[NOTES] – Throughout the article please view “In” as “Interviewer” and “Can” as “Candidate”.
In: Thank you for sitting with us today. Are you comfortable? Is there anything we can do to make you more comfortable?
Can: I’m comfortable, thank you.
In: So, I presume you’re aware of why we’ve asked you to attend this interview. Would you like to clarify what this reason is?
Can: I know why, but I would prefer not to say it if that’s okay.
In: That’s okay. Let’s begin. How are you feeling today?
Can: I would say at my usual level. At its most basic, my chest feels a bit tight and I’m trembling a little. I keep picking at my nails, and I’m swallowing a lot as I feel dehydrated no matter how much water I drink. I deep-breathe a lot. If I can exhale without shaking, then I am pretty much calmed, and I’ll be less aware of my heart beating. It’s just nerves. Everybody has their share of rational and irrational. Sorry, this is probably too long an answer…I’ll try to keep it brief.
In: There are no parameters to the length of your answers, they are simply for our records. Include as much or as little detail as you wish. Can I ask, what motivates you to get up in the morning?
Can: I would say…a new chance to get it right?
In: Can you explain?
Can: Just that all of the mistakes I make, I condense into a day. I’m sure a lot of people do. Sometimes I have a quota, sometimes not. Each morning I perceive as a new chance to start again, and try to have less of a negative impact on people. That’s positive-thinking, isn’t it? Trying to make less mistakes is honourable, as surely it means you’re always learning and growing, and wanting to better yourself.
In: What do you mean by a “quota”?
Can: That just means I set myself a limit for how many mistakes I feel comfortable with making. On a good day it can be 10, or 15. It’s not always a clock-rounded number, it’s more based on instinct, and how many people I think I will be interacting with on that particular day. But on a bad day, it could be 5. I organise them into “minor” and “major”, like in a driving test. I know it sounds daft, but if I didn’t have an established system then I would really be struggling.
In: Can you give me some examples of minors and majors?
Can: Yes. Minors we are all more familiar with as commonplace mistakes, ones that do not have a direct impact on the others around us. I can cope quite easily with them, as long as they do not appear en masse on my record. Too many minors in one day, equates to a major flaw, in my opinion. Because why am I not learning from them?
In: You still haven’t given examples.
Can: Ah, okay. You’re right. Minors. Dropping my pen. Letting my hands shake as I go to retrieve it. That’s a minor. Others…pausing for too long while I try to think of the word I need, or somebody’s name. Turning in the wrong direction when somebody calls my name. Letting my porridge overflow the bowl in the microwave. Tripping on the pavement. Interrupting somebody without meaning to, or mishearing somebody. Waking up later than I intended. Bumping into somebody.
In: These are indeed, commonplace. I’m sure there are more significant things to focus on in life. Does this not occur to you?
Can: If you drop your pen, you may “oops” the mistake into submission and perhaps on some subconscious level, address the need to avoid doing it again, at least in the near future. I usually engage in this process, but have to compound this avoidance into a physical task, such as trying to keep myself still and composed. It plays on my mind for too long, but if I try to still myself or focus on one small physical aspect, then I can move on. I think there was a time when I used to laugh at myself if I tripped or displayed general clumsiness, but nowadays I don’t find it funny at all.
In: And what about majors?
Can: Majors are instances in which I struggle to forgive myself. One unit could be the cumulative minors for the day. Or it could be a mistake which I consider to be significant, an error that has caused annoyance or wasted the time of another. It is often a mistake at work. Or I could knock an item out of somebody’s hands. Tripping over my words several times in one sentence. Accidentally misinforming somebody, despite having been supplied with the correct information initially. Giving somebody the wrong directions. Letting my mind go blank, and struggling to say things out loud. Displaying a lack of common sense.
In: How do you forgive yourself for these mistakes?
Can: If I do not reach the limit I’ve set myself, then I can usually brush off the day’s mistakes, and let myself start afresh in the morning – depending on the severity of the worst mistake made. A day with only minors is something I feel in control of, they are merely subsidiaries of a malevolent company. If I reach or exceed the quota, I start to panic a little. I don’t know if that makes sense, panicking a little? It’s like it’s a familiar panic, the case set of nervous symptoms but amplified internally. Basically, something has to be done.
In: What has to be done?
Can: Well firstly, I have to keep track of my daily progress. For ease of access, I usually mark a dot or a tiny line on my forearm in pen. This really helps, as my memory is notoriously terrible. Then when I get some time alone to assess what impact I have had on others, I can decide whether the dots warrant punishment. Please don’t think I’m crazy for doing this, I realise it sounds bad. As I say, if I did not have a system, I think things would be much worse.
In: Can you talk about the punishments?
Can: I’d rather not, but I can show you.
In: I see. So you have a system, which is utilised on a daily basis, is that correct? I presume you have already asked yourself this question, but do you think the system works? You say that your memory is terrible, do you mean to say that if you do not keep a physical record of your mistakes, then they would be forgotten?
