I’m My Own Hero (But I Could Never Convince My Self That I’d Get There)

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I don’t know how it works for other people, but I have archetypical versions of myself – there’s a part of me who will forever be sixteen and howlingly lonely, eating isolated in crowded high school cafeterias because that’s who I was at sixteen.

Likewise, at nineteen there’s an archetypical Ferrett who hosted Norwalk’s finest (and Norwalk’s only) Rocky Horror Picture Show, a slutty showman in endless dysfunctional relationships who compensated for insecurity with great bold flourishes.

But most importantly: Borders Ferrett.

At twenty-seven, I got my first corporate job, working for Borders Books, and that was the first time I felt like An Adult: I’d moved out of my parent’s house, lived in my own house (well, a rented half a house, but still), I’d made friends in Ann Arbor, I had a social life.

I was a grown-up.

And Jesus, I was a wreck.

I think of everything I didn’t do then – I didn’t exercise, which led to my heart problems. I didn’t go to the dentist, which led to my teeth problems. I didn’t write regularly, because what if my novel got rejected, what then? I didn’t call home enough, I didn’t take my psych medications…

And all those were things I wanted to do. I just… didn’t.

And I wish I knew why. I have some clues, of course – lesser willpower, fear of success, yadda yadda – but to a large extent twenty-seven-year-old Borders Ferrett’s motivations are opaque to me.

Yet over the past year, another Ferrett has arisen: Old Ferrett. I’m 51, that’s getting on in years, and yet here I am working out enough to have abs and going without sugar for two months, with six published books out and potentially more in the pipeline, doing woodworking while I smoke a good cigar and drink bourbon (on the non-power tools days) and also being in several long-term, stable relationships with still-smokin’ hot sex…

I would have been Borders Ferrett’s fucking hero.

And he would never have seen himself as being capable of me.

I think of my young Borders Ferrett and how he had everything he needed for success – I ponder every conclusion I came to that changed my life, and sure enough, someone had told me where I was going wrong. My mother knew what I was doing that made me unhappy, my Uncle Tommy did, my friends did…

Yet I was so attached to my insecurities that I fought to be weaker than I was.

And if I could go back in time to tell Borders Ferrett, “Hey, buddy, you can have everything you ever dreamed of,” he would have been a wildcat of rationales, telling me all the reasons I could never be me, even though I would have very concrete evidence in the form of me that I could one day be me.

(Pause to ponder how interesting time travel grammar is.)

And I wonder what I’ll be in twenty years, with luck. I hope my older self will be even more stronger and even more badass in terms of protecting his friends and fearlessly flinging his art into the world.

And, like me, I think Future Ferrett might have come so far that he’ll have forgotten the path.

I don’t think less of Borders Ferrett. He was doing the best he could. He didn’t understand, and it’d take decades of experience to slowly grind down those bad opinions of his, that negative self, those wretched habits.

Because honestly, half the reason I do as well as I do these days is that I’ve learned how to outsmart my own negative instincts. I have to work out in the morning, because I am a goddamned excuse engine, and if I get to 6:00 at night I know my bastard brain will manufacture an excuse to skip leg day. I have to write in isolation because if I think “Will people like this story I’m working on?” then I’ll panic, so I have to write my stories for me and me alone and just hope they kinda resonate. I have to know which days I can write controversial essays and which days I go, “Not my circus, not my monkeys” because I’m low-energy and will hurt myself if I engage poorly.

I wish I could convince myself. But I know I couldn’t, not in that short a span of time. It took months, years, decades of face-planting failure after face-planting failure before I finally learned, and who I am today is very distant.

But I would have been my hero. That’s nice to know.

Even if I never would have believed that was me.

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