“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”
Of all the lines in Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane, and there are many excellent lines, that is my favorite one. In my Intro to Counseling class, we’ve been talking about how one of the fundamental requirements of good counseling according to one of the people whose name I’ve forgotten is “unconditional regard.” This idea that no matter who they are, people have inherent value and worth. You don’t pass or fail at being a person. People do good things, people do bad things. People move back, people make progress. But no matter what, your client is a human being and they deserve respect for exactly that. They have worth. You can’t be a good counselor if you don’t believe that. People can tell when you don’t believe that.
I have a harder time with that with myself, of course. I want my worth judged based on things. I want to be able to say, here are all the things I have done or not done, what I am or am not. You can balance them out, you can take a look. You decide whether or not I have passed. I must be smart enough and interesting enough to make up for all of the less awesome traits. But maybe that’s not how it works. I mean, on a logical level I know that can’t be how it works. I’m still working on the internalization process though and that can take a while. Sometimes stories help. I guess this is my recommendation for Ocean at the End of the Lane, which had me crying a fair amount. And another brief attempt to reconcile what I know with what I believe. My existence isn’t pass/fail. It really is okay.