For our inaugural guest, we would like to introduce A.M. Justice. Amanda is the author of The Woern Chronicles, a series that blends high fantasy, fairy tales, and science fiction to forge a story about a smart woman and a charming prince who become ensnared in a decades-long conflict between nations.
Remember that time in high school when a wasp got into your hair, and you screamed until a boy came over and pulled it out and killed it for you? You could tell by the look on the wasp-killer’s face that your rescue was motivated less by gallantry than by annoyance at your high-pitched squeals. And remember how mortified you were, when you overheard a couple of the cool kids sneering at the fuss you’d made? Let’s review what you learned from this experience:
1. The damsel in distress gig doesn’t work for you. Sure, screeching like a banshee is a perfectly reasonable response to having a wasp in one’s hair, and were another girl to do the same, the reaction might have been different, but you’re not the type who inspires chivalry.
2. Freaking out, whining, or showing any sort of fear inspires people’s contempt, not their empathy. I know it’s different for others, but for you, this is reality.
These lessons taught you to play it cool. The ice cracks from time to time—more often than you’d like it splits open and calves a giant iceberg into the sea, and a roiling mess washes over everyone close to you. That’s never pretty, and it’s even more embarrassing than screaming because you have a wasp in your hair.
Still, coolness serves you pretty well, so you’ve kept it up most of your life. You had to fake it the first decade—burying your nerd-girl enthusiasms and desperation to be liked under your native shyness—but the behavior modification worked and now reserve is your natural modus operandi. It’s helped you keep people at arm’s length, allowing you to choose carefully to whom you reveal yourself. Cool reserve has worked for you; all in all you’ve had a good life. You’ve had problems, but ordinary ones, and if you had to choose one word to describe how you feel about your life, it would be content.
Except…you’re not content at all, are you? In fact, resentment, dissatisfaction, envy, and dismay shred your thoughts more often than satisfaction joins them. You envy the achievements of your peers, and resent their successes when you think they’re undeserved. You grumble and moan at your own failures, and tear your hair out over your lack of resolve to fix the underlying problems. “Oh, I’m in mourning,” you tell yourself. “I’ll yank on the bootstraps and get going tomorrow.” It isn’t that you fail to change what needs changing—you eventually do—but yet you remain dissatisfied.
Why? You know why. The source of your dissatisfaction is its opposite number: contentment, laced with laziness. When in your life have you ever tried for extra credit? You love hearing you’re “the best,” and you hear it a lot, but let’s face it, you play in the minor leagues. For college, you chose to go to a small pond and be a medium sized fish—you didn’t even apply to the big ponds. In your career, you’ve garnered a sterling reputation, but you deliberately labor in obscurity. Isn’t it ironic that the girl who aspired to be famous grew up to make her living as a ghostwriter?
If you’re really honest, you’ll admit the source of this yin-yang spiral between contentment and dissatisfaction is that damn wasp. It’s still in your hair, still buzzing near your ear, telling you you’re not good enough to be liked by the cool kids. You still see the cool kids sitting nearby and rolling their eyes over how lame you are, and you’re terrified of their rejection.
But remember, the wasp story has an epilogue. The cool kids who sneered at you eventually became your friends. In the end, they didn’t think you were lame. They didn’t reject you.
So if the wasp is still in your hair, it’s not the fault of the cool kids who rolled their eyes. They don’t even remember the stupid wasp—you’re the only one who does. If no one is leaping up to rescue you, perhaps it’s because they can’t see the wasp. And that means the only one who can kill the wasp is you.
So what’s it going to be? Stand up and address what’s holding you back, or sit back and be content with what you’ve got, including the wasp? What’s it going to be?
To read more from Amanda, please check out her author’s page here.
To read more letters, click on The Path.