A former college friend of mine had a habit of getting paralyzed by self-pity. We could just be eating dinner, figuring out where to go for the evening or picking classes for the next semester, and the self-doubt would come and disrupt the entire affair, like a short circuit. I remember one evening, we were wandering around Boston and about to go to Newbury Comics. Something happened, or some realization came crashing down, and suddenly we were milling about on the streetcorner, waiting for the storm to pass.
Rather than idle around or try to coddle or assuage her, which were my usual two tactics, I instead simply turned to her and said, “Repeat after me: ‘The world is not my fault. Let’s go to Newbury Comics.'”
She looked at me somewhat perplexed. She protested, “I know the world isn’t my fault, but this thing…etc.” But after a time, she did, in fact, repeat after me. A few times, like a mantra. “The world is not my fault. Let’s go to Newbury Comics.” And then we did.
We’re not friends anymore, as it turns out. After several years of idling, coddling and assuaging, I got tired and giving and never getting anything back. But one thing I took away was that mantra. Because at times, we’re all paralyzed by self-pity. We’re all held back by our own self-doubt, our beliefs — however erroneous — that we are not valued, that we can’t do anything right. But if you stay there, if you let the needle catch on that groove (like, arguably, my ex-friend did), you’ll never get anywhere.
So, try it. When you’re caught in that loop, just say it: “The world is not my fault. Let’s go to Newbury Comics.” Or maybe it’s “let’s go get ice cream” or “let’s go for a run.” Either way, move forward, plow ahead. The goal or the destination needn’t be huge. Just a record shop, or a chocolate cone. Sometimes, it’s all you need.
Today, I am going off the grid. I am rebooting. I am going to adventure around a part of Boston I am entirely unfamiliar with, and I couldn’t be more excited. I am going to take circuitous bus routes and walk for miles and take tons of pictures. I am going to eat lunch at a new cafe. And I am, in fact, going to go to Newbury Comics.