It’s funny how simple we all can be when we’re stripped of all our pretensions. In the end, all we want is a place to call home and to be loved by someone. Or have someone to love. Whatever. We’re all a bunch of charlatans, acting like we’re high and mighty with armor forged from the strongest steel, when we’re all just essentially babies at heart.
Some of us are just better at hiding it than others.
I’ve been a little on the nostalgic side lately, if you haven’t already been able to tell thanks to my blog posts. Remembering days spent dicking around in the woods at my grandparents’ place, building treehouses in the woods with my tiny handful of friends, enjoying a complete lack of responsibility and just being free to fuck about to my heart’s content, or at least until my mom or my grandma or my granddad came to fetch me and take me back home to whatever spread they had whipped up, no matter how meager or elaborate. I miss that stuff. Growing up, moving to the “big city”, dealing with work stress and bills and all the other day-to-day shit that eventually grinds us back to dust has been a reality check. I’ve made a lot of good choices. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve made good impressions on some people, and I’ve hurt others. C’est la vie. It all ends badly for all of us.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t get better. While mired in my own navel-gazing bullshit, I’ve come to realize a lot of things about myself lately, most of which was great, but a lot of which was intensely uncomfortable. I came to realize that I’m still a child, in a lot of ways. Inevitably getting smacked down by older people while pissing and moaning about gray hairs or getting old will do that to you.
Never forget, young ones, that while a lot of people might look at you as just some dumb kid, a lot of them also wish they were in your shoes again. Young(ish), fresh-faced, eyes wide with wonder with the entire world at your fingertips, and it’s yours to either fuck up profoundly or make just a fraction better. Hell, I wish I could hit reverse and go back to my teens. I’d have kicked myself in the balls for smoking, I’d have chosen better company, I’d have started lifting weights earlier, etc. It’s funny how I’d spend too much time fixing all my regrets rather than just being glad that I am where I am, that I still suck air (regardless of how polluted it may be), and that I’ve got all my faculties and a decent head on my shoulders. We’re all that lucky, and that’s that.
Sometimes, when you’re in a bad way, your mind starts going to bad places. You’ll be doing something simple and suddenly be hit with a flash of “oh god am I going to fuck this up”. Your brain will inevitably meander down this dark alleyway, with guilt and self-loathing and depression opening their respective coats to sell you guns or drugs or show you their syphilitic cocks or what have you. And that stuff can sometimes take roots (especially the syphilis) and make you either completely neurotic or just quit giving a shit entirely. And that’s bad.
I’ve been there. We all have, essentially, whether we like to admit to it or not. Life can be a pain in the ass sometimes, regardless of its awesomeness. Some people just get beaten down by it and don’t get back up, glued to the mat like some punch-drunk boxer who didn’t realize they had a glass jaw. Some people take their licks and still stand up in the end, defiant, with a “What the fuck do you have for me now” glare of stoicism on their face. I can’t judge either party, to be honest.
But what I can do is keep reminding myself that this is still better than the alternative. There’s lots of great things out there to be enjoyed, most of which a lot of us will never experience in our disconcertingly brief times here. From something as simple as a mischievous grin from a pretty woman (or a dashing young man, if that’s your deal) to globetrotting and sucking in every single droplet of experience you can, we’re here and we’re in it. It doesn’t make sense to waste it. Goddamn it, don’t waste it.
I’ve made more than my fair share of bad decisions. Regret nips at my heels like hounds from Hell on occasion, and guilt can be heavier than a two-ton weight sometimes. But I’ve tried to start letting go of that stuff. And so far, it’s been relatively easy. There’s still a long, occasionally dark road ahead that might have the odd bramble bush or boulder in the way, or hell, even a giant gaping chasm with a yawning abyss below that’s so terrifying that you can’t even blink, much less avoid wetting your pants like a toddler. But it’s about how we deal with all that. A lot of people, myself included, get way too down on themselves sometimes.
-God, I suck. -Ugh, I wish I was dead. -Ugh, I wish I was skinnier/more handsome/richer/had a bigger dick (my curse)/had a magic wand that could make weed out of thin air. -….FUCK.
We’ve all had these thoughts (and if anyone gets a lead on that weed wand, let me know, I’d rather not have to work at a desk for the rest of my life, but the good thing about this stuff is that, eventually, it passes. We might hate ourselves for having that bacon cheeseburger or completely flubbing it with that cute girl/guy at the bar, but at least we did it. It was an experience.
I know it’s a cliche, but that “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” shit is pretty true.
Another problem I’ve noticed with a lot of people (because it’s such a huge shortcoming of mine), is that we don’t have enough compassion for ourselves sometimes. We get down over the dumbest things, and if you’re prone to anxiety like I am, your subconscious immediately inflates it to be a life or death scenario. “Oh christ, I have to go to work and I’m going to walk through that front door and all of my managers are going to be there with battle-axes and will lop my dick off and laugh at me.”
That never happens. Whatever you’re imagining, it likely won’t happen. They don’t have guns (generally, unless you’re in the South), you’ll still be alive after the whole ordeal, and worse things have happened to equally harried people and they’re not dead yet.
These are the kinds of mantras that keep me sane, even if I’m practically shitting kittens over whatever patently moronic fictional narrative my brain is screaming at me.
Then, there’s the issue of us not having enough compassion for others. To this day, one of the best things I’ve ever read ever (not titled Juggs Magazine) is David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech that he delivered to Kenyon College sometime in the nineties (I think, please correct me if I’m wrong), titled “This is Water”. If one were to boil it down to brass tacks, which, by the way, is doing the piece a huge disservice - stop being a lazy fuck and just Google it already - it’s a lesson about basically learning to care. To get out of your own head and give a shit once in a while. To not be so selfish.
There’s one line that stuck to me like glue, and that’s “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”
Admittedly, I’ve been terrible at that. So have we all. Selfishness can be an inherent trait. Survival of the fittest, motherfucker, even if it means I have to snatch the crown from you and then beat you to death with it. But at the same time, I’ve come a long way from the days where I was just bitter and hateful, a fount of impotent rage ready to either boil over or die from a heart attack over the fact that someone dared to do something I didn’t like.
Now, I just kinda shake stuff off, for the most part. I’m a little too relaxed sometimes, much to the chagrin of some. It’s just not worth the time, not worth the effort, whatever. We get older and we learn to pick our battles and exactly which hills are worth dying upon. In a way, I feel a little bit more free when it comes to stuff like that. Sure, there are jokes about being angry, but there’s a difference between feigned outrage and genuine, visceral outrage that courses through your veins like a fresh swig of hellfire bourbon. That’s the good anger. That’s the shit that changes lives, that gets things done.
I guess what I’m getting at here is: stop losing your shit about the little stuff. I know I have just as much ground to tread as the rest of you as far as this is concerned, but there’s seriously way worse things out there and the little wars that we all tend to pick in our daily lives are really just detritus at the end of the day, something to be shaken off and laughed at. Relax, get back with your sense of childlike wonder that kicks you out into the world and eventually draws you back home at night, but don’t forget to aim higher and, in the words of one Hunter S. Thompson, don’t let the bastards grind you down.