Lille Allen discusses feelings of inadequacy, and why her goal for 2017 is to give herself a break.
At a time for self-renewal and making commitments for the new year, it is hard to talk about failure. As I’ve been mulling over my plans for the future for the last few months, the words have been at the tip of my tongue, appearing and disappearing at inconvenient times. The only way I can formulate it is this: there is a great space between where I am and where I thought I would be at this stage. The space feels threatening and absurd. It is almost as though I am out of balance with my true self, whatever that means, and time is running out. Why it feels like I’m sitting at great crossroads when nothing is happening in my life, I don’t know. Perhaps it is just that, time is zooming by while I sit idle. I am waiting for my big moment. I am waiting and waiting, as I have for the last couple of years. My failure is inaction.
The feeling comes in waves. Sometimes it is small realisations, dull aches at the pit of my stomach when I consider my future, where I will be a year from now. Other times it is tears. Shopping at Sephora, the woman helping me asked if I liked waterproof mascara. Without a thought, I said, “I cry a lot. It’s a necessity.” I don’t mean tears at the end of La La Land, or a video of an American soldier coming home for Thanksgiving, I mean full-on sobbing episodes. Recently they’ve been in a flight of emergency staircases at uni, multiple times while driving, the bathroom after group therapy, and the offices of not one but three professors.
The last time this sense of failure arose I was sitting in a friend’s living room, talking about self-forgiveness. I got the proverbial pain in my stomach and a crack in my voice as I said I wasn’t pleased with my current self. Someone asked how I made sense of that, and for a second I wondered. The revelation came about easily, with a laugh. I felt my shoulders sink and my chest pull forward. I forgot about my delirious sense of loss, the sense of not being good enough, and realised I have been here countless times before. I forgive myself for at times not trying enough, for letting go, for being scared. I forgive myself because there is so much more. There is time, and the state I am in is not permanent. Now I keep finding excitement in possibilities, in the uncertainty that is to come, in all of what I have yet to accomplish.
My resolutions for 2017 are not concrete. I look forward to filling this made-up space my mind has so dutifully fabricated with a whole self, proud and inviting. I will continue to make art and self-portraits, write weird essays about my feelings, apply for every opportunity imaginable, and work out at 3am when I can’t sleep. I look forward to a year where I give myself a little grace.
Perhaps you, dear reader, need these words too. If you are like every other person exclaiming how 2016 was the worst year, there is so much to want out of 2017. I hope you find it and I hope you forgive yourself if it doesn’t happen.
Collage by Joy Molan