how to be a fraud.

I have an authentic voice and I have inherent value, and other lies I tell myself right to my fucking face in the mirror. The jokes I tell belong to comedians, the ways I write I’ve borrowed from published authors and the music I make are cheap simulacrums of musicians with enough friends to form bands; these sentiments feel more honest. I have a part to play in an otherwise artistic desert, but I worry my part is so small that it’s easily replaceable; I’m trying to increase my value by heading towards ideals of helpful intelligence, developed taste, and trustworthy steadiness, but the walk is long and shameful because of how far I have yet to travel, just to catch up to my peers, let alone keep up with them once I’m where they are now. I’m not a scientist, I’m not an artist and industry has no place for me, so how do I move out of being nothing and becoming something? How do I even begin the journey toward being a zen artist-scientist?

I’ve started down the road toward the Good, God, Whatever you want to call It: I’m going to college to grow my brain to maximum mass, going to open mics to express my innermost feelings, going toward publishing my art in a real-and-measured way, going toward the problems of the past and asking forgiveness, going toward romance and dancing and poems and wistful sighs and healing old love while I look forward, and being, actually being where I am, in my body, with whoever I am with, with whoever I am. I’ve been meditating, reading, scheming, cooking, baking, socializing, confessing, repenting, praying, waiting, learning, expressing, returning, leaving, playing, caring, listening, looking, tasting, touching, smelling, searching for a unified theory of everything, or at least what it is to be Adam Bates and what it is to be the most myself I can be.

I’ve been motivated by internal and external forces I regret allowing control over my actions: fear, anger, guilt, finances, authorities, simulations of others’ reactions, insecurities, all manner of irrational voices either external or internalized. I want to be guided by my virtues: intelligence, coolness, beauty, friendliness, curiousness, belongingness, artfulness, morality and in finding satisfaction through these pure motivators, feeling finally fulfilled. I’m now looking for as many motivations to do many more fully fulfilling deeds, and committing myself to daily duties that bring replenishment and rejuvenation, chores that bring a sturdy sustainability to an otherwise imbalanced life I’ve lived.

The education that fuels my knowledge fills my spirit; the bible study regenerates scar-tissue and gives me new friendships; the music I perform grants me a confidence to wear offstage as I connect to other performers; the romance I seek however clumsily fills me with an electricity unlike any other aspect of my life; the friendships I’ve co-rebuilt feeds my need for love as well as benefits me in a deep, knowable peace; my meditations cease the blur of the unexamined life and gifts me power over my cognition, and understanding of powers beyond my control; my therapy heals, my family loves, my life lives, my knees bend and the face that’s always looking across from me in those sacred bathroom reflections holds nothing over me but a smile concealing an unconditional love.

Of course I feel like a fraud. My comedy voice is a blend of all my heroes; my musical voice, literally the way I sing, is of my favorite songwriters; my spiritual voice, or just my spirit, and the lens through which I see these metaphysics are from my pastors, including my father; my psychological voice is that of my therapists, my philosophical voice is of my professors and essayists, and my most confident voice, the voice of the instructor, is an imitation of my dad. My voice is not unique, and that is helpful; how otherwise would others relate to me? That is my participation in culture. I am not singular; I came out of this world not into it and when I cease flowing with my eternal stream of consciousness to stop and see, I only ever have love looking backward for who I was, being present with who I am, and looking ahead to who I will be, even if that being is an only impression of everything that’s ever influenced him, affected him in a real, lasting way.

My cultural significance is confined to the small concentric circles of my apartment bedroom expanding outward from Richland, WA. My place in history in the hearts of my family and friends. I’m okay with that, and I’m becoming okay with that.

Adam Papes