Growth

Spring is upon us. I exalt in the freshness, the light rains, giving way to long warm sunshine days, green and color everywhere. Is it possible to grow as a person? To change as a human being? To become better? I hope so. Has my life been a stagnant cesspool, where I’m just blowing wherever the wind takes me? Trying this, trying that, always afraid, trying to please people?

I’ve had the idea for this article for a week or two now, ever since I started going to therapy. But I need to finish it. One thing I’ve learned is you have got to finish the things you say you’re going to do. Even if it turns out horribly, it’s yours; own it, don’t be afraid, and put it out there. That’s what I need to do now.

Anyway, here’s the story. It was a warm, late spring evening in Hollywood when my life turned upside-down. A girl, my friend of about a year and a half, who I had recently / recklessly fallen in love with, said she wasn’t interested in dating.

I was speechless. ‘Oh,’ I said, as my brain literally shut down.

‘But I like hanging out with you,’ she offered.

‘Yeah?’ I said, with a boyish hope, but in disbelief.

This is the part where I should have accepted the fact that she wasn’t interested, and maybe we could have stayed friends. Instead, a kind of arrogance coupled with deep insecurity took over within me. I’d always valued determination and perseverance, so I thought that if I tried hard enough, I could make her interested in me. But over the course of a few months, then a year, what she thought about me became all that mattered; every unanswered text meant she hated me, and I lost all sense of who I was.

Sure, I was nominally working on a screenplay, but that was going slowly. I was unsure of myself and what I was doing. All I knew was that I wanted to be with her, and that became my main life focus.

When she said we shouldn’t be friends any more, that we didn’t have enough in common to need to be friends, I took it really hard. I thought we had a lot in common. I liked being creative, like she did. But I had put that on hold because I was so focused on her. I liked writing and making movies, but I had stalled out. I liked TV shows and movies she did: Star Wars, The Office. I thought we shared a similar skewed sense of humor, but maybe I wasn’t too good at expressing it because I was too busy being nervous about what she thought of me.

But there was also stuff she liked I didn’t, e.g. The Walking Dead: it’s mediocre! Game of Thrones: overrated! Yeah, maybe we don’t have enough in common to be friends. Also, in my mind, I was critical of her that she wasn’t doing enough to actually start going on acting auditions like she said she would, or to start writing more of her really terrific blog posts.

Once we stopped talking, I didn’t really have anyone to talk to, apart from my family. I had no more use for social media. She was all I cared about seeing anyway, and I couldn’t stand seeing her. So I took myself off completely. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. In watching other people’s lives constantly, I was losing my  my own sense of self. I wanted to figure out who I was, without the need for likes and follows.

Now that all that was gone, I needed to dive into some new things. I had wanted to try oil painting for a while, so I did that. I just wanted to get creative again at any level where I can see the results. At first it was difficult, but it turned out to be great fun, and very relaxing. The time just flies while you’re painting, and anxieties seem to melt away. The results are instant, and tactile, and it’s oh so satisfying to push colors around a canvas and make something of it.

I found some new interests through her friendship too. I started getting into poetry more. I bought Last Night of the Earth poems, by Charles Bukowski, an author I probably never would’ve heard of otherwise. It was so down to earth, unpretentious, funny, and inspiring. His novel Post Office was great too. It has this kind of effect to inspire you to write, because it’s so down to earth.

I started writing a few of my own poems too, and just did a live reading of two of them last week, something I never thought I’d do.

I thought I’d like to start writing blogs and articles too. The way she could express herself in her blog, and share thoughts and feelings, was really cool to me. So I re-did my website, shifting its focus from boring business aspects to completely personal ones, ones that interest me. I wanted to make a really weird website. That’s one of the items I had in my iPhone to-do list: make weird website. So here it is.

I wrote my second song a couple of weeks ago, and performed it live at Sun Space with my friend Jelani this past Tuesday. I wasn’t going to post it, because it’s kind of personal, and musically it was sloppy and I messed up a few times. But I thought, screw it, who cares. Just put it out there.

I also think I’ve been growing a lot since I’ve been seeing a therapist. She recommended the book Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed & Totally Sober) by Harlan Cohen. It was pretty eye opening, teaching me things I’d never really thought about or learned. That there are thousands of people who will love you and be into you and want to date you, but at the same time, there will be millions of people who will not. And that you have to be okay with people not wanting to date you, even if you think you have a lot in common. I failed this test, but I hope I can grow from it.

He also talks about being ‘comfortable in your thong’, meaning, being comfortable with the things about yourself that you can’t change, and changing the things you can.

And finally, you just have to be honest and talk to people and kind of tell them your feelings if it’s going well, and be totally okay with rejection, since there are thousands of other people who could be  interested in you. You just have to follow your passions, talk to people, get in rooms with groups of people, and get to know people. That dating shouldn’t be this pressure cooker of anxiety, because it’s just about two people having an enjoyable shared experience, that doesn’t have to lead to anything physical. It’s about you figuring out who you like.

My therapist gave me an assignment to just walk up to people I found attractive and ask them, ‘what time is it?’ Then, ask for some numbers too and meet for coffee. I actually met a random girl during my friend’s band playing at the Hi Hat last week, the same place I hung out with that other girl once. And I got this new girl’s number, and we kind of have plans to meet for coffee soon.

What else? I’m trying to write more; writing with a friend to expand my Bad Psychiatrist short into a feature film; been writing a few short sketch videos, which I want to film soon, doing an improv class at Second City, and even tried stand up for the first time in a little while.

So, is growth possible? Can a person really change, leaving behind the old bad ways of insecurity and anxiety? Fingers crossed… hopefully this article is just another step in the right direction.

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