At the zoo — a collection of artificial environments designed to mimic environments most people who are at the zoo will never see in real life.
Yet, it has its own vibe. People who never mix in other public spaces are there together. The redneck families, the black families all decked out in hip hop attire, the Latino families, the upper middle class white families who clearly eat well and dress well, and probably are the only ones who could afford vacations to the environments the zoo seeks to mimic.
A return to childhood. An increasing desire to have kids of my own. I’ve never understood the concept of people wanting to have kids. I thought you either had them by accident, or had them because you accepted it as a milestone, a course to take in life. But, an actual present feeling that is all its own–increases each year that I go to places like this.
At church–a church with no person coming up to me and putting on that fake “we’re so happy you’re here” bs attitude that goes away after you attend for a few months. A nice feeling. But, does it feel like a church where I would really grow spiritually and find my lifelong “community” I’ve yearned for ever since I arrived in S and failed to fit in?
What a strange town Waco is! It’s full of all the big town businesses you might need, has a zoo that rivals San Antonio’s or Ft. Worth’s, but there are no jobs here. Not the kind of jobs that I qualify for, anyway.
It appears to be more segregated than Austin. People at the Mexican restaurant we went to on Friday night all looked like us. Lots of white guys my age with guts hanging over their belts, wearing polo shirts and jeans. Younger white guys probably still in college or high school wearing athletic apparel and t-shirts supporting Baylor.
There’s a distinct kind of flavor or culture one apprehends sitting among these folks who all probably vote Republican, listen to C&W or Classic Rock, like to hunt and fish, and probably don’t read much or pay attention to the news outside of what Fox tells them. Mostly, they probably pay attention to sports, their lawns, barbecue. They vacation on cruises or go to Disney World. It’s the other bubble of America. Having lived in Austin for so long, I came to expect certain attitudes from people, certain shows like The Daily Show and favorite NPR shows that everyone paid attention to. I knew how to be PC, and that for the most part, talking about God was verboten (unless you were going to talk about how little you believed in his existence). I knew it was a bubble, but I couldn’t help but think that since these people in Austin saw the same television network shows, or at least were aware of them, got the same news, and generally had reality presented to them in a similar, mass consumer fashion, that the differences between the Austin Liberal Bubble and the Waco Conservative Bubble were by degree, or consisted of primarily a few key religious and political differences, rather than any sort of distinct forking of two cultures that one day may be completely incapable of recognizing each other as being American.
But, it’s true.
We Americans will likely one day evolve to be as bitterly divided as we were during the Civil War era. There will be those of us who embrace new technology and accept that rural ways are dead, living like people in any international city–citizens of the world. And, there will be Americans rooted fiercely in the land, even if it’s only in their heads.
I had this brief impression this morning before church that I’ve been living a life of guilt and shame, and punishing myself for things without even knowing it. Some subconscious part of me remains locked in guilt for having crashed the party, so to speak, when I was born and R and R were no longer the sole objects of my parents’ attention. So much of my irrational, rebellious behavior, my acting out, was nothing but an attempt to hurt myself and prove to my brothers that I wasn’t responsible for coming on to this earth and messing up their lives.
There’s been guilt around this that continues through the passing of R. Would he have finally adjusted to living as an adopted child had two biological children not come along to disrupt the focus and attention my parents were giving toward his development?
I made a conscious decision at the end of the seventh grade to start doing poorly in school. This decision has long been accepted in my storytelling as a desire to fit in, be cool, be a part of the kids who I thought mattered, kids who reminded me of my older brothers. But, perhaps there was something deeper–a decision to fuck up my future so that my brothers would never think that I had it any easier, or had in any way achieved something special as a result of preferential treatment.
At our heart of hearts, each member of my family knew that my parents couldn’t help but treat children made in their image, from their DNA, differently. It certainly didn’t help that from the time my brother R left home my dad’s career saw an arc of ever-increasing salary, meaning that more toys filled the house year after year that my brothers were never allowed to have.
The years following my little brother’s death could certainly be described with ease as years of guilt and self punishment. While years leading up to college might have been more subconscious in what drove my behavior, the years following H’s death were nothing short of a prolonged attempt by me to kill myself out of a sense of utter responsibility for his death. After all, he died in an unsafe truck that was the truck I forfeited the night I got my DWI during my sophomore year in college.
The drinking in college was, of course, part and parcel of what’s already been described above. The kinds of friends I sought out, and thought of as being authentic, legit, cool, etc. were friends who quickly dropped out of college and got jobs in Columbia. They found friends among the working class people there, and these became my friends. I rationalized that I gravitated toward these kinds of people because my own father was a blue collar worker when I was a kid, and that his paying for my college only got me there and educated and fed–I could never fit in with the rich preppy kids whose parents paid for not only their college educations, but spring break trips and summers overseas, along with any number of vacations to New York and activities like skydiving and high-end partying.
Of course, this was really crappy rationalization and generalization of a huge number of various groups of people–some were surely like that, but there were many more, like G’s Catholic friends, who were just normal, Midwestern college kids.
The truth of it all still lies half-buried, I think, no matter how much I’ve tried to examine this. The truth is that I dismissed getting involved in church youth groups and other college groups because these people were clearly on paths that, were I to join them, would forever mark me as a child of privilege.
The really sad part of this is that I know for a fact that R saw no difference between a kid who sought out working class friends to party with while at college and sought out to barely do the work required to get the degree, and a kid who might have done so much more with so many better people who could have truly helped him get to places far beyond such aspirations as finding a schleppy office job while he figured out what to do with the rest of his life.
I continued to seek out the same kind of people after college, rejecting the friends G made when we moved down here. They were clearly not legit, authentic, and were the same kind of people who had been unapologetically collegiate when they were in college.
So, it should have hardly came as any sort of a shock that I made zero lasting friendships at UW, when I finally decided that I wanted these kinds of people to be my friends. They had long since amassed a series of international travel experiences and socially matured in ways I was just beginning to attempt to figure out. I did continue to find ways to lash out–with creditors, neighbors, telemarketers, even volunteers at United Way (misguided and terrible as some of them were), because I craved the punishment, even if it was to be mostly self-inflicted over beer and a lot of soul-searching writing asking “why?”
Then, I perpetuated this approach at C, though by now, it has become less and less of an acceptable vehicle to even make imaginary progress in life.
The entire cycle of acting up, befriending the black sheep, rebelling, refusing to take life and work seriously, then wallowing in self pity and drink when both the black sheep and preppy kids leave you behind–it’s all born out of this sense of guilt over having come into this world being handed things I don’t deserve, and unconsciously (because it truly is absurd once it’s verbalized) believing that by beating up on myself and making myself a bit of a loser when I could actually when and achieve success, that I’m somehow making a repayment for this initial theft (and any subsequent ones).
Who knows how many choices I’ve made out of an utter habit that now permeates my entire thinking? Choices where I might have stood up to a supervisor or other person up the management food chain and said “why yes, I would like to have a career that goes far beyond this menial, ‘web bitch’ bullshit I’ve been doing for years.” Choices where I would have turned down invitations (real or imagined) to party, get drunk, waste time watching TV and surfing the internet, and buckle down on whatever project might have helped me gain more influence at work, or get me further with opportunities to network.