It wasn't what was said, it was what was said.


Spike of depression tonight. Sharp, swift, and deep. I tried to ignore it, but it simply dragged me further and further down.

I think what triggered it was a video interview of an author. I very much admire this author, I've thoroughly enjoyed his work and have recommended it to friends and coworkers. He is by no means popular, rich, or even by colloquial definitions of the word, successful. Despite this, I found myself feeling very much inferior to him. I kept thinking, See? You'll never amount to even that. So why even try? Give up now and save yourself the embarrassment.

If it were only an acknowledgement of lack of skill, it probably would not hurt so badly. The association of act and personal worth was thoughtlessly hammered into me growing up. "You're only worth as much as you can do." So I always tried to do things as exceptionally (and ambitiously) as possible in a pathetic attempt to gain some approval. Oddly, this reminds me of the Science Fair.

In middle school, I decided to build a complex receiver that used phase shifting for demodulation. I wrote a paper breaking down the theory, and how the receiver was implemented. I used IC headers and componentized the design. I used a sharpie and acid to produce my own printed circuit. The device was only 4" square, 1" high. It must have appeared oddly out of place next to the submissions from other sixth graders. Unfortunately, the receiver didn't really work. My results didn't really constitute a scientific experiment. In spite of this I somehow made it to the regional competition. Today I wonder if I only made it that far by exceeding the understanding of the teachers.

I wish I could say that I felt proud of my project. The fact was, I felt terribly ashamed. Although she didn't say anything, Mom was annoyed and upset. She didn't want to be dragged out of her house on a Saturday morning for this. She complained about how much the drive and the day out was going to cost. She snapped at me for being hungry around lunch -- we later had a hot dog at one of the cheapest places we could find. I think I received an honorable mention for my electric thingamajig, but I didn't much care by then. I don't remember a single "great job" or congratulations. I just remember going home, sitting in the back of the van, trying to be quiet and feeling terribly, terribly ashamed. 

The yellow posterboard and the DOA circuit board ended up hidden behind a door, and in a drawer. Later, I threw them away in disgust. Failed ideas, I told myself, Mistakes made. Now, time to bury them. I never went back to electronics. Once and a while I try to, but life interrupts or I simply am too afraid to go into that field again. 

It's hard for me to think of any skill or effort of mine in a positive light. To do so inspires a deep, gripping panic in me. On better days, I can just ignore it. Other days, I'm transfixed by it, and the only response I can muster is to tear everything I've made into unrecognizable shreds.