Why am I so resentful of other peoples’ happiness?
This is a question that used to have an easy answer, but now it seems more difficult to examine as I go on.
Looking back at myself and how I have changed in the last two, four, six years, the easy answer to why I resented other people for their happiness was that I was miserable.
Even more than being miserable though, I was in denial of being miserable.
Going back to high school, the experience of opening up to people, of sitting in stupid cinder-block dorm-rooms discussing stupid political things and not getting booed out, of sitting in quad-like courtyards, of making movies and writing things and just beginning to find my voice and gain some respect–it was all such a rush.
I have gabbed and bloviated on here many times about how miserable my high school experience was, a sentiment that almost seems cliche to express nowadays (for me or otherwise), but also just how enclosed.
I was an introvert, a person who kept to myself, I’d wear my same leather jacket every day, my same crappy polo. I’d take tentative, painful steps outside of myself calling up friends, maybe trying to have a conversation with someone and the negative outcome of all the already self-worthlessness (and, by compliment, defensive hatred of others) and my inability to connect would others would only reinforce the notion that I was unlikeable, unloveable, that only I could exist with me in a cloistered setting, talking to myself, patting myself on the back.
“It’s alright.” I would tell myself dissociatively, a voice in my head, stepping outside my emotion. “I am here for you, Nick. I love you. I think you’re good and cool.”
And then that voice would pat me on the back as I’d reach my arm over on the long walk uphill toward the 95th St R train onto my black leather jacket and pat myself literally. At least there was that something in me, taking care of me.
It’s sad to admit looking back at it because it was a sad time. That dissociative voice, something I am sure other people have but which people are loathe to admit (schizophrenia, might be the stigma or diagnosis) followed me for a long time as some sort of way of containing myself or handling my depression. The idea that one is so isolated, so unwilling to lean on others or ask for help, or even able to necessarily, that they have to invent something outside themselves to even exist, to deserve to exist. Rough.
But it’s a good context to look at college in, a place where I still was very unhappy in large parts of my life, even while I was opening up, discovering and experiencing greater happiness than I had ever felt, or what felt like it.
After all, how could I be miserable sitting in a dorm room at 19 with a 40 of Colt 45 (It seemed cooler than the ubiquitous Olde English forties everyone was drinking) in my hands getting drunk in a room full of people who found me interesting and engaging, when 2 years earlier I had only myself for consolation/conversation.
I would cry going home to my dorm freshman year when I realized people were happy to see me, when people wanted to hang out, cry on my pillow at night that I had friends, I would ask people if they were “sure that they wanted to hang out with me” trying to make sure that I wasn’t imposing, taking tentative steps into the social world, beating myself up terribly, hating myself when I made a social mistake when I alienated someone, a bad cue or social move, alienating someone or losing a friend was like losing a toe, I’d never be the same again because I’d probably never have another one.
It was the same philosophy I had about growing my hair, fearing that if I cut my hair from it’s then super-long state, I might never have it again.
Looking at that progression to now, the amazing thing wasn’t my transformation into a fuller, realler more socially able person, a more realized person, but that for the time of that transformation, from coming out into the world of the living, through that pain and self-hatred and intense judgement, I culled small successes and called myself happy.
At the camp I taught at in rural Vermont, there was a blind woman who was also an assistant counselor (whom I would later try to hit on, unsuccessfully) who told me that when she opened her eyes in front a bright light source, especially if she was a little tipsy, she could see light: spots, floating in front of her face. She wasn’t born without vision but it had degraded rapidly as a very young child and she thought she might one day get her sight back, she was intent on it. To her, the small campfire we sat in front of on the camping trip where we were supposed to learn how to lead a camping trip (I later ordered pizza on the camping trip I led), was magic because it was light, something she could see. It was a transcendent experience for her but one she recognized as fleeting.
For me, I looked at those fleeting moments of happiness between the poor dating choices, intense internal/external creative pressure and incredible social adjustment and labeled myself as the happiest I’d ever been in my life, because that is what I knew my life to be.
But somewhere in me, that voice knew otherwise and I knew that because it continued to exist all throughout those college days and afterwards, walking me home on drunk sad nights where I never found the opportunity to make out with that girl in the back of Larry Lawrence, through around 50 film festival rejections including my own school’s, through realizing I now hated the place, the film school, which I had so immersed myself in, which I had so loved, in the wake of a terrible accident. Through uncontrollable rage at issues famlial and personal. Through all of that anger and sadness at others, myself.
I called myself happy throughout those times and projected my hatred at the falsehood of that, the denial of my suffering on to others.
My popular poem at the summer arts camp I attended: “I hate couples”.
There’s a reason, I’ve been attracted to some of my friend’s girlfriends throughout college, stupidly (other than their attractiveness) and it’s that somewhere I wanted their happiness, I resented them for it, I wanted whatever it seemed like they had for myself.
