When it comes to convincing myself I’m worthless, there’s nobody better than me. I can look at all my accomplishments, my work, my reviews from my students, my cat who still thinks she’s hungry even though she ate half an hour ago, my degree, and I can understand that all of those things are neat and good and probably tell someone something about how they think I should feel about myself. But those things don’t matter. Those things aren’t how I measure my self-worth. I use omelets.
The omelet is a simple dish requiring a few eggs and whatever you can shove inside it without feeling guilty. Vegetables, leafy greens, the quaking souls of the unjustly damned, and cheese are all delightful options for starting a day off with a semi-healthy meal. Omelets are simple, easy to cook, quite satisfying to look at, and I have fucked up more of them than anyone who owns an apron should.
What does financial stability matter if I can’t just get a few mushrooms and spinach to play well enough together so they don’t compromise the weak, spongy structural integrity of the eggs? What use is validation from my students if I always cut too many damn vegetables and am left with a bowl of shredded leaves and fungus after I’m done cooking? How can I call myself a stable, functional adult for whom cooking is getting pretty important, if I can’t manage to cook an omelet without accidentally cooking scrambled eggs with vegetables?
Every superhero movie has the low point in which the hero mopes around town and has to overcome relatable struggles to demonstrate for the audience that if the hero is just like them at their worst, then it’s perfectly rational to project yourself into the hero’s identity when they’re at their best. Nefarious tactics to promote vicarious wish fulfillment and expensive CGI delusions of grandeur aside, I have been at that low point. If an audience were watching the movie of my life, a few months ago would have been the point in which everything was going well for me until I fucked it up. The camera would spend more time lingering on the damp, wretched emotion written on my face, the lighting would be dimmer, the music would probably have a piano. Everyone watching would know that my life is in shambles because I couldn’t cook an omelet.
The sad period would linger. I would pass through rewarding hurdles in life, but they would mean little. The audience would know that such tangible successes like getting a job or finally finding a conditioner that works for me don’t matter. They’d know I had found something beyond those accomplishments to judge myself on, and I was not worthy.
But then something changes. A new pan, real butter, a better understanding of proportions of vegetable to egg, whatever it was, our hero has found a way to do it. From the ashes of a thousand burned eggs, comes forth an artistic masterpiece, a wonderland of flavor, a perfect hemisphere of egg and vegetable.
I do not measure my worth by such arbitrary things as the direction my life is going or the things I’ve come through. I measure it by how delicious my weird egg-vegetable half-discs are because no matter how much I’ve done, I’m always going to find something stupid to justify my self-loathing, but for now I’ve got this omelet thing down.