humanity? Did he just realise early on that escaping is the best way for it? Surely not, he bought a house around the corner from where we lived all our lives. So with ease I can look across the way and feel the FOMO of life. Of a family that loves, that cares, that feels more than obligation to be within a room with one another.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this stuff, as an introvert it’s a lot of where my mind would go to anyway, but I believe due to schedules and lacking want from folk around the small town of London I’ve spoken to 4 people in the past month. When you remove yourself from the conversation and see it go on without you, it becomes nigh-on impossible to jump back in. It becomes painful to realise your limited part in the world, your lacking use as anything but a supporting character folk pop in on once in a while to vent their problems to. Like a third-tier character in a movie, it’s like my sub-plot barely exists and certainly doesn’t move when the protagonists aren’t spending time with me. I seemingly freeze, don’t do a thing, when I’m not part of the story, I become nothing, dust, waiting for the spotlight to hit once more for another few seconds. It’s bizarre, and entirely my own doing. I wouldn’t know what to do with life if it handed itself to me anyway. It’s just not in my backstory.
I am missing out and I am deeply afraid. And I don’t know how to start. Or why I should. Or who I can trust enough to commit such reverence to, or what I should do, or when, which, the reporter questions. I just don’t want to remove myself more than I have done, it turns out when you George Bailey yourself it’s not as wonderful as his life looked.