“WE’VE BEEN AT THIS FOR OVER THREE HOURS, AND YOU HAVEN’T DONE SHIT,” one of the admins derided as I attempted to calm the group of agitated ladies.
This was the fourth day in a row sparks had flown within the walls of the Sisters of Resistance, a gaming group that was born from the ashes of their previous endeavors. Established with a solid crew of seven, the “Seven Sisters”, as I jokingly called them by the name of a song from the metal band “The Sword”, were comprised of three multi-game professionals, and four new admins. The original trifecta consisted of three bright young ladies, all of whom were tragically torn by their self-righteous sense of justice. Born of the womb of a broken gaming clan, their splinter group was established under the premise of “absolute democracy”, which ironically led to some of the same pitfalls the American voting system breeds every four years. With no ideals of order set in stone upon their inception, they were left in a state of constitutional limbo. Of the seven sisters, only the three senior members were left vying for the rank of “leader”.
The first was a strong-willed, stubborn as hell lady that the group had lovingly dubbed, “Max”. Maxine was the group’s designated “tank”, which meant she took the hits for as long as possible in-game, and protected the group from harm. This was appropriate, as she more often than not carried a demeanor that one could only describe as “prickly”. She was a die-hard believer in the fact they had done the right thing by leaving, and it was her view that, “the only way the old group could survive was through us. We did all the work, and made all the progress. It’s only fair that we reap the benefits.” Unfortunately, she also had a quick temper, and the slightest transgressions sent her into a fit of rage.
The second of the trio was my liaison to the group. Her name was Caroline, but everyone in the group insisted on calling her “Carrie”, as she was informal, the oldest of the group, and was the member who hatched the idea to discard their previous guild, the Shield of the North. SotN was a guild on the game “RIFT”, who had a reputation for picking up primarily females, and members of the LGBT community. This had a positive effect, until the original leader suddenly disappeared, leaving them all to fend for themselves. Carrie decided it would be best for them to take as many people as possible and begin an exodus, and being that everyone in the guild knew Carrie as the only active admin left, they did as she requested out of respect. While Carrie was an experienced officer in multiple guilds for several years, she had a tendency to be indecisive on serious issues, and moments of temporary weakness left her paralyzed with inaction.
The third, and final member of the guild’s senior members was a remarkably calm girl that the majority of the group knew as “Saffron”. Her actual name was Molly, and she was Maxine’s younger sister. As you can imagine, this was a consistent problem for the both of them, whether it was between others or just themselves. Molly was the group’s “healer”, which meant she played a role as important as her sister’s. She kept her alive in dungeons and raids, and by way of reason— everyone else. While she was useful in the most desperate of situations, she was also regarded with an apparent amount of distance from the rest of the group. Molly was cool, and constantly calculating. She never flinched, but for some reason was prone to starting fights within the guild over positions that she felt were indefensible.
That’s where I come in.
I was brought in at the request of Caroline, in order to solve the disputes of the fledgling clan, and get them off the ground. Leading The Sic for over eight years, as well as the work I had done for multiple other guilds at the time, had given me an illustrious, if not notorious name among the series of games out at the time. Knowing my level of commitment, however, was enough to inspire confidence in Caroline, and she threw me a message requesting assistance. She wanted to place a cornerstone on the foundation of her guild by building a rank system, assembling a small council for top-tier members, and enacting a constitution for the guild to follow as law. I agreed, and informed her that her guild’s senior members would need to be present for at most a week, simply to create balance and order. She accepted the terms, and within hours her members were gathered in a TeamSpeak channel, readily awaiting the steps necessary to give birth to their cause. From the moment I opened my mouth, they became a flurry of innovation.
The first three days went by like flowing water. The sisters had worked tirelessly to come up with the right words to pass their code of conduct. In the end, the settled on a concrete base of seven rules; one created by each representative of their member corps. They knew their goals, and what sorts of targets they wanted to aim for. They knew who their prime recruiters were, and what their efforts could yield. They worked with purpose, discipline, and finesse. They had a website, an expanded voice server, and a forum to match. Everything moved at a quick, and even pace. That is, until the topic of leadership came up.
It started softly at first. Whispers danced through the air that there would be elections. Other rumors played with the idea that they would all lead in the small council. A couple of people, disillusioned by their momentary lapse of cooperation, felt there would be no chain of command, and they would exist in pseudo-anarchy. Even I had no idea what they had in mind, until all three of the most likely candidates approached me simultaneously.
“So…uhh. We were just curious because you haven’t made it clear yet,” Caroline gingerly inquired. “Who is going to be leader?”
I stared at my screen in disbelief. We had come all this way, only to be met by a cliff.
“W-Wait. Wait. Let me get this straight,” I stuttered as I worked up the courage to ask the question. “You…don’t have a leader?”
