I was hopeless. I didn’t think that I could ever change. I watched all of my dreams slip by me in slow motion. It was as if I was inside a cab, and had told the driver to go to one destination, but then I noticed we were passing by a more important place that I needed to be. Except, the driver paid me no attention as I screamed at him and tried to open my door, which was, of course, locked.
The will to persist remained palpable even on the days when it was barely registering a pulse. To be for sure, the rest of the world had given up on me and left me for dead. I can’t completely describe to you the way it feels when you have reached the certain conclusion that you are destined to die friendless. The closest state of existence I have observed came in that movie Inception, when the other person’s consciousness turned on the dreamer who was found to be inside someone else’s head.
It’s kind of like that. Like, I am living in a version of reality in which I know whatever I say or do in the face of another human being will generate a perplexed look or a scowl. The world that I inhabit most directly as my true self, and the world that my personality greets each day are two worlds slightly out of sync with each other–alignment is off enough that I catch glimpses all day long of the fact that I wasn’t made to fit this world, but a world very similar to it.
The old hope was that I might one day wake up in a world where I was successful–the attempts at humor did hit their bull’s eye, and people did want to hear what I had to say. In this world, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were friendless and unknown, because all of their attempts at making their mark went somehow askew, but I was well-known and beloved by many. Of course, the absurdity of such a vision was easily dismissed, because that is a gross over-simplification of how the right and true world was supposed to work for me. To be more precise–in my correctly behaving world, there was room for everyone to make their mark.
I had this moment watching a video of a guy who had to spend the night in the Las Vegas Airport. He decided to lip sync Celine Dion’s “All By Myself,” and made sequences of himself doing this in different areas of the empty airport. I had this great empathy for the fellow, while knowing that he probably has dozens of friends, and maybe millions of friends now.
It was a moment of realizing the great depth and truth of another human soul. That, within each of us there is the potential to be great and powerful. The way in which our society picks winners is completely wrong. I’m not proposing more of the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality, but more of the “everyone is packed with infinite potential.” Any human life, no matter how insignificant it might seem to those who arbitrate such things, is a life worth knowing and celebrating.
I know I took a wrong turn some time ago, and had the complete understanding within months after I did it that it was wrong. I’m talking about being a bit of a bully and making fun of other people when I was pre-adolescent. I knew the actions were wrong, but I think that the general attitude that precipitated my behavior remained persistent with me even to today.
No matter how PC and kind I was to others, I never connected with them because I never reached a point where I placed the value of their lives on the same level as mine. I basically was going through life as if I was the only true human being, or true sentient being, and that everyone else was somehow a really well-crafted automaton that had been programmed to say and do things as part of an immersive experience I’d agreed to before being born on this earth. This wasn’t ever consciously realized as such, because to have an awareness of how much I still dehumanized others in my mind was to admit that perhaps I was still a monster and not a man.
I had an especially hard time accepting the rights of other men to live and exist on this earth, and that I was not more or less of a man than them. This is a bit hard to explain, and for a good reason–I don’t think I’ve gotten to the heart of this particular issue, yet. It was, in many ways, easier for me to accept the existence of men who were very different than me–for I think on some level I could see them as non-competitors, in much the same way any number of sports divide up who competes with whom by weight, age, skill, etc. So, the more a man looked different than me or came from a different culture, the easier it was to accept that his existence was valid, because I quite frankly wasn’t seeing him as being completely human. Men who looked more like me and came from cultural backgrounds similar to mine were harder to accept as being valid men whose opinions mattered simply because when they did open their mouths and talk, they often expressed opinions or had body language that was different from mine.
The same thing goes for women, but even moreso. Women had a valid existence on this earth because they were potential mates, in addition to being so radically different from me. But again, they weren’t valid in my mind because they were considered to be equals or other human beings–they were valid for the very opposite–it was easy to imagine them as being a completely different species or even alien race from another planet.
So, the hardest part of growing up wasn’t learning to imitate the body language and social cues in order to maintain some semblance of a career, identity and place in our world. It was actually coming to accept that each and every human I encountered was another child of God, who possessed all of the same gifts and faculties I had, even if they weren’t using them in the same way. Also, it was almost impossible to accept that a person could be quite similar to me in a lot of ways–similar race, economic status, religion, political affiliation–and shockingly, they even still had a mind of their own and often simply did not resonate with me once they were engaged in conversation. But, did they not resonate because of surprising differences in opinion and styles of communication, or did they not resonate because I kept my guard up and would not permit my soul to be an open human soul touching theirs?
