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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Interviewing the Critic in My Head

Who are you?
I am your inner critic, that voice in your head. I often say things like “you're no good,” “you don't deserve to do well,” “it's not going to work out.”
How long have you been at it?
How long have you been alive? Forty-six years, although the first few years were rather slow. Things got busier when you started school, and interacted with other kids. That's really when you first started feeling different. That definitely opened the door for me, and gave me the opportunity to get going. Things like being an only child, being adopted, I can easily work with that stuff. It was easy to convince you that there were things wrong with you. You've given me lots of great material over the years. It's easy work, but also challenging at times. I like to keep old themes fresh.
What makes you happy?
Seeing you frown, hearing you sigh, knowing you'll give up. I feed off you.
You're telling me you're a parasite?
Oh no, no, not that. We are more, ah, symbiotic. There's no real separation.
Do you ever get bored?
Sure. How many times can I hear you say “I suck”? I thought you were good with words. Throw some synonyms up in here, bro. Then there are those times when you're really happy, like while riding your bike or playing music, or actually enjoying some intimacy. All these other committee members show up in your head. They are like annoying cheerleaders, and I can't compete with them.
What is your favorite time to work?
Oh, there's lots. When you're driving, when you're trying to fall asleep, when you first wake up. You start your day with me, not with your coffee.
What do you do when you're not criticizing me?
Research. I go back over your thoughts. I keep them very highly organized. I'm a bit anal-retentive, actually. If you're feeling good, I'll take the time to dig up some old stuff, things you may have forgotten, like when that sketchy guy yelled at you in the ShopRite parking lot. Remember that? You brushed aside his question. He called you an ignorant, arrogant m**********r?
I had forgotten about it until just now, thanks. Do you hate me?
No. We always hurt the ones we love. Without you, there is no me. I suppose a mental-health professional would call that co-dependent. Hey, we all have to eat.
What do you want from me?
Nothing but your time and attention.
What keeps you going?
Knowing that we've made it this far. It's fun to try to stay one step ahead of you. I like the challenge. I can't wait until your next date.
Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
Optimist, definitely. Things are getting better all the time—except for you.
Nice try. I call shenanigans. I'm not taking that bait in the middle of an interview. Do you ever get lonely?
Oh, sure. But I like being alone. You're an introvert, and that carried over to me. There's a difference between lonely and alone.
What's the most personal thing you're willing to admit?
Sometimes I feel bad for you. I really do. But you're that shiny red button that says DO NOT PUSH. You make it easy. I can't have just one potato chip... it's like that.
Do you define yourself by what you do?
Didn't I answer that in the first question? Here's another thing you suck at.
If you couldn't do what you do, what else might you do well?
Well, I'm a disembodied entity, so I can't enjoy arts and crafts. I dunno, I guess I could do a lateral move to another part of your mind. A job is a job. Are the cheerleaders hiring?
Any plans to retire?
Nope. I'd be bored out of my—uh, your—mind.

A Letter to My Students

I don’t say it enough, but I care about you. Each of you. That’s why I’m here. It’s too much work to do it for the money, so there must be ...