Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Several things happened to start my day yesterday:

1.The super secret mission I've been on to make my life less miserable brought several rejection emails this morning which
2. Resulted in me using the fact that I was out of toilet paper to take a lunch break at Target and spend $120 on shit I don't need. Considering the last few times I've been out of toilet paper, I've just taken one of the stockpiles of spare roles from the handicapped stall in the women's restroom at work that no one uses, I think that sort of justifies this spending. With the money I've previously saved, it probably evens out to be about $115.40 or so. Rather than $120.

In any case, one of the items that fell into my cart is a copy of Black Swan. This is unusual for me, as although I've loved every Darren Aronofsky film I've seen, they've also left me with deep shock and PTSD leaving me no choice but to never see them again. Someday, I'll talk about the time I went to the Lagoon theater in Uptown not knowing what the hell I was doing to see Requiem for a Dream because the Kronos Quartet was playing the soundtrack live along with the film. It was only about 10 years ago though, so too raw yet.

So I might as well start this out with a confession. When I read my first reviews of Black Swan, they were all glowing and wonderful but each contained a "THIS BITCH IS CRAZY" paragraph, which made me even more eager to see it. The more traumatized the reviewer, the more excited I got. So my friend A and I parked ourselves in the theater ("Everyone loves ballerinas!"-A) and I carried with me the hope that I would leave deeply traumatized like a good Aronofsky film does to a person.

But I was not. And worse than that, I came out of that theater with the overwhelming feeling that I identified with the main character in a big way.

Let me explain.

Some of you already know I went to music school. It did not treat me kindly. The single most oppressive thing I experienced in my time there was the constant need I felt to be completely perfect in every way. Achieve something great during rehearsal? Don't feel good about yourself because you still need to lose 10 pounds. Lost 10 pounds? Don't feel good about yourself, because while you were focusing on that, other people got 20 steps ahead of you with their playing. Feel like shit about that? Don't eat for a couple days. The thought that you've risen above basic human needs can serve as a big old sick self esteem boost. At least for a few hours until you pass out in a practice room.

(In fact, the person I had the most in common with at one point *was*a dancer friend of mine. He spent a great deal of time talking about food. He talked about how the only thing you should put on the bed of lettuce was raw mushrooms. Raw mushrooms were delicious. And raw carrots. And if you've been careful for the rest of the day, you could have some bread on the side too. He and I talked about food this way all the time. You know why? Because we were fucking hungry. And knowing the dancers I know now and how they eat, I just want to go back in time and hand us both a nice big juicy burger and some fries and maybe a slap across the face).

The imperfections I saw in myself became so magnified that they were the only thing I could think about when I got out of bed in the morning and every waking moment after. The twelvish hours a day I spent trying to maintain some sort of belief that I belonged there by "perfecting my craft" started to seep into my psyche. In my mind, everyone was better than I was at everything. They were better musicians, better scholars, better at coping with life. And I started to get these paranoid delusions that everyone around me knew something I didn't. They had some big secret that kept them rising up their respective ladders while I was still sitting on the bottom rung with a fifth of vodka and clumps of hair falling out of my head.

None of this was true, of course. Which made it worse. Because I *was* one of the better players there. I was in the top bunch. But this just created more pressure. Why was I there? I couldn't possibly maintain that. Not when everyone else had this secret that I wasn't aware of. Not when they were already way ahead of me in every way and gaining ground exponentially.

When the paranoia reaches its peak and you feel as though you're never going to be perfect in the little box you've found yourself in, you start to experience life-threatening claustrophobia. You scratch at the walls and when they don't give way, you become increasingly desperate to get out in any way possible. And the longer you stay there in constant panic, the less likely it is that you're going to be able to recognize the part of you that's trying to help from the part that's trying to convince you to self destruct just to get out of the fucking box as quickly as possible.

So I guess that's where Nina and I differ. Her paranoia and body destruction came from wanting to achieve perfection. She, like many artists, is willing to destroy her body for nothing other than one absolutely perfect performance. My reasons were different. I wasn't looking for perfection or glory or fame or any of that after a while. I was just looking for a way out of that fucking box.

So how do I turn this into a learning experience? Because I keep finding myself back in these little boxes, trying to claw my way out of something stifling or claustrophobic be it oh...say...a job or a friendship or relationship. But I don't want to self destruct. And I don't want to give up on these things altogether in a violent and irreversible way (most of the time).

The best I can do is to continue to try and stop myself from diving off the Nina cliff. This may mean I turn into a raging bitch sometimes. This will definitely mean that I'm not perfect. I will sometimes let you down. But you know what? No one should expect perfection out of another person. Because most of us are just trying to hold onto a little bit of sanity while we're in our boxes, waiting until the opportunity comes for us to jump out and be free.

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