I Just Wanted to Be Cool

I just wanted to be cool.

Now that I am approaching 58, perhaps as a result of my many years of psychotherapy or perhaps by grace of my living with someone who tells me every day he loves me very much, I feel about as cool as I need to be. Which is to say that I no longer really feel I need to be cool. And, I don’t think cool is the essence of what I was longing for – for decades. No. What I needed all along those decades of desperation (and depression), and what I indeed feel now, at long last, is a sense of connection. Today, above all, I feel a deepening and widening sense of connection with myself – or more accurately, with the parts of myself that I tried to bury or hide from for so long, because THEY were not cool. Rage, sadness, loneliness and shame.

Cool is in the eyes of the beholder – admirers, those who are envious. I was one of those who was envious. I wanted to be like one of the cool people, one of the A-list, one of the admired. And so I would imitate, or more like it, I would try to imitate – naturally without believing in myself in the process. What I believed instead was that I was a wanna-be, a fraud. While I really wanted to be a part of the crowd, in reality, I felt apart from the crowd, even if I was in their midst, and surrounded by them, and doing stuff with them, and dating them, and even sleeping with them. I felt apart. And in essence, I was apart, but not from them. I was apart from myself. I harbored a deep-seated feeling that I was not worthy, that I was not really particularly likeable, much less loveable.

At base, I did not love myself. I did not treat myself with dignity and respect. I thought of myself with contempt for not being everything I thought I needed to be in order to merit my own esteem. I was ashamed of myself for not being perfect – or rather, for being imperfect in too many ways.

The cool people weren’t perfect. But I discounted their flaws as inconsequential. They were still cool. I believed my flaws were too many, too overwhelming – and as a result, I didn’t feel at ease in their presence. I always felt out-of-place – pretending as if I were, when inside I was telling myself I wasn’t. Trying too hard to fit in while feeling inside that I just didn’t belong. And not being able to figure out why, but instead feeling badly about myself for feeling badly about myself. Ugh, it was quicksand.

Recommended Reading:

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown