“Everybody is a nice guy, underneath it all. What we become when the world is through messing us over is something else.” – Hagbard Celine
Look, y’all, I’m one messed up dude.
Just take my word for it. I’ve been accused of being entirely too normal, a “nice guy”, and so on. Yeah, whatever. I’ve got as much baggage as most people, and far more bad (emotional) habits.
That’s not really the point of this, though. I mean, I knew I had issues, but I’ve been working on them. And I’ve had mentors and people I looked up to, and people who I saw as much farther along the path to healing themselves than I. So hey, I thought, I can’t be that bad.
One of them1 – remember, this is someone who I think of as healthier than I – said this over e-mail:
“For the first time in my life, I’m going to respond to an adult problem like an adult, with integrity and honesty and compassion.”
It took a while for that to hit me. At first I wanted to say something about the child-like simplicity of Zen or Tao, but their statement has nothing to do with that2, so luckily I kept my mouth shut. And then it slowly began to hit me with the irresistible force of a giant foam mallet.
If a person I look up to – a person I see as more emotionally mature than I – views themselves as a child, what does that say about me?
They weren’t trying to convince me of anything – it was a statement about themselves. But at the same time, it’s made me reconsider myself in a way I’ve not done for several months. It’s something I needed. I remembered what I was doing, but had forgotten part of the why.
A decade ago, fifteen years ago, I wrote some inspirational stuff. Most notably, Breathe and I listen to them snicker and y2k+1. They’re good things.
But by and large, I’d lost the frame of mind I had then. The attitude that let me wander downtown Chapel Hill with a girl I’d just met and read books in the park. The attitude that let me spin in circles in a warm Korean monsoon with friends. The attitude that let me be something other than scared.
I have been getting closer to that. Sometimes on my own, sometimes with help, sometimes despite other people’s help. But I’ve been getting there.
Realizing how much farther I have to go just means that I have to get off my ass.
Because one of my random quotes, originally written in 1995, popped back up again, and finished the soft sledgehammer swing of my friend’s words:
Sometimes we forget that we don’t have to change the world in order to change the world.
I’d forgotten. I will probably forget again.
But maybe we can all keep reminding each other.
1 They know who they are. It’s not your business – I’m not telling their story here.
2 Or everything to do with fulfilling it. I’m not sure yet.