by: Summer Plair
Every major thing I have ever set off to do in life I have pretty much achieved. That’s a pretty bold statement, I know. But much like Howie in Uncut Gems, I was born a natural winner. I was always picked first on the playground, I made 18 of the 25 points of my 7th grade championship basketball game, I was the head of my high school band, I got into 11/12 colleges I applied to, and have always managed to convince my crushes to date me for extensive periods of time. I am aware this makes me sound like an absolute fuck head. But does it help that I am black and queer? Probably not, but you know you’d stop reading this if I were a rich, cis white male. So just be patient with me.
I am a Capricorn rising and moon. For those who don’t care or don’t know, that basically means I am absolutely obsessed with the idea of winning. And that’s probably why I win so often. I have my fair share of trauma that we don’t need to dive into today, but besides that, my life has been pretty….easy. Because I win. But that’s precisely when the imposter syndrome kicks in. And then I feel really, really weird. I start to think of all the reasons why I won. And all the reasons that I should have not won. All the small mistakes I made in my entire life that should have hindered me from winning. I think about the other people and how hard they worked. I hate how hard they work. Why didn’t they win? Why did I win? Who or what is making the decision to allow me to win?
And when I say “win”, really I mean the general idea of success. Success is pretty much the driving force behind everyone’s actions according to me, a 24 year old with a degree in screenwriting. So obviously my opinions matter most. But just think to yourself, why do you do the things you do? You may think, “to make me happy :)” but did you really go to a 4-year university or take that job offer or buy that car to make you happy? Chances are, no. You did it to succeed or give off a pseudo-successful vibe to your other successful friends. It’s why I do it at least. And for my future children who I may or may not bring into existence. And for the house I will buy to house those future children. And for their LA private school education. And for a whole lot more hypothetical situations that I anxiously try my best to prepare for even though the world is probably going to end before I believe it will. My success is my safety net from the worst-case scenarios that I have built in my brain. It is the thing that makes me comfortable for the future. I love my success in regards to my future. So why do I hate my success so much in the present?
I do everything to prove to myself and to those around me that I am worthy of being here. And as soon as I get to the finish line on top, I feel…icky. So fucking icky. I hate the attention. I hate the idea of taking that opportunity from someone else, someone who probably deserved it. In 2019, I apparently entered a screenwriting competition with a script about myself. I say apparently because I genuinely do not remember entering it. In 2020, apparently I was apart of the 10 people who made it to the finals, beating out another 4,000 people. I say apparently because I still do not believe my script was better than the other 4,000 applicants. I really don’t. It’s not a pity or self-loathing thing, but I genuinely think the script isn’t…that good. Of course, my whole family and all my friends were SO EXCITED and SO PROUD and I was getting so many texts and calls and read requests and wow. It was so overwhelming. But I felt proud of myself, proud of my writing. It was nice. For a second. But then the imposter syndrome, the anxiety, the “I do not belong here” feeling sunk in and never left. And I was left feeling worse about myself and my writing than before, even after almost winning a major competition that specifically is designed to tell yourself and other people who could pay you money to write stupid jokes that your writing is good. But yet, I still feel so icky to this day! Is it that I like the idea of being unsuccessful? Absolutely not! That would mean my safety net was not working. I do not like the idea of never making it after years and years of trying. I don’t like the idea of never being satisfied with where my life and career are at all. I REALLY do not like the idea of giving up on my dreams to “sell out” (why do artists use this term so much?) and take some sort of lame job that pays the bills and fulfills absolutely nothing inside of me. That’s the safety net breaking. Which means I have to do something today to make ensure my success. To make me feel comfortable and secure with the future again. But then I will feel bad for the successful thing I have achieved. And the cycle will never ever end.
The worst part about my own success is the fact that I have to do something to further it. I can’t just write the script and smile. I can’t just bring up the idea and sit down. I have to actually do something with it to keep it going. That’s the worst part. (Almost) winning this screenwriting competition has made it so a lot more people want to read my work. People who have jobs that would ensure more success for me. The act of sending the script to those people is horrific and absolutely terrible. What if it works? What if they like it and send it to fucking Netflix and they want to make it into something? That’s like, the best case scenario, but also the WORST CASE SCENARIO because I have to then do more. Doing more sucks. I hate doing more for myself. I love doing more for everyone but myself. Doing more for me means not doing more for others, which means I win and they lose. It’s horrible.
But I am coming to terms with my success and how it really just isn’t necessarily mine. Success is not just my success. It is my mother’s success. My grandmother’s success. My enslaved ancestor’s success. It doesn’t make things less scary at all, but I at least know my mother’s efforts to make me a winner in life have and are working. My success is a receipt of good parenting for her, which makes me smile. Maybe one day my success will make me smile for myself in the present. But for now, I will keep winning and keep feeling uncomfortable about it. It’s just who I am. And I’m not mad about it.
Because that’s how I win.
Summer Plair is (obviously) an award-winning screenwriter living in Los Angeles and working at the production company, Screen Arcade. An important fact about her is that she just got a new toffee-colored puppy named Angel who chewed through her laptop charging cable in the middle of her writing this post, so you should be lucky that you got this post at all BUT ALSO you can look at cute pictures of Angel on Summer's Instagram over here: @uncledaddy