Losing my shit about losing my shit: a not-so-existential “who am I” crisis

A few days ago I lost my wallet and a respectable amount of pandemonium ensued. With the exception of bobby pins and my sanity, I don’t lose things. “Type A” doesn’t even begin to cover my neuroses concerning timeliness, organization, and general anal retention, dirty pun intended. I spend a lot of time air drumming in my car because I show up freakishly early for everything. My clothing is sorted by style, color, and season. I don’t lend out my pens because you bastards never give them back. And so, when I reached into my bag and had nothing to offer the UPS cashier looking at me so expectantly, my vocabulary quickly diminished strictly to words rhyming with “duck” and “god swam it.”

One of my middle school teachers used to say only people with simple minds use profanity, as the English language is surely glorious and expansive enough to give way to something more profound than muttering fuck fuck fuck and scaring all nearby bystanders. Yet despite a college education and reasonably level head, I spent the next hour doing just that, frantically retracing my steps and calling my mom with hopes that whole walk into a room and instantly find what your child is bitching about power could work long distance. This turned out to be a mistake, because anyone who has been hysterical knows there’s nothing worse than being told to “Just calm down.” There was a Baskin Robbins gift card worth at least two more waffle cones in there, OK? I will not calm down.

After crawling around in bushes, checking every spider webby box under the bed, and expanding my vocab to include a few more colorful selections, I gave up and started mentally preparing myself for the joys of DMV waiting lines and suspiciously cheery bank tellers. I’m spoiled enough to think 24 hours without the ability to drive to buy booze or a donut is unacceptable, and the next morning I got to the DMV an hour before they opened to beat the other poor souls dealing with similar inconveniences. In classic moron fashion I waited at the wrong entrance and ended up behind twenty other randos despite said premature arrival (dirty pun intended x2—yes, I’m 13). Waiting to hear B009 get called was like getting picked last for dodgeball, losing the lottery, and standing uncomfortably against the wall waiting for a pimply brace-face dude to ask pre-puberty you to sway back and forth as a pathetic excuse for dancing all rolled into one. I practically jumped the guy that assisted me and after a thumb scan went on my merry way.

The true pain in the arse was trying to convince John the BoA teller to give me money. I understand there are certain protocols and safety measures to ensure people off the street can’t walk into the bank claiming to be me in order to steal the pitiful amount in my savings account. Most days I sincerely appreciate those measures. But in the off chance you really are yourself and you really did misplace your wallet, it is incredibly difficult to prove that’s true when all you’ve got is a scan of your old passport and decently convincing puppy dog eyes. To his credit John was understanding, and did his best to help a strugg out. He nodded as I told him I had Nucci’s pizza for lunch the day before, and that my last check was written to my roommate “for being a DAB.” He believed me when I told him my rent amount and home address. He was willing to give me access if I could just sign here please. The last test: my signature. I signed eagerly and he left to show his manager. I couldn’t believe how smoothly the day had gone and was proud I handled it somewhat gracefully and efficiently. But then he broke my poor little heart.

“My manager doesn’t think your signature looks like what we have on file,” he says. Try again, he says. Nervously, I sign seven different sheets of paper, to no avail. Each is actually getting worse than the original, and I’m staring at my hand like what the fuck man we’ve done this so many times before why can’t you remember simple cursive when it matters get it together oh my god. John tells me to come back when I’m calmer, that maybe a night’s rest would help. I’m sorry, Johnny boy, but if my muscle memory can’t manage to replicate a simple signature I’ve been using since elementary school, there’s no way a night is going to make me any less anxious. I leave discouraged and suddenly craving all the food I know I don’t already have in my fridge.

It’s very strange not having an ID or money, even if it’s temporary. I started thinking about all the ways we define ourselves in this society and how much importance is placed on passing certain tests and giving just the right answers. I thought about how some people don’t have the privilege of driving or the luxury of swiping a card every time they need something. How I could walk around telling people I was a 29 year old named Hildegard and no one could say any differently. How I should identify myself not by what plastic is in my wallet but by my internal character (which is, decidedly, not a 29 year old named Hildegard).

To be completely honest, I mostly thought about how I wished I were a stoner so at least all these mundane thoughts would seem relatively cool.

I’m Fucking Up

When I first started working, my boss told me he had one rule about making mistakes. No matter how severe the screw up—deleting vital spreadsheets, calling his girlfriend a cow, turning the office into SLO’s first prostitution ring—all I had to do was start with, “Michael, I fucked up.” As long as I admitted fault and made an effort to not repeat the same mistake, those were the magic get out of jail free without getting fired words. This seemed fair, though slightly unbelievable, and since failure had never been part of my life plan, I agreed to such conditions easily.

Three months in and I was forced to use the dreaded opener. Today while shooting the hundredth hideously furry, could-be-a-companion-rather-than-a-fashion-statement winter boot for a client, I tripped gloriously and knocked over $4,000 worth of equipment. Backdrops ripping, tripod legs flying, shoes scurrying off to be with the rest of their litter—complete and total chaos.

Now, while being uncoordinated is second nature to me, royally fucking up is not. Disaster and I are not friends. We don’t trade lunches or juicy boy gossip, and quite frankly, I think she’s an unpredictable bitch to be avoided at all costs. Which is why in the midst of studio upheaval, I did not take a deep breath and start tidying up. I did not pick the camera up and continue shooting. I stood up, threw my hands to my face, and began an incredibly convincing “hysterical two year old who dropped her ice cream cone” impression.

Heavy, erratic, entirely unflattering sobs shaking me to my core. And that’s how my boss found me five minutes later—aggressively bawling in a vertical equivalent of the fetal position. Not remotely professional. But as soon as I choked out a pathetic “I… fu…fucked…uh…up,” he immediately went into comforting mode—sharing anecdotes of his past screw ups, complimenting me on my work ethic, offering high fives when it was clear all I wanted was to punch something. Yet despite his best efforts, everything just made me convulse harder. I was convinced I had ruined everything and didn’t deserve to be reminded of lame character traits like my promptness and reliability. I wanted to wallow in self-loathing, damn it.

Eventually I exhausted my tear ducts and went about my day. I got off work and did things that usually make me happy. I went for a long run. Baked some coffee cakes. Looked at pictures of puppies in outlandishly adorable Halloween costumes. I was temporarily cured from whatever manic episode I was previously suffering from. Hurray.

But even with the high of exercise/sugar/cuteness, I still feel inexplicably sad. I can feel more tears brimming and I know all it would take to get me going again is someone innocently asking, “What’s up?” I hate to admit it but I’ve felt like this for a while now. And I’m wondering how everybody else gets through their day without a meltdown, or if they’re all just really good at pretending. How maybe I should start pretending because I’ve heard that can turn into sincerity somehow. I miss being able to call my mom without having her life be messier than mine. I miss being able to big-spoon my not-boyfriend, or at least spoon some ice cream without worrying about him thinking I’m getting chubby. I miss my friends and feeling secure and knowing what the hell I was doing with my time. When I felt kinda sorta strong instead of overwhelmingly sensitive.

I’m not really sure how to do more than a Band-Aid fix for this feeling. I don’t want to burden my friends or family with something I can barely explain (though why I feel like posting this on the interwebs where they’ll inevitably read it and freak is beyond me). I can’t even write this without feeling like I’m having the most melodramatic pity party. I’m terrified of simple problems with simple solutions and not being able to just handle it—of possibly being a little crazy in the head, and not just for entertainment factor.

I feel like I’m continually fucking up. And I just honestly don’t know what to do.