What’s happened to nearly 3.5 million Americans has happened to me. The job I just started, the job I moved back to New York for, is officially on hold, as is the paycheck that came with it. I figured my number would come up. I just didn’t expect it when it did. (Does anyone?) As of Monday, March 30th, I will no longer have an income until who knows when.
This is painful for a number of obvious reasons, but pointedly painful since I finally thought my years of struggling, scraping and scrounging – years of beating the shit out of myself until I’m half dead to make rent – might be over. Suddenly, I’m thrown in the opposite direction, forced to kick the struggle into higher gears than ever before. It’s really almost comical, as if I were sprayed years ago with a potent income repellent that simply won’t wash off, like a tattoo.
When people ask me why I never went further as an actor, one of my cheeky stock responses is that I’m clearly not interesting enough, smart enough or pretty enough. That sarcasm actually comes from a sick belief that I’ve subconsciously sold myself. When it comes to earning a living, achieving success or finding companionship, I’ve told myself on some level that those things are for people who are smarter, more interesting and more attractive than I. (Although my stock line about being single is that “I’ve yet to meet a man who’s man enough.”) When it comes to ostensible markers of success, I’ve always felt like an outsider, looking through a window into a party that I was never invited to. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons I’ve always been somewhat of a loner. I don’t feel like I’m good enough.
I have to give the CEO of our company credit for calling me directly to inform me that I was being furloughed. It was the right thing for him to do, and I appreciated his directness. He said some very nice things about me and the value I brought to the business, and that the current situation made my continued salary unsustainable. (Un)fair enough.
Now here’s the translation I played in my head: “You and what you offer are really not essential to the business, and we really can’t continue to waste money on something that has such low value. Thanks for coming, but we don’t need you. Best of luck.”
Of course he said none of those things, but it’s where my head goes. As I maneuver through life, I often operate with a GPS that navigates with a map of feelings instead of facts. It’s not a fact that I have no value. It’s just a feeling. But it is a fact that I often feel like I have no value (if that makes any sense).
How have I gotten this far, to the age of 50? By faking it, of course. I feel as if I have fooled enough people into thinking that I’m smarter, more interesting, more valuable, more attractive than I actually am. And that’s how I’ve survived. Underneath every accomplishment I’ve ever achieved lurks the classic imposter syndrome, telling me I don’t deserve it and that someone will eventually discover my grift.
When the CEO called me yesterday, it felt like someone finally caught up with my grift and called me out on it. (Again… not a fact. Just a feeling, however fleeting.)
I’m not writing this to solicit any sympathetic responses or comments like, “But George, you are smart, you are…,” etc. Truly. I’m just telling the truth, revealing that I’m a regular guy riddled with a lot of insecurities and, right now, a lot of fear. And if anyone else feels this way, know that you’re not alone and that it ain’t just you.
So here I am, furloughed, fucked, furious and full of fear. I have no idea what’s next.
Back to faking it, I suppose. And somehow coming up with a Plan Z.
Among the group of people who help me stay sober, we have a little prayer about acceptance. I’ve been repeating it to myself on a loop, and it’s given me some solace.
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.