i don't follow through with anything
December 8, 2003 04:44 PM

When I was a child, I heard from my parents that I didn't follow through on anything.

It was sometimes true. I started getting involved in new things that looked good at a distance, then gave them up over a few months, or a year. Tap dance. Crafts. Dolphins. Baptists. Recorder. Singing. The baton. Archaeology. Early American History. Ballet. Piano. Painting. Sports.

What I heard from my parents convinced me that this was a problem, a native flaw in me that I needed to work to fix. I was an irresponsible dilettante, a spendthrift of my parents' money and time and my own personal investment. It was wrong to pick things up and then drop them. I evolved this theory that, as I'm competitive, if I didn't immediately see myself as having the potential to be amazing at something, I would quit. I was a defeated perfectionist.

By the time I was in high school, it became an essential truth of me. It didn't matter that I poured metaphorical blood into the theatre, or that I'd stuck with one of my musical instruments (the harp) for years, albeit grudgingly at times. Everything extracurricular that I picked up was about my defeated perfectionism - another thing that I would drop, in just a matter of time. I could never really succeed at anything, because I just wouldn't try hard enough.

And some part of me was so certain I'd lose at everything. That I was doomed to failure.

Except - I didn't. So much of what I did and thought when I was sixteen continued on. Everything I've tried as an adult I've succeeded at. Still, I don't see those things - the things I suck at but stick to, the things I continue to be amazing at. Because I don't stick to anything, I don't follow through - that's what I believed.

I had this epiphany.

My epiphany is this: I believe a lie. Part of my notion of myself is constructed upon the lie my parents told me based on some things that I did when I was eight. I'm sure they believed the lie, too, and believed that they were helping me by telling me these things; no half-sane parent tells a child lies out of spite.

I'm angry about this. That my parents believed this thing about me that was so fundamentally untrue. That I could have believed it. That I could disregard the experience of years so this fiction could appear true.

I'm angry. But I'm also tremendously relieved.

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