I don’t have my shit together. What a crass way to start of a blog post, right? I’ll add to the previous statement—I’m not under any illusions that I have my shit together. If I was listening to someone while in the counseling seat, my first questions would be, “What is shit?” and “What is together?” Both key questions.

What I mean by that statement today is, “I still worry a little about my cool factor, but I’m really not cool.” That statement reminds me of Lester Bangs’ (played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) reminder to William Miller (Patrick Fugit) in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, in which he is giving advice to a young journalist protégé who has been offered a job to cover the band Stillwater for Rolling Stone. Miller is at a loss of how to approach, lacking a social skill set, and Bangs implores Miller that he’ll just be sucked in to wanting to feel accepted by the band if he doesn’t keep some distance.

Something really small made me think about the “cool” factor, or really the acceptance factor and how even though my age and my own battles and victories over needing to please everyone and needing to feel confident have come a long way since childhood, I still experience them. I was merely eating yogurt and blueberries in front of someone and spilled some on my shirt, then scraped it off.

That itself was no big deal. People spill things, and they clean them up when they do that. But it was what went on inside my head after that revealed my own struggles. It was the questioning about myself, and worry that started to emerge. I noticed that even though I’d scraped it from my shirt, it showed up as a large white stain, obvious to the world that I was unable to not drop food on myself, and somehow had not gone beyond the status of clutz or “messy eater,” and somehow that was inferior. Uncool.

I continued to talk to the person, but in my peripheral vision could see the stain. It distracted me, almost calling to me and reminding me, “You’re a poor excuse for a person! You look uncool, stupid and unprofessional!” As much as I wanted to ignore the yogurt on my shirt, it taunted me, and my thoughts, though I was able to completely stay in the conversation, competed for my attention with the person.

After my conversation I immediately went to the bathroom to remove the yogurt, and as I did so, smiled inside about how much my mind had been attached to the thoughts of how the person viewed me, how I look to others in general, and the importance I still place on coolness. My inward smile continued as my stream of consciousness traveled to my M3 training years ago on how the desire to “be in control, be right, and look cool” are all often roadblocks to being successful at my dreams. The reason it was a smile was because I felt like I had a mini epiphany or enlightenment about myself, as if I’d caught one of Harry Potter’s house elves in the closet when he shouldn’t have been there.

Maybe I should name coolness, being in-control and being right my Dobbys, after Rowling’s elf. It’s like they mean well, but too easily hold me back when life is too short. I think probably when I feel out of sorts, I default to their kind of thinking because I’ve spent so much of my life seeking them. They are like the gnats that always show up when my bananas are ripe. 

Processing this helps, because when I call something out in myself, it’s easier to manage than when I try to pretend I’ve got it all together. I’m wagering I’ll be encountering the elf-gnats to some degree until my heart stops beating, but that I’ll get to repeatedly recognize them, reflect and adjust the best I can. So, like I said above, I don’t have my shit together, but as long as I’m moving in the direction of cleaning up said shit, that’s okay.