So about a minute ago this was what this box looked like:
Like, no seriously, that was the first sentence of this post. Or, it was going to be. It’s not anymore, because I’m blogging about Peru.
“Peru” is shorthand in my life right now for “the academically-sanctioned diplomatic/military LARP that is my class’s final assignment for Small Wars and Low-Intensity Conflict, in which I have been assigned the role of the president of Peru in a counterinsurgent campaign against a Maoist terrorist cell.” I talk about it a lot. Pretty much nonstop. I can’t leave it alone. It’s happening in real time, which has made me the most boring person in the world to hang out with– “Sarah! We’re playing Dominion!” “I’ll join the next game, the Minister of Defense just got online,” was a conversation that actually happened yesterday, and on Friday I invited a friend over for a movie night and spent the entire first half-hour he was there guiltily finishing up coordinating police movements in urban centers. I actually just stopped writing this post for ten minutes because I thought of something else I plan to say in my briefing tomorrow morning and I wanted to write it down real quick, and that turned into revising it, and then I thought of something else, and I’m here now, I am, seriously–
But, like– the thing is, I’m having the time of my life doing this, and it occurred to me the other day that that’s pretty weird, for me. I am a deeply neurotic person, and for all of my teenage and most of my adult years, the fear of criticism and of failure have been something I’ve struggled with. It’s bad— when I was in high school, I had intense trouble ordering at fast food restaurants, because I was convinced that I was going to fuck something up in the order and draw the criticism of the cashier. That’s gone away since then, but I have gone a week at a time in college without checking my school email, haunted by the thought that I might have missed something important, but unable to check because not knowing is easier. I’ve spent entire nights staring at the ceiling after minor fights with friends, unable to sleep in the knowledge that someone was less than pleased with me, unable to think about anything else until I made it right. On the last paper I turned in, I got a 94 out of 100– but the notes from the professor said that though the writing was excellent, my argument didn’t convince him, and I threw it away when I got home because I felt nervous looking at it.
Somewhere so deep down I don’t even recognize it most of them, I am convinced that I am permanently teetering on the edge of failure. I don’t consider myself a person with low self-esteem at all, and I am genuinely proud of myself and the things I have done; but, like, last week I called my mom, when this project began. “I’ve been appointed president of Peru,” I told her, because this was the biggest event of my week, and your judgment can go somewhere else. “He actually trusted me to lead the project! He likes me. Like, I think he really thinks I’m competent!”
My mom made a wordless German noise of exasperation. “Sarah,” she said, “why do you always sound so surprised?”
What I mean to say with all this, is that this project, which involves processing and acting upon a great deal of information (which comes at intervals and is not even necessarily correct), keeping track of and organizing at least ten different people’s jobs, formulating policy and communicating with people both real and fictional, and– oh god! occasionally fucking up!! and not knowing what to do!! like, ever!!– should not be as fun for me as it is. The simulation background is (mostly) fictional, based only loosely on real events, but the people I’m communicating with are real, and the people I’m competing against are real, and I have pretty much the most public job of all of them. This should fucking terrify me. The idea of asking someone a question, not knowing if it’s even the right question to ask? Of telling someone to do something that might have a fictional consequence? To deal with someone, who knows more about certain aspects of this than I do, outright telling me my solution is the wrong one? Why have I not resigned? Why is this what gets me up in the morning right now? Why is this operation moving forward at all? What’s different about this? What about me has changed?
Part of it is probably what I talked about in last week’s post– academically, this is something completely new for me, and that is exhilarating. Like– holy shit! It’s a project where almost every single person in it is almost as excited about it as I am! When does that happen?! Gotta get on that! But I wonder if, maybe, I have not just…. gotten better. I thought about it today, how…. not-anxious I am. It’s not that the fear of failure is gone– it’s that, for some reason, in this case, I have accepted the possibility of failure in a way I usually can’t. For some reason, in this simulation, taking a risk doesn’t feel as insurmountable as it used to. For some reason, seeing an email pop up and not knowing whether the text inside is going to be in line with my desires is not a reason to hide in this case.
It’s an anticlimactic answer to a problem that’s been hounding me for close to ten years, but I think that might be it. I hope that might be it. I’m just. Getting better.
This post ends here, because I’ve just remembered that I forgot to send the American ambassador a thank-you email for his support in the aftermath of a terrorist attack this morning, and I was totally going to do that before tomorrow. One email, and then I’ll go to sleep.
One email. One.