If At First You Don't Succeed...

“You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything.”

He didn’t mean to mimic David Byrne, but his exhausted, frustrated, post-argument comment could have just as easily been from the Talking Heads 1977* classic. He could have just as easily been on stage in the big suit, limping around to new wave beats (or no-wave non-beats), full of vigor that would inspire a generation, and generations to come.

But there was no stage, no lights, no big suit. He was laying in bed, half-asleep, irritated and exasperated and out of options. I had spend the last hour, like I’ve spent many hours as of late, beating up his girlfriend, calling her names, making her feel small and inadequate. He was sick of it. He wanted it to stop. I was hurting someone he loves.

His girlfriend is me, and I have a lot of trouble keeping my head above water when it comes to my skills, my aspirations, and, ultimately, my options. I don’t ever feel like I have what it takes to succeed because of various talents I don’t possesses. Because I have an idea of what I want that is arbitrary and societal and fabricated, and it’s not who I am or what I’m good at, and that makes it hard for the brain to cope with.

So he did what he had to do. He did his best to get me out of it.

In truth, he didn’t say the line exactly as written by Byrne and Frantz and Weymouth; he didn’t mean to make me the victim and him the killer. What he said was:

“You talk about all these things, but you never actually do anything.”

I thought about this a lot last night as I laid awake for hours, pondering. It took me a while, but I realized that he was right. I don’t take the time, I don’t sit down and churn things out. I know that to get better you need to practice, so why don’t I practice? Why don’t I work? Why don’t I try?

There it was. That was the lightbulb. I don’t try! I’m so afraid of failure that I don’t even try in the first place. I dismiss options outright because of a fear that I will have an option taken away from me.

But here’s the kicker, and something I am slowly realizing. The worst thing to happen if I try and fail is… that I try something else. And if that doesn’t work? Try something else. It’s okay that I don’t know what I want to do, and it’s okay to have a ton of interests. And it’s even okay to be bad at things, and to still like them! But the more days that go by with me beating myself for not being a good cartographer and not having a good portfolio that I don’t work on a map? That I don’t try? I’m setting myself up for failure. I’m stacking the deck. I will always lose.

When I was 12 I started playing bass. I wanted to be Kim Deal, I wanted to be D’arcy Wretzky, I wanted to be Kim Gordon, I wanted to be Kathy Foster. And I wanted to be Tina Weymouth, too. Should I keep beating myself up for not being a bassist in a successful band? For not being Aimee Mann or Esperanza Spalding or Kathi Wilcox?**

Hell no. I’m going to keep playing music, I’m going to keep making maps and writing Python scrapers and riding bikes and planning events. I’m Lyzi Diamond, and so long as I try, that can mean whatever I want it to mean.

*“Psycho Killer” was first performed in 1974 by the Talking Heads precursor The Artistic, then in 1975 by the Talking Heads, and finally recorded for the 1977 album, Talking Heads: 77. This note is in place specifically because I know my friends are the ones to nitpick. And that’s why I love them. :)

**If you can name the bands that all of these women were in without clicking the links, you should email me, and we should be friends.