Can: It hasn’t always been in place, just intermittently. There are periods when I don’t find it necessary. The mistakes are always there, always. The frequency has always been consistently high, pre-and post-system. It’s if I feel I can cope with them normally, that has me reverting. Perhaps it’s a fluctuation of hormones. Something basic. Regarding my memory, the physical record I find necessary because it condenses the list into one single day. I do remember my wrongdoings but in the immediate aftermath, I try to block them from my mind. If it pops up in my head on a later date and I have not addressed it, I feel like I have lost control.
In: Why do you think you feel this way? Why do you think it’s necessary to punish yourself for what others might describe as trivial mistakes?
Can: Because in their frequency, I am not learning from them as I should be. They should not be happening as often as they do. In this lies the potential to make huge mistakes. What if I endangered somebody’s life, by neglecting a basic principle of health and safety? How can I ever be trusted with any level of responsibility if I can’t master the basics? What it boils down to is sheer stupidity, and it’s entirely unacceptable to me. Maybe I feel punishments are necessary because I need people to know that I’m not okay with how I’ve let my mind develop. Operating at this level of stupidity is not something I can ever be settled with. So yes, maybe it’s just the aesthetic of guilt that I have aimed for, and it’s all superficial, and all entirely worthless. I am trying though.
In: What are you trying to do?
Can: To be better. To step outside my own head from time to time and see the bigger picture. To realise that I don’t have problems, not at all. Things could be so much worse.
In: Do you not think that your system stops you from doing that? I would think that looking in the mirror and telling yourself every day that you are stupid, is merely perpetuating the issue.
Can: Maybe you’re right. There are so many inconsistencies in my argument, because it’s not an argument anymore. It is purely how I perceive myself, because I see it as fact. Many people have witnessed instances of my incompetency, there’s no stopping that. I have witnessed the incompetence of others, but in my entire life I have never met anyone who is as stupid as I am. I can have a system-less period, and still see it. Someone will ask me a very basic question, and my mind will immediately jump in all directions other than the one I need it to, the one that contains the correct answer, or an acceptable one. It is only later, that I will sometimes realise what I should have said. That is just not acceptable, not at this frequency.
In: Do I take it that on this logic, you think that people who have limited control of their minds and bodies are also stupid, or worthless?
Can: I don’t think that. Please don’t accuse me of thinking that. I can’t even begin to perceive the concept of human worth. We all have a place here. What I find difficult to understand is why I can’t improve, even the slightest bit. On an academic level, I had relatively good grades. That must mean I can apply my mind to some aspect of life? Not the everyday though. The everyday, at least at the moment, is what matters to me. One of my friends once told me that I am the most stupid-smart person they had ever known.
In: What did you take that to mean?
Can: I suppose that I can use my mind to maybe pass a test, or compose a sentence. But I can’t use it to behave competently in life. Bothersome is probably an understatement to this testimony, for I believe it to be true. Essays are tiniest portion of the vast spectrum of life experience. Why can I not stretch my mind beyond that? I am capable of something, why can’t I extend it to what matters to me? This bothers me, more than any aspect of my being. There are so many more flaws in my character, but being stupid is what burrows into my everyday perception, with no release.
In: Do you think you share this perception with any of your friends?
Can: I know that a lot of the people I know are plagued with anxiety, or depression. Their struggles are all so much more tangible than mine. I don’t even have struggles. And they manage to set them aside and be confident, social, intelligent, purposeful, hardworking, wonderful people.
In: Have you spoken to them about this before?
Can: On occasion. I do find it difficult. I am not known for my verbal dexterity.
In: Have you spoken to anybody else?
Can: Yes. Again, I find it hard. I genuinely believe that my stupidity is something I will always carry with me. I lack good instincts. I mishear people a lot. I stutter. I shake. I have to have a mental pep-talk with myself just to get into somebody’s car, or go to work, or talk to somebody one-on-one. I have no physical skills, I lose at games, and I trip over invisible barriers. I learn too slowly, there are gaps in my mind when I seek the most basic area of knowledge. I don’t understand puzzles, or perceive space poorly when I’m moving around. I misjudge the world.
In: There is a clear picture building. You do seem to be harbouring a severe lack of self-esteem, I’m sure you’ve established this yourself. And you believe you may never improve. So why do you think you’re still here?
Can: I don’t know. Like I said, I try to perceive each morning as a chance to get things right. To make fewer mistakes. To be there for people when they need me. To learn from my errors, and gain fresh perspectives. I am so incredibly grateful to be here. I don’t ever want to leave. There isn’t a day that goes by when I am not inspired by others. I set myself daily goals to reach what I want to achieve in life. All that is different, is that I look at the marks on my skin and remember that I never what to have a negative impact on somebody else’s life, ever again.
In: I think we probably have enough for today. How have you found today’s session? Do you think that you could be our candidate for improvement?
Can: My chest is still tight, my hands are still trembling a little. I feel as though I am in the same place, but I have acknowledged how I am feeling for the first time in a long time. I think this is a good thing. I hope I will be your candidate for improvement. I do hope you see something in me that is worth keeping, no matter how small it is.