Reasons For My Success

Spencer Gordon

 

I was not nice. I was not nice enough. I was not nice enough to the right people. My niceness was too casual; my niceness was designed for acquaintances and so had no lasting impact. I carried out acts of niceness too long ago for people to remember today. I expressed niceness too long ago for those distributing acts of niceness now. I grew weary of niceness in all its forms. I forgot the intention behind my niceness. I was not nice consistently, or deliberately, in public, and so withdrew my general, fit-for-acquaintance-style niceness, a quality ready for all-comers, to a shrinking circle of people I really did care about, for whom I could maintain the energy required of niceness, and for whom my niceness changed character, becoming intimate, or something not quite nice at all. My acts of niceness were spotty, irregular. When I attempted acts of niceness in public I felt strange and inauthentic in growing intensity. My acts of niceness cowed me. I felt hot and ashamed for my expressions of niceness, especially when these expressions were not acknowledged by their recipients. I felt expressing niceness made the objects of my niceness uncomfortable, occasionally, or made these people for whom I was expressing niceness turn against me and categorize me as ‘not nice.’ The people for whom I performed niceness were the wrong people, insofar as they are, today, no longer in positions to perform public acts of reciprocal niceness; or they are not accustomed to expressing private acts of niceness; or they do not possess long memories; or they feel no need to reciprocate niceness, or at least not to me, or to those like me: to people in my predicament. I failed to understand that I was and am not deserving of niceness, per se, or period. I failed to account for all the terrible things I said out loud and in private, usually while intoxicated and happy, thinking I was sharing niceness—for the wasted months and years of my life when being nice was of fundamental importance to me. My acts of niceness, not being public or consistent, made others believe I did not wish to receive acts of niceness myself: that I was somehow above or uninterested in public acts of niceness, when in truth I craved them desperately. I was furthermore not nice in sufficient public and private degrees to people who interpreted my niceness to certain distasteful people as problematic. I was nice to people who are today irrelevant to public consideration; I was also nice to people who are not fit recipients for public niceness, for whom extending niceness was an ethical breach, or a sign that my niceness was too fluid or generous, despite my niceness being of a casual, passing nature, as mentioned. I was not nice enough to people who believe niceness must be parceled out judiciously, selectively, to others who, by fact of their relationship or discipline or social standing, are deserving of public or private acts of niceness more than others, regardless of the overall volume of niceness being expressed. I was not nice enough to those who, through some history of being hurt or abused or drained, considered their own niceness a limited resource. I failed to be eligible for niceness from those who feel acts of niceness are made primarily for public consumption, on momentous occasions, and for a select group only. I was, paradoxically, too nice to make a fuss about those who were not nice, specifically to me, or to others with whom I held acquaintance or even friendship; I failed to reveal my private sense of injustice or hypocrisy, cruelty or betrayal in a public setting, and thus was categorized as someone who was ‘not nice’ (though less ‘not nice’ than if I had expressed the full storm of my emotional life, as then I would be ‘not nice’ to a much more damaging, severe, irreparable degree). I failed to grasp how others could be nice in public to people they deemed problematic or ‘not nice’ or insufficiently deserving in private, and thus I refrained from expressing niceness to those I was hurt or betrayed by systematically, to my detriment. I failed to grasp that acts of niceness made in person are of lesser quality or importance to public acts of niceness made from a great distance, and with far less intimacy. My niceness had limitations fit to my disposition and imaginary sense of self-worth. I failed to sustain the energy necessary for daily, weekly, consistent acts of niceness due to my body’s aging, that stated sense of inauthenticity, a general weariness borne out of failed applications and unnumbered rejections, the demands of dull and pitiless work, and a sense of injustice sprinkled throughout all public gestures. Resigning myself to not being nice, or being deemed ‘not nice,’ or not especially deserving of niceness, felt nice, bizarrely, but only for a few months, after which I again felt it would be nice to feel included in the worldly, public exchange of niceness, but by then it was too late to re-enter with the same enthusiasm or trust as I felt when younger and less experienced with the vagaries of being nice. To measure my lack of suitability for niceness from others I compiled a voluminous list of every person with whom I’d shared an acquaintance, correspondence, and/or friendship, then wrote 3 to 7 reasons beside each, in sharp bullet points, explaining why each person might not be nice to me, why they would not extend niceness to me, and why I deserved this withholding of niceness. This list included those who were closest to me; those who had extended niceness to me in the past, and why they had stopped doing so; and those who had never expressed niceness to me in the first place, and why that was the case and would continue to be so. The work of this list was decidedly ‘not nice,’ and was intensely private and shameful, loaded with painful revelations and remembrances, though it felt nice in the same way a spanking feels nice, or a candle-lit confession, or chores or a punishment or a sentence; the way a failing grade feels nice, or a reprimand at work; the way a traffic ticket or a dressing down by a superior feels nice, but it did not stop me from trying to think of newer, nicer things I could do for people to vindicate myself in their eyes and be the subject, or object, of nice expressions once again, or ever. Where I was headed with this list was an unliftable feeling of ‘not niceness’ in my chest and a ‘not nice’ urge to sob. This list became my vocation, my sole hobby, which replaced my older hobbies and vocational activities that were, to my chagrin, bound up in dense, complex feelings of niceness, equilibrium, fairness, and withheld niceness, and so charged my nights after my ‘not nice’ work was finished with a sense of purpose and clarity, a lack of generalized guilt and a new sterling specificity regarding the shame I felt for myself and my failure to express niceness in adequate degree, quality, and amount. Using my list, and knowing deeply that this was folly, I went on long campaigns of niceness, whereby: regardless of how it made me feel hollow or aggrieved, confused or impotent, I wrote relentless nice messages to people and performed niceness in public spaces, hoping these unrequested and unmitigated acts would cleanse my spleen and guilt, but they did not, for they burnt up like smoke, so to speak, cycling skyward to form billows that were, rather than recognizable in shape, as if emanating from any conscious mind, instead incomprehensible, chaotic; neither nice nor ‘not nice,’ but merely drifting wisps of vapour, empty of content or memory; clear and lovely as a glass held up to clouds filled with rain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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