By Bianca Ozeri
Today is one of those days where I can’t believe I have to be a human for the next sixty-five years. On these days — more abundant in this post-graduate alternate universe — I become particularly cynical. With that being said, I’m going to write about something that I think about a lot, but rarely ever speak of, let alone publish on the internet. Self-pity.
It’s a taboo subject mainly, I think, because everyone hates a self-loather and yet, everyone, on some shitty day or another, is one. So, at the risk of sounding like someone who you don’t want to hang out with, let me say: I’m in a place of deep self-pity right now. I’m fucking pissed off — and more so, sad — that I work at a restaurant instead of a literary magazine, that all of my friends live in Los Angeles (where I went to school), that my parents will never be in the same room again, that I live under my mother’s roof, that I’m not in love…
That’s the thing about self-pity: it begins in a somewhat rational zone and yet, before you can contemplate any solutions, you’re running with it — or rather it with you, scraping your knees on hurtles that, although may be existent, are not nearly as tall and robust as you imagine.
So, to balance this all out — just so you don’t take pity on me because even though that’s what my self-pity wants, it’s not what I want — you should know that I’m one of the lucky ones. I come from a very loving, supportive, affluent family, in which I can afford to fuck up, not pay rent to my parents’, and work for Brie. I am in fact, I’d say, in the upper, upper echelon of the lucky: I am aware of this, I’m sure to say it to myself everyday, I’m sure never to forget it. And still, like some unwelcome distant cousin insistent that I put her up — for we are blood, after all — self-pity roams me.
So what’s the deal? Of course, like every other problem, it has to do with our parents. My father’s father was abusive, he grew up the victim, and only knew — still only knows — how to be that. But with every problem I have I make sure to convince myself — if only to be reminded that I am separate from my parents — that there is a greater cause than my upbringing.
Like any addiction, self-pity, regardless if it’s warranted or not, feels pretty relieving — it’s a comfort zone. There is a sweetness to that sadness that almost feels like good company: a hand on the shoulder that says, “I empathize with you, it’s okay that you’re feeling this way…” and then, like it’s true overdramatic form, “…you really shouldn’t strain your mind with work right now, go on, wallow by the window, ARE YOU KIDDING? no way would I judge you if you stayed in bed all day”…and blah blah blah. Like any addiction, self-pity feels like medication, then before you know it you’re beaten by your own mind game.
Make no mistake fellow pitiers, it is a powerful force. But also remember, you are not powerless to it. Now, considering that I’m only a mere twenty-three years old, I’ve spent much more time with self-pity than combating it. But nonetheless, I’m going to suggest a few things that have helped me beat this fucker down.
1) Get Up Early: Light in the morning is of a more hopeful hue that any other time of day. I don’t care if you have absolutely nothing to do but wonder a park, and sit in cafés, and ride the subway to nowhere with a book (cat’s out of the bag on my day), get up early. The simple act of rewarding yourself a full day, because you deserve a full day, of being able to say “Good Morning” to the barista, of feeling tired at night, is enough to pull you a little further out of the hole.
2) Distract yourself. Work. A self-pitying ming is an unoccupied mind. Build something. Read till you go cross-eyed. As Blara has taught me to do, make jewelry out of Home Depot supplies. Even this post which is probably just a reiteration of what everyone already knows has made me feel better!
3) Talk to your friends. They’ll be the real hand on the shoulder, and my bet is they can empathize, no matter how alone you feel you are.
4) Take off your headphones and stop daydreaming. This sounds like crazy advice for a writer to dispel but I often feel that a lot of my self-pity comes from an obscene amount of daydreaming about what I want my life to look like. I’ll take two hour walks, dreaming up relationships, and apartments, and dialogues that aren’t mine, only to return home to remember what’s real. And even though those scenarios in my head are not, they can take a toll; more than once I’ve been greeted at the door with, “Are you okay?” Dream about what is in your grasp. (Take this one with a grain of salt thought; some of my happiest times are spent in my imagination.)
5) Read Joan Didion’s essay “On Self-Respect”.
6) Smile when you’re sad. You’ll feel like a fucking idiot, but the mind has a way of hearing the body.