Marc works for Goldman Sachs. I know this because he’s told me four times. “I don’t want to work for Goldman anymore, though,” he whines, lighting a cigarette. “There are better places to work, and the difference between $300,000 a year and $200,000 a year doesn’t matter that much to me.” I only nod in response because really: what am I supposed to say to that?
The gorgeous brunette in the gold dress, the one I’d helped zip up in the bathroom, travels down the stairs into a sea of young people who are from all over the world. It smells faintly like lavender, sea salt and cigarette smoke, as I sproil away from Marc on the couch. I am starting to feel like my girlfriend and I should make our exit. Head back to our hostel. But hard as I try, I can’t make eye contact with her. Amy and I are sitting on the veranda of a bar called Carpe Diem on the island of Hvar, and the sitting order goes Marc, me, Christian, Amy. I lean back. I look at Amy. But her eyes are focused on the Rolex website Christian has pulled up. He is scrolling through the watches asking Amy which one he should get. Like are you kidding me…
These two dudes my good friend and I met on vacation could have competed in the Douche Olympics with major injuries and still won gold medals. At one point, Marc got a call from Goldman, and it was bad news, apparently, because he screamed into the receiver of his phone for a half hour. He looked ridiculous, hanging off the veranda, his white cotton shirt entirely unbuttoned, screaming into the house music below to drown out what he was saying.
In the meantime, Christian, white chinos matching his white skin, seemed like an English-accented version of the Dos Equis guy: “I don’t often surf, but when I do, I only do it in Biarritz.” Or, “I ski every holiday, and I only go to Courchevel.”
These guys were jerks. And yet, somewhere between them ordering a bottle of New Zealand white wine (“Whites are only worth drinking if they’re from New Zealand”), and grabbing three packs of cigarettes at the store around the corner, I became intimidated by them. They weren’t asking me questions. They weren’t interested in what I did for work. I seemed like a means to an end to them, and while it shouldn’t, it bothered me.
Eventually, Amy and I had had enough. What started out as a chance to chat with some new people on vacation, ended badly, so we were leaving. And as we got up, Marc pulled my wrist toward him and said: “Kiss me. I guarantee you it will be the best kiss you’ve ever had in your life.” He said more lewd things than that, but this is the internet. I should have told him he looked like an uglier version of Woody Allen, but alas, my wit failed me. I had already told him once that I thought he was an a**hole, and that will have to suffice.
I was born a little after midnight in early December, and though I’ve never confirmed this with them, I am sure my parents had my nursery ready and waiting for me. I’m confident they had bought stacks of diapers. Maybe they had hung a mobile above my crib. I came into this world adored by two people just for being, and as this person:
Nothing had happened to me yet.
This was before anyone had broken my heart. This was before my awkward middle school years. This was before I learned that some kids are just better at some things than others. This was my life before experience. And there, in that space, I don’t think I had to love myself. I just lived. I just was.
Fast forward to now, and a friend is standing in front of me in a quiet room asking me what I think she should change about herself. Another friend is dropping her head into her hands, tears streaming down her face, as she talks about what she’s doing with her life.
I knew I was giving those guys at that bar in Croatia too much power. They might have made judgments about who I was, but I am the one who took it to heart. I am the one who wasted time thinking about it. I am the one who gave away my energy. I knew I was being my own worst enemy. But sometimes, we tear ourselves asunder without even knowing it.
When opportunities slip through the cracks for an inexplicable reason. When we give up on love even though we haven’t really tried to date in months. When we wake up at 65 and realize we’ve never pursued our true interests, we often point fingers outward when maybe those fingers should be pointing in.
It’s hard to accept that I can be my own worst enemy – aware of it or not. At the same time, I am keenly aware that there is another, kinder voice inside. One who encourages me to do crazy, over-the-top things. One whose general mantra is: “You are not only good enough – you are amazing.” She is my best friend, and wants me to apply for the best jobs, travel the world, and dream the pipe dreams that, in their infancy, should never be said out loud. And she knows that my worth doesn’t lie in the minds of other people. It’s in what I think of me. It’s in what I do. In how proud I make myself.
I think some of the most successful people, the people we admire, have learned how to let their best friend outsmart the enemy within them. And as the ocean water turns colder and the holidays begin, I am believing that I can, too.