And even when I had a solid relationship and romantic fulfillment (still astonishing to me based on who I was), I was working at a movie theater dealing with the fallout of my film school dreams, clinging desperately to that happiness while utterly miserable, replying to questions like how are you with a smile, but a litany of complaints ending in that I still loved my girlfriend, so things were ok.
That struggle to be okay! To be not a burden! To continue one’s tenuous acceptance into the world!
As I’ve said many times before, I’m happier now (isn’t that crazy to say?) With the help of years of therapy, some yoga, some improv, a vacation, loving parents, weight loss and a good, though somewhat rotating cast of friends, people come up to me and tell me how much I’ve changed. There are the obvious things, like frequenting the salad bar at Whole Foods that I used to rail against as satanic and against the spirit of New York, and the less obvious things like the way I saw a girl who turned me down to date me at a bar the other night and was just cool and flirty and not even self-conscious. I made that interaction easy because I didn’t take the sight of seeing her as some sort of reflection of the inadequacy of myself. In the small things like that, I see improvement.
But in other parts of my world, when I see a couple I know talking in that unironic but very nerdy way about each other, when I feel like I’ve disappointed my friends or teachers or people who believe in me, when I see guys I don’t like get opportunities or ladies I don’t like (probably because they’ve rejected me) popping up as “in a relationship” or talking about how great their boyfriends are, something in me still pops up despite progress despite reason, despite, for spite of much of me, just to hate them, to feel resentful.
To just feel like well if I can’t be full and happy, then fuck you.
In this past week, I had a web series go online that I am proud of my performance in that people complimented me on that I didn’t even know, made by my good friend Charles Rogers. I had two shows and two rehearsals I felt great about and got great notes and great compliments, again unsolicited, even from people who weren’t my friends or close to me, telling me how much I’ve improved or changed, not to mention the “you’re so skinny” stuff. Just the fact that I have an ongoing bit with a friend of mine where I try to make out with her is good news.
The other night I tried dipping a friend out of the blue and she cried out happily grinning when only three or four years ago that same move would have elicited a “this is not funny, put me down” from almost anyone I tried that on (at least, in my mind). I’m becoming more of “a man”.
But well, I still get upset over that pop-up.
Which I guess just means, there’s still somewhere else for me to go.
One of the benefits of my essential unemployment and light schedule (other than the fact that I can do ANYTHING, or as my dad would put it “How much are you writing?”) is that I get to take long walks.
I’ll have parts of my day I won’t have a commitment for 6-9 hours in the middle of it.
To loop back to the previous segment, this might have paralyzed the old Nick since it would make him remember the feeling of being trapped, friendless inside his parents’ apartment, or make him confront his unhappiness about his life.
But now, I just fill it with blogging and walks to get food.
So, when I saw that Freddy “King of Falafel and Shawarma” was opening up a non-Queens-based cart for his 2010 double-Vendy award coup of a cart, I decided to just walk there all the way from my house.
My unemployment meant that I no longer had the monthly unlimited MetroCard I was used to, but it just was more of an excuse for me to be more of the walker I always was.
Up Thompson St, Through Washington Square Park, Up University Place and the shops, cut diagonal across Union Square Park past the new playground and then up, up, up the hill of Park Ave, down the cavern of Grand Central and back up through the escalators of the Metlife Building with their Snoopy mascot back through all the way to 53rd St.
Now, I will mention, I was heavily bribed.
While I am fairly sure Freddy, a big swarthy dude, does not watch Bravo or is aware of that world, he was very happy to see enthusiastic customers on his first day out in Manhattan and he kept giving me falafel balls as samples to eat. I think I had like three of them unsolicited before I even ate my meal.
The goal was to NOT have something fattening and terrible so I thought I would get a salad.
But instead what I received in addition to my falafel balls were 5 more spread out with a heaping of fresh chicken shawarma, lebanese pickles, pickled turnips, red onion, hot sauce and two different type of white sauces all over some iceberg lettuce and maybe some tomato.
They even gave me some pita chips which, god, dipping in to that mess, were so, frickin, delicious.
It’s a dangerous thing to put yourself on any part of 53rd St if you’re a halal cart owner as the legendary halal cart, The Halal Guys makes their home on 53rd and 6th (also 7th) and to sit yourself there is to invite comparison to the masters who attract block-long lines on a nightly basis.
But Freddy the King in a way is not trying to compete, offering more add ons, a greater emphasis on falafel (mostly neglected by THG which stick to pure Meat/Rice/Salad/Sauce mostly) and daytime clientele. This is a world, I think, where they can coexist and both be great.
I walked back the 3 miles to my house, making it 6 total for the day, but I knew I had still gone wrong when I ate that Turkey Burger later that night, with three kinds of fries.
Ah well, sometimes, you gotta live.
KING OF FALAFEL AND SHAWARMA
Chicken Shawafel Platter w/lebanese pickles, pickled turnips, red onion, tahina and more: $7.00
NW Corner of 53rd St and Park Ave. (weekdays/daytime only)
EM6 to 53rd St/Lexington Ave, NQR45 to 59th St-Lexington Ave.