I was once accused by an ex-girlfriend of constantly stating everything I did and believed within the context of me being better than everyone else. So, if I remarked how I chose to cut my own hair, it didn’t come off as a matter-of-fact piece of communication, but a brag. If I talked about why I chose to ride my bike to work, or how I gave in to craving fast food and drove my Mustang a few miles to purchase Jack-in-the-box, it was always with a posturing attitude that my behavior was far superior to those who chose not to do these things. I was shocked and stunned. I never thought of myself that way. I thought I was celebrating all that was unique and wonderful about me in such a way that welcomed those around me to do the same thing with themselves.
But, I could see that this wasn’t true at all. When a man chose to brag or simply talk about what he was doing with his life, I would get extremely jealous, especially if I could see that he had an admiring audiece of females. I was pretending that I was an egalitarian, populist sort of fellow, while all the time I was communicating the fact that I was the worst of snobs. No matter what the situation, no matter how clear it was that I’d made the inferior life choice and was suffering the consequences of it, I was constantly framing my thoughts and words in a manner in which I could rationalize that what I chose to do in any given situation was a far superior choice to anything that someone else would have done. In fact, on some sad, pathetic level, I think I was actually of a mind that the only people who really could come close to correct living would be people who lived as my disciples and tried as hard as they could to imitate my words and deeds at all times.
Ridiculous and utterly megalomaniacal, yes? But, a convenient and effective way to cover up so many bad choices and weaknesses without addressing them head on in a practical fashion with a mind to fixing or accepting them. Of course, it was only convenient and effective because I kept my awareness of how I was behaving sublimated. Once such activity is raised to the level of awareness where I am writing about it as in the above paragraph, it seems utterly absurd. And, I shouldn’t fail to mention that writing itself as an act contributed to me perpetuating this posture of being the most perfectly realized man that all other men (and women, too) should aspire to be. Because, you can just as easily write out your rationalizations for being such a blind-sided fool as if they were the word of God itself, and sit back and admire your words, especially if they are published in some writerly layout in a font like Garamond.
Now, let me be clear–I’m not sitting here beating up on my past or present self with endless, self-mutilating emotions. To be certain, I lived my life a certain way during my first ten years post college that wasn’t invalid at all. Trying new ways of being and approaches to the outside world is exactly what every other young person is doing when they get out of college. Most of the hipster shit we see will fade away, but it will always have a kindred manifestation in whatever comes out of the next generation of twentysomethings. Where I was really going wrong is in my manner of thinking on some level that I was the ONLY twentysomething with a valid approach to life, and that anyone and everyone else was somehow inferior. If they happened to have become more successful than me, I was always able to trace it back to some lucky break they got in life, even if they weren’t born with a silver spoon.
The first few years after I abandoned this way of being were perhaps the hardest. I literally saw a different person in the mirror every morning. Somehow, like flipping a switch, I stopped being the most handsome man in the universe (aside from a nose that bulged a little too much and a chin that was a little too weak, and acne that ravaged me on a regular basis), and became shockingly, just another average joe. That was the worst part about it. I think I could have accepted in those honest moments in the mirror a face that was wildly different than every other man’s, for better or worse. But, when it really came down to it–I was just an average-looking sort of fellow. The same thing could be said for the way I was living my life and the activities I chose to participate in outside of work. My job was average, too. I wasn’t this exceptionally unique man full of profound truths that no other man was privy to. I was just an average sort of fellow who chose to place more emphasis on reading and writing than on following sports.
I had no great ideas, no earth shattering moments of inspiration where I was going to invent something huge. I was, by all appearances, exceptional only in that I was exceptionally average and kind of boring. This probably hurt more, than if I’d searched my soul and found a hidden, evil predator or some ugly, dark desire lurking within me. Pretty much everything I’d said and done that might be considered somewhat rebellious or marginal was done with a clear eye to being perceived by others as exceptional and unique. Once I removed all of that posturing, I unearthed an common, boring man, not a great and special one.