When I was 14 years old, it was quite clear that my best friend’s mother didn’t care for me. He was the type of kid who wasn’t inclined to get into trouble. She saw me as a poor influence. She was probably right.
I was always that kid who waved you over to the bushes so I could tell you all about my next idiotic scheme that would probably be good for a laugh or two, but land us both in lunch detention with the nuns the next day.
I was that kid who grinned at you and said things like “don’t worry” or “just trust me” or “c’mon, it’ll be fun.” And I must say, I was pretty good at getting people to buy in to mischief. As a few years went by, I became the one who convinces people to have one more drink, or stay out a little bit later, or talk to that girl they looked over at a few times.
I always had an easy confidence in my breezy plans. I backpacked around Europe, often not having train reservations or knowing where I would be sleeping in the next city until the day I arrived. I did an equally flippant road trip around the continental United States. My co-pilot and I brought a pop-up tent and sort of just winged it. I had the time of my life in both instances.
When I was considering transferring to Boston University, I was warned by an advisor that bringing in 60-plus credits from two different schools would be the most complicated and difficult transfer she had ever seen. I never doubted the validity of what she said, but for some reason that didn’t faze me at all. I had just enough blind confidence in another one of my half-baked plans to go for it. I’m glad I did.
People said the same sort of things about trying to make it in Hollywood — the odds are very much against you. Go to law school. Again, I believed them, but for some reason I just brushed it all off without a worry.
Fast forward to the present day, at a Shell station in LA. A “clink” came from the nozzle. I squeezed the trigger harder. Nothing. No more gas was on the way. I looked up at the pump – $6.07. It hit me. I had just completely exhausted my only bank account, and I didn’t even know if I’d have enough fuel to make it home.
An immensity of doubt flooded my mind. The feeling was so foreign, and so horribly crippling. “Have we finally wandered too far up the creek without a paddle?” I think of myself as “we” during inner monologues. I’m told most people just think of themselves as “I.” Not sure what that means about me — probably something psychotic. Anyway, that felt like a low point.
I started thinking like I imagine most sane people do: “We don’t have any money. Our lease ends soon, and we don’t even know where we’re going to be living in a few weeks. What are we doing?”
In an instant, all that misguided self-assurance that I had previously enjoyed about myself, became an obvious flaw in my personality. I had led myself to a dead-end. I lost all confidence in my own disposition.
“Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I knew I shouldn’t have listened to you,” I realized how dire a situation it was when I began splitting myself into “I” and “you” during inner monologues as if disassociating from the part of myself that I now disdained.
The shackling doubt persisted the next few days, as I scraped together every lose dollar I could find in various pants pockets. One afternoon, my car unsurprisingly ran out of gas. I had to stick it in neutral, and push it to the side of the road. In that moment, I felt like I was due for a nice, long cry. But tears never came. I burst out laughing instead.
It was that dopey-looking kid over by the bushes telling me, “don’t worry.” Even though everything around me was screaming “This is bad! This is bad! THIS IS BAD!” he was grinning at me saying, “c’mon, it’ll be fun.” I couldn’t help but laugh at his obvious shortsightedness.
The laughter faded out as I sat in the car. “I don’t know if I can go with you this time,” I thought at him. But then I recalled all the fun I had with that goofy kid in the past — all those times when he had so naively shrugged at those who questioned his stupid schemes.
It was easy again. I listened to the mischievous kid with the silly plan — “We can do this. Not sure how, but we can.”
Frank Marasco is a first-year graduate student in Los Angeles. He can be reached at email@example.com.