Note: The Rules & Guidelines for the Yes Test can be found here.
These words came from my fairy wizard friend Michelle, who is basically a Disney princess come to life. She's tall, with dark hair and huge brown eyes, with a childlike voice. She's finds intrigue and magic in every scenario and in every person, and will spend hours talking to a stranger, just because she's intensely curious. She gathers thousands of seashells on the beach for a late night Thailand pineapple party, quietly takes notes and films bits and pieces, and then nine months later you find out the whole thing was part of an ongoing performance art piece. She takes walks with the fishes and plugs into the force of the Universe, willing things to go her way.
She also has an IQ that's probably higher than yours and mine combined, is a major player in the Women in Tech movement, and was named as one of the most influential technical communications experts in the US and UK. Wizard.
She also has an innate way of honing in on people issues and turning a regular conversation into a therapy session. Though I often feel like our chats are one sided, mostly because she entirely has her shit together and I definitely do not, she walks me through my anxiety, step by step, without actually giving me the answer.
We've been having some technical issues with FB chat lately, so we get the animated dot dot dot popping up as if one of us is writing the other a novel. She asked me if I was writing her something long, and I responded with, "I'm not, but I can be. Give me a prompt." This is perhaps the first time in the Yes Test that I have taken the initiative to do something I wouldn't otherwise do, as opposed to waiting for someone to ask. I thought she would give me a cue like, "Tell me about yesterday's lunch" and I would go off on a whole amusing rant about choosing between multiple kinds of protein bars, with a deep analysis of how the OhYeah! Birthday Cake is the best protein bar of all time.
But this is Michelle, so I should have anticipated a question that would cause far more introspection. First, she asked, "Write about the last time you felt betrayed," but I immediately just went back to the banana sushi, where I felt like the restaurant betrayed my trust by convincing me that banana and eel sushi was something I should pay for. She immediately gave me a second option, "Alternatively, you can write about the last time you felt free from worry."
And this is what I wrote, verbatim, in a few minutes of uninterrupted stream of consciousness:
You asked me to write about the last time I was betrayed, or the last time I was without worry. I couldn’t think of a clear recent time when I was betrayed, because I think of that as a monumental occurrence that hasn’t happened yet. Like, I feel betrayed when a restaurant describes a dish as one thing and it’s clearly not that, but there haven’t been any major disintegrations of trust.
So I moved to worry, and worked back through the last few months...through worrying about what I’m supposed to do with my life, worrying about the bakery, worrying about getting out of the country, worrying about going to Cambodia, about quitting Remote Year, about when my next PTSD meltdown would occur, about dying on a motorbike in Thailand, about arriving to Malaysia, about leaving New York City, about getting off medication, about living a life numbed by medication.
Worrying over what sort of state my business partner would be in, or if one of my injuries was going to flare up. Worrying about getting fat and getting old, if I was going to be able to afford to pay my credit card bills, if I should open the bakery and if that would make things better. Worry over whether or not that guy would text and if I said something wrong, or what I did to change our dynamic. Worrying about my career, and wondering how I was going to catch up after working in the “wrong” industry for two years. It was too late to go back and get a secure job, and I spent so much time getting paid $7/hour and getting yelled for not making a salad correctly, so what made me think I could get paid a reasonable wage for a more demanding position? I can’t even work as a cook in a restaurant, why would I think that I was capable of more? And why did I take that job in the first place? Because I was worried it was my only chance, my only time in life to get to follow a dream, because at some point, that opportunity goes away.
Just like they said to enjoy college while you can, because the real world is coming, but you need to worry about your major, and your GPA, and the friends you make because these choices affect the rest of your life. Just like choosing your college, and worrying about the SAT and AP scores, which is the sort of worry that you can find comfort in, because everyone worries about those things. Not everyone worries if their mom is going to die of breast cancer, and what will happen to you financially if she does. Because your father died suddenly, so why not your mother too? You know there’s money in a trust and the house must be worth something, but who will help you? What will you do? How will you sort through an entire life, alone? You can’t even drive a car yet, because your father was supposed to teach you to do that. And you worried about what kind of car you should get, and the two of you looked together, because you had to have something that was safe enough for the only daughter but not so flashy that you would stand out, because you always worried about standing out too much. On stage, it was safe to stand out, but even then it wasn’t usually you who got the lead roles and you worried you didn’t have it. The others, they had it. They were the favorites. And every day when you couldn’t do a triple pirouette, or when the math homework was too complicated and you didn’t understand, or when you couldn’t get your fingers to play the scale on the piano, or when you were 5 and got sent to the principal's office because you stole a pencil eraser from the school store, you cried and worried that this moment, this one is the one that will ruin the rest of your life. And it didn’t matter that you wouldn’t be a professional dancer, or that you wouldn’t use algebra as an adult, that you hated the piano, or that someone else convinced you to steal the neon pencil topper. You worried that it might matter. Because you never could find the adventure in what’s coming, and instead just worried always always, only knowing that you must prepare. But you can’t prepare. And so you worry about preparing, and not preparing. So instead you do nothing, because that is safe. And safety, at least, is predictable.
In the words of Michelle, "Things that make you go hmmmmm."