on worth23 April 2021
I measure my worth in the number of meetings I attend, in the number of responses I get in my 9am sociology class, and in how many people have liked my latest Instagram poem.
When I feel my back start to crack, I tell myself —“one more reading and you can rest”, and then one more, and another, like an unending pile of work, across which lies the concept of “rest”, tantalisingly dangling; so close, yet so far.
I diligently do my readings, and buy myself the chocolate I really like, but only when I finish. Happiness is a reward I deserve for being an arbitrarily defined “best,” at everything.
I see the white kids in my class, always asking questions in the first tutorial of the semester, before the tutor realises that the one brown kid does all the readings. Then, I measure my worth in how many times I am told “you seem really smart”, and I smile. I quietly affirm to myself that, yes, I am smart.
“Your grades don’t define you,” I tell my friends, while I stay up nights worrying about how my father would remind me that “you’re going nowhere”, that “you’re nothing”, when my grades started slipping, about how he told me I had gotten “somewhere” only after I moved miles away.
He measures my worth in how far away I am from him, how lonely I feel, and how often I collapse against the wall, desperately wanting to be held by something, or someone. strong.
My mother tells me that I was a friendly baby. I’d jump to people’s arms and play with everyone. Since then, I believe, I began a journey of flailing to other people for a sense of validation, screaming to be picked up in an unending loop of outsourcing the love I am incapable of giving to myself.
I measure the love I deserve in an often ugly rodomontade, of how much I have stuck to the people who have picked me up, only to throw me away, like I must knit myself a sweater of remembrance of the handful of good memories, to hold me through the bad ones.
“He took care of me when I was sick,” I tell myself as he kisses another woman, and lies about it.
Pain is currency, and love makes for good shopping.
I pull three consecutive all-nighters writing a paper for my sociology class, titled “Hustle Culture as a Capitalist Myth”. The cramps on my furiously typing fingers smile at the irony.