Should I Stay Or Should I Go Out?

Jun 30 2012 @ 7:59pm

Nicole Cliffe dug up a great speech by Sheila Heti that considers the question:

Why go out? Because if what we want more than anything is to attain self-confidence, health, energy, and peace of mind, we should stay in. We could be like little Buddhas, meditating and masturbating and watching TV. And we could imagine ourselves to be brilliant, and kind, and good lecturers, and good listeners, and utterly loving – and there’d be no way to prove it otherwise.

But she finds that the perils of going out are often worth it:

I’m always super-conscious of how whenever I go out into the world, whenever I get involved in a relationship, my idea of who I think I am utterly collides with the reality of who I actually am. And I continue to go out even though who I am always comes up short. I always prove myself to be less generous, less charming, less considerate, not as bold or energetic or intelligent or courageous as I imagined in my solitude. And I’m always being insulted, or snubbed, or disappointed. And I’m never in my pyjamas.

And yet, in some way, maybe this is better. …. We could be demi-gods in our little castles, all alone, but perhaps, at heart, none of us here wants that. Maybe the only cure for self-confidence and courage is humility. Maybe we go out in order to fall short… because we want to learn how to be good at being people… and moreover, because we want to be people.

Heti's new novel, How Should a Person Be?, was recently reviewed by James Wood (paywalled at The New Yorker) and Chris Kraus. The Paris Review's Gchat session with Heti is also worth checking out.