At some point, you’re going to sink.
It’s inevitable, and you shouldn’t attempt to save yourself from that moment. Why not avoid devastation? Because you need this sobering moment to face a mirror and view yourself the way you would’ve five, ten, even twenty years ago. There will come a time when you will become unrecognizable to your former self, and it’s at this moment that a change occurs. Whether it’s innocence lost or morality reclaimed, a chapter closes when you glimpse what the past has wrought. I recently gained a sense of clarity thought dead for ten years.
There was a journal. In my sophomore year of high school, I entered the “Introduction to Psychology” course. My teacher, who was quite the insightful metal-head, held in high regard the personal records of all his students. At the end of every day of class we would be instructed to chronicle our emotions, fears, and beliefs in this notebook that was meant to be a haven of privacy, and a bubble of inner dialogue. It was a success, as my classmates and I spent our time furiously scribbling away in it. My section for morals and ethics though, looks surprisingly unlike a column I would write today.
In my mid-teens, I was significantly more of an optimist than in current days. Throughout my four years of losing the mass of innocence I started with, I held it self-evident that all people should be respected for who they are and what they believe in. There was no doubt in my mind that good and bad are absolutes, that are completely dependent on each person’s nature and nurture. I never questioned that “in the real world”, every person who was on your team was working their hardest to accomplish a common objective, or believed in the greater good of a project or task. I believed that if you were the best at something, then you were the prime candidate.
These tenets all have one trait in common:
Not all people should be respected. You could hold that up as a grand standard to dealing with anyone, but you would be lying to yourself and anyone you preach it to. We’re all human, and despite how much you might self-righteously claim to respect all people for who they are, some people have codes of conduct and honor that have deteriorated so much that they’re more comparable to animals, begging to only sustain the most fundamental empty desires of blood and flesh. It’s okay to not respect everyone. Some people just don’t deserve it. They think so lowly of everyone around them, that you would still be thinking higher of them than they of you. Just remember there are lines that separate them from you, and those lines must be upheld. Respect is earned, not given.
Regardless of what you believe, a person’s morality can be shifted slightly north or south of the status quo. Powerful feelings get in the way. Feelings that complicate the process and can cause people to commit terrible acts on their behalf. Feelings that can bring out bravery in one who never thought it possible. Great notions can lead to heroic deeds, but can alternatively lead to disaster. Passion, greed, animosity, selflessness, and pride; all accidents in the grand schism of good and bad, and claiming absence to their existence in the formation of a person is a simple and efficient way to make the world appear to be less than it is.
Not everyone is climbing the ladder at the same pace you are. Some people are sitting on the ladder, waiting for something magical to happen. Others are climbing back down, too afraid of how much further they have to climb, or what they found when they got there. Some are breaking out the rungs as they climb, trying viciously to prevent their peers from ever getting a foot-up in their lives. Finally, there are a select few sitting at the bottom of the ladder with a set of matches, ready to burn the whole thing down when they feel everyone else has gone too far.
If you have done your job right, you may not be enough. If you have filled out every checklist to the best of your abilities, you might only be good. Even if you surpass all your rivals, triumph over every challenge, and leap over every hurdle, you might only be satisfactory. “Best” and “favorite” are strange terms to throw around, and they are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes, you need something a little extra to push past people’s expectations. Tragically enough, sometimes different beats strong. Whether or not you can accept that will undoubtedly change you. I will tell you that success is not measured by numbers though. How victorious you feel can only be measured by how much punishment you’re willing to take, and if you’re able to endure.
Do yourself a favor. When you finally get a look at yourself, stare hard. You’ll realize I’m not lying, and everything you thought you knew about yourself snuck out the back door with your original ambitions. Once you’ve had enough, smash your fucking internal mirror. It is possible to forgive yourself and like who you are, even if you don’t like everything about what you’ve transformed into. In fact, you might think it an odd transition and joke about how you would’ve looked down upon yourself years ago.
I believe I would look strange to my former self.
I’ve become a fairly cynical, remotely unsuccessful, passive-aggressive, callous, selfish, vulgar, vengeful, ethically-challenged smart-ass with a talent for everything in the field of nothing. I’m an acute observer of the irreducibly obtuse, and a realist cursed with idealism. I’m stricken by hope in an age where I’ve already taught myself to abandon it all. I scorn the hero with bad intentions, and revere the villain with a conscience. I think peace is a bitter mask for belligerence, while war is an ideal ending for antagonists. I think the pen is mightier than the sword, unless you HAVE a sword, in which case use that. I’m intimidating to others; tragically, it’s my kindness that makes people uncomfortable. I’m Frankenstein’s monster without the facade, I’m a religious metal-head with no god, and I can’t get behind what I do when I’m always in my own way. I’ve led my herd to a slaughterhouse, and I beat a dead horse until blood paints the walls, all while having a field day in a desert.
I’m going to break my mirror now. I guess I was just tired of wallowing comfortably in a jacuzzi of my own-self loathing.
So crucify the ego, before it’s far too late
And leave behind this place so negative and blind and cynical
And you will come to find that we are all one mind
Capable of all that’s imagined and all conceivable