A Temporary Narrative

Entrepreneur Mar 27, 2021

It’s the eve of my first covid vaccination and I haven’t felt happy about it today.

I feel empty, insecure, and pointless. Like nothing I'm doing actually matters. Did I con myself into self-importance, just to keep myself going through the pandemic? Are we all doing that? I definitely don't like its absence now. I don't want to feel the edges of my shaky mental models and our shared cognitive distortions.

I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to admit these feelings to anyone. It's making the uncomfortable openly contagious.

I know the world has improved in our lifetime, at least with certain metrics. Yet we are continually fighting the same issues. People are dying, being harmed, and denied their rights. I'm never doing enough to stop or change or improve anything. There's no way I could. I don't know how to prioritize myself and my personal goals without giving up on societal change. I know self-love is radical resistance and my goals are part of the change that I want. Yet either way I feel self-centered and lazy, scattered and a bit crazy.

I don't know how to control my brain enough to focus. I don't know how to have a healthy relationship with addictive technology that plays on my intense emotions. I don't know how to resist convenience capitalism when I'm already overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings and things I'm supposed to be doing. I don't know how to let go of narratives of shame and endless loops of negative situations in my brain. I don't know how to watch harmful men be given opportunities and investment instead of consequences and accountability.

Acknowledging the problem might be the first step, but it's a deep void to fall into. I've been sinking in it for so long that I'm comfortable being a student of Everything That's Wrong. I made a plan, my plan, my unique and tiny dent on it. My entrepreneurial thesis. It seems unmanageable and grandiose right now.

I'm not the kind of person who is meant to be carrying a big vision around. Or so I've been repeatedly told.

I know doubt is part of the process. This is worth doing and I am the one to make it happen. I have everything I need, including time. But none of these phrases are currently leaping into the neuronal plasticity I've spent years cultivating. Repetition does not necessarily lead to understanding or acceptance.

I have this sense of all of these other people also carrying unhealed trauma throughout their lives, never being able to set it down. Because you can't heal while you're constantly being re-traumatized. It's such a heavy loss for those people and for all of us.

Solving problems is a privilege.

I'm tired of similar faces on ideas, writing, words, and organizations. I'm tired of defining success around people who have always been guaranteed survival. I'm tired of investing wealth into wealthy people, because society has made that the safest bet.

Entitlement is used to justify harm, whether in systems or relationships.

I recently slipped into a part in one of humanity's oldest stories. I got out of a toxic and emotionally abusive relationship a few months ago. His words alternated painting me as the worst version of myself and scattered approval to keep me on the hook. His actions told me I didn't matter. He weaponized my deepest insecurities, including being estranged from my parents. While it was rough to leave the person I spent most of the pandemic with, I felt better within days. More clarity and energy and self-love than I've ever had before. I know it was never about me, yet I’ll still have to heal from it.

To quote my friend Claire “It may not be your fault, but it’s still your responsibility”.  

My brain couldn't fully make sense of what happened, so I dove into books and the stories of others. I hid behind a shield of knowledge and connection while I rebuilt myself once again. I needed to erase a history of being with someone who tried to erase who I am. If you can make others feel invisible, confused, and afraid, you can use them however you want to. Maybe writing this is my version of visible and fearless.

The most difficult part has not actually been the things he did or said. It’s knowing my energy and support went to someone who already takes much more than he will ever give back. I watched a young, inexperienced, wealthy white male founder fail 2 companies and be given money for a third. Like many other men I've known in tech, he will never be held accountable for harming others or creating harmful software. It shouldn’t be necessary to convince a founder you need a block option on any software, let alone video networking.

Statistically he's more likely to be outwardly successful than me. And instead of challenging that, I reinforced it. Instead of focusing on my work and my company, I focused on him and fixing our relationship. Meanwhile he prioritized his company, sometimes in ways that actively harmed me. One time in a way that caused me to have a self-harm relapse. I know I've been trained to do this because of gender and trauma, but I still blame myself for it. I’m even playing into it right now by writing this.

I'm grateful that written words can hold these regrets for me.

I'm trying to tell myself a better story, but I'm tired of stories. Stories use our own and other's emotional experiences to help us learn. I don't know what I want to learn from this yet and I’m no longer open to someone else’s interpretation of events.

Sometimes all the choices in front of you look like loss and more loss. Even if you know it's the way you're seeing things - the way you are shaping your own reality - that's not an exact recipe for change. Gaslighting is difficult to recover from. I have to continually work on awareness and acceptance of reality. It is hard for me to publish this, because I still doubt everything I experienced.

It feels worse to be aware and lack trust in yourself than to have false hope in others.

This week has been a backwards slide. I think I changed too quickly and lost my footing somehow. I've read so many books this year I don't even know what I think anymore. It's too tempting to instantaneously get one more set of powerful words on my Kindle. The next missing puzzle piece of my research and world view. If I can just learn enough, I'll do enough. I'll be able to fix everything and keep myself and others safe.

My brain is full and scrambled, trying to shake bottles of sand back into even layers. Anything that would give me a level of predictability that would propel me to action. Any certainty I sensed before this was a myth, but that doesn't matter to my brain and its cravings.

I was so careful to build healing, stability, and creativity into my life. People and hobbies that brought connection and fulfillment. Like a lot of ADHD-ers, I have oodles of works in progress. A mostly finished podcast episode. Articles and diagrams of concepts I've synthesized. Poems and paintings. A thousand ideas of what I could build with a personal data no code tool, if I only finished an MVP for my company. With the energy I can never seem to find for it.

I am always practicing and iterating, just to keep the slippery reassurance of purpose around. While being stuck or stalled gives me that familiar comfort of guilt and shame.

Why not finish them and play that game of posting things to socials? Why would I want to be one more thing asking other people for their precious attention? I don't know why or even if I want to overcome that sense of ickiness that comes with seeking validation. Everything feels like an excuse at this point. I keep waiting for things to choose me, the way writing chose me tonight, and that is not sustainable.

I do feel less alone after writing this. I try on your identity as I read my own words and momentarily I'm less trapped in mine.


Thank you to the people who stood by me while I continued to go back to an unhealthy situation. Thank you for answering calls where I was sobbing or panicking. Thank you for showing me love, support, and reality. Thank you for finding ways to reassure and validate me even though we couldn’t physically be around each other. Thank you for not giving up on me when I wanted to give up on myself. Thank you for seeing and encouraging the best in me.

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Cakelin

I'm a scientist and writer for machines and humans. I am aiming to be Robinhood for people's data. Disabled, nonbinary, and queer.

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