Confessions of An Over-Achiever

by joelmckerrow

And then there are the parts of us that are so hard to admit. The crooked back, hunched shoulder parts. The hidden behind locked door parts. I have these parts. Yep, I am not perfect. I know, I know, it is a shock to many of you reading this. But I am not, and you are not and the more we can allow ourselves to be seen in our mess perhaps the faster we shall move on from it. So here is some of my mess…


In Colarado Springs I gathered for three days with creatives from all over the US and the world. Our hearts were joined around imagery and imagination and the telling of stories and tears that gathered in our eyes and the laughter held on our lips and red rock that towered over us like guardians. I have been to many of these gatherings in my time as poet. I love them. I throw myself into them. Choose to give of myself again and again until it hurts. And it hurts. It does. It costs. It costs myself and it costs the ones that I love. Those who stay back home. I give of myself in this way because I know no other. I give and I give to people, to projects, to teaching, to theatre-shows, to poetry. And it is in this giving where my confession lies.

I am a very passionate person (some of you may have noticed). I give 200% to whatever is in the centre of my vision- the people, the projects, the gatherings, the teaching, the poetry. This means that what I want to get accomplished usually does. This means I am certainly an over-achiever most of the time. This means that the people who I am focussed on, who I give myself too in that moment feel loved and known and heard. I am present with them. I am able to pour my whole self out, be as vulnerable as I am able, and I believe and I hope and I doubt and I know that this is changing the lives of those around me both in Australia and Colarado Springs and here in NZ where I write. It is one of my greatest strengths. To be able to hold a whole group of people in my heart, for a time. To be able to hold a project up to the fire of my passion and see it become something. To give and to give and to shine as bright as I am able.


And still we know that every light gives off the shadow. I am no Peter Pan. My shadow mimics my every step. A silhouette cast on the ground. Darkening the earth where I tread. There is a kinship, an intimacy between the light and the dark, they cannot survive without the other. They two wrap themselves around everything we do. Our greatest strengths reveal our greatest weakness.

And so it is also with my passion and my drive and my giving to this world. It too casts the dark behind me. In the wake of the light, in the giving of myself to that which is in front of me, I too often neglect that which is in the periphery. That which was once hot becomes cold and neglected. The other things that need my attention that I lose passion for. I am so often either hot or cold and it kills me that I am. It has hurt people and it has hurt the ones I love. It hurts those whom have moved to the periphery of my attention without my even realising as I give myself to wholly to another group of people. I know that behind me there flows a wake of great things accomplished and lives changed there flows a wake of neglect and disappointment. That which has allowed me to become all that I have has also poisoned the waters of relationships.

So I want to say sorry. To those who have felt this. I am sorry. I wish it were not the case. I wish this didn’t come back again and again and again. I wish. At times I hate myself for this. When I see the destruction it has caused. When those I hold most dear do not feel loved. In those moments I tend to retreat into a silent self-loathing. I am not an angry man, I turn my harsh gaze inward. I know this gets me nowhere in the end. It takes me away from people and away from myself. It is a cheap solution. So I say sorry to you. To those I have hurt. To those I will hurt. I have no other words. I am sorry.

And perhaps there is no solution, perhaps this is not a problem to solve in my life, but rather a tension to manage. To lessen the shadow. To choose balance and work hard at a more healthy giving of myself. To not back away because of the shadow, but to diffuse its darkness in my life through things like this piece of writing. Through confession. Through trusting the support of friends regardless of how much of myself I can give them. Through playing with my children without any agenda but to have fun and love them and to let myself be loved by them. To not run away from the spaces of brokenness in my life and neither to hate myself because of them. There should be no shame.


And so I tell myself again the benediction from the theatre show that Anna and I shared with the world but a few weeks ago,

‘May you search out the light in others.
Gather around the fire.
Do not deny them your darkness.
Offer them your darkness.
Befriend your darkness.
Hold your darkness.
Stare at your darkness.
Transform your darkness.
Until you can see the light.
Open a window.
Let the flame burn on the inside.
Let the sun rise on the inside.
Let the dawn of your heart hold every colour.’

I choose to show you all my shadow today. I choose to show you my darkness that it may be transformed. This is my confession. This is who I am.

All Photos by Candace Smith