As if answering a question that hadn’t been asked yet, the three women began listing their own qualities, often deliberately louder than the other two. When they finished their positive outlook speeches, they started in on each other. Maxine condescendingly informed her sister that since she was technically brought in later, that she might as well be disqualified from the conversation. Molly retorted by questioning her older sister’s level of dedication, stating that she couldn’t just run away from these people the way she did every other person. Caroline attempted to pull rank by claiming that this was all her idea originally, commenting that without her, their group would’ve never survived the week. This only exacerbated things, as they soon began an inflammatory dialogue about the meaning of seniority versus superiority, as well as a lengthy discussion about the merits of achieved status over ascribed status.
This was a disaster. They weren’t the unified coalition of females I had known for their integrity days earlier. They were squabbling children, more interested in tearing each other apart over a silly title, than attempting to create greatness out of nothing. After a few minutes of attempting to regain their attention, I resigned myself to the loss of control, and began scheming as to how I could find out who was truly cut out for it. At the rate they were going, their clan would be dead long before they decided on leadership, and this was an integral topic for them to ponder. However, it needed to be done quickly. They couldn’t be torn over this, nor could they allow themselves to be seen as compromised in the face of their peers.
They stopped instantly, surprised my by sudden volume. I was given the floor, and I began.
“You can’t let this kill your ambitions. This position is worthless, thankless, and the most important job here. Only the person with the right mindset should do it. I would ask you to consider that.”
When I finished, I was met with the all too familiar voice of defeat, and frustration.
“That’s easy for you to say, when you don’t even have a guild anymore,” Caroline chided. “So, how is your ambition doing these days?”
I froze. You smug bitch, I thought to myself. In seconds, I realized what I had to do. It was time to make or break this group. After all, it’s what they wanted me to do, and the sun was quickly sinking into the afternoon sky. I switched channels in the TeamSpeak server, trying desperately to seek the right key to this doorway. I didn’t have to look far. The head admin of the newer members of the group was a highly-trusted woman named Gabrielle. Everyone called her “Gabi”, and more importantly, it was universally accepted that she was the guild favorite. No desire for power, and no need for recognition made her an invaluable asset to the community. She brought people in. She made friends with them. She gave them information. Gabi was an all-star, that I would’ve liked to have stolen from them. Alas, it was not to be. I told her my plan, and she accepted it without hesitation. As I dragged her into the other channel with the bickering broads, I spoke over them to make an announcement.
“Hey guys, I think Gabi has something she wants to say.”
They all paused, pricked by morbid curiosity. This was an irregular visit by her. It was all coming together. I sat back, and watched the fireworks.
“Well,” Gabi began. “I’ve thought about it a lot, and all of you are my friends. I want you to know that. The past few months have been a really awesome experience between us, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know all of you. However, with all that has gone on over the past couple of days, I’ve come to realize that I can not be an admin in this guild, and I don’t think I like who I’m becoming around you all. I thank you for the good times, and I’ll excuse myself.”
I beamed from ear-to-ear. The silence in the room told me that they had just been bomb-shelled by their most reliable person, and now had no clue what to do about it. It was the perfect setup. As Caroline’s microphone lit up in the server, I shivered with anticipation of the coming events.
“I guess…okay, Gabi. Thanks,” she conceded.
It was a tone of surrender. She buckled under the pressure, and now had nothing more to add. This was her moment of weakness, and it took its toll.
“Gabi, I’m really sorry. We just let the leader shit get really out of control,” Maxine chimed in. I had never seen her apologize before. This was interesting, and enlightening. She left her microphone on for a second, but evidently felt it didn’t need to be stated, so she released her push-to-talk key. I allowed myself another grin, as Molly was last to speak and as far as I knew, the person with the least to say. What I was met with, however, was as far from the expected result as possible. As she clicked her key, a tirade of unparalleled resolution escaped her lips.
“OH FUUUUCK YOU, GABI!!!!”
The room stood still.
“You ungrateful cunt! Oh, so mommy and daddy have an argument and that’s your cue to skip town on us, eh?! Well, guess what? You’re replaceable. EASILY. You think the others aren’t waiting to get at your spot? They are. They want everything you have, and now, I’m gonna have to give it to one of them. So thanks for nothing, and get the fuck out of here,” she finished.
I sat staggered. Gabrielle too, seemingly, as I didn’t hear another word out of her mouth. I took a deep breath, and remembered the point of this exercise turned incident.
“Well, it looks like you know who your leader is,” I asserted. “A real leader doesn’t waver, even in the face of their friends. They stay resolute, certain, and act with a purpose even when that purpose isn’t as clear as they would like it to be. Nicely done, Molly. Oh, and a big thanks to Gabrielle! I couldn’t have demonstrated this without her.”
Gabi was either still regaining her composure, infuriated with me, or both, because she left the channel and I didn’t see her again. Mission accomplished, though.
Knowing my work was more or less complete, I informed the three of them that I would be leaving a couple hours later. They had accepted that Molly would be the best for the position, and with that out of the way, they could finally focus on the important issues at hand. Rebuilding is a hell of a task. We had a chat about how many times The Sic had set up our house of cards, only to have it blown over time, and time again. I informed them that it will happen again. It’s guaranteed. They just had to be ready for it. They thanked me for all my help, regardless of how unorthodox it was, and asked me what I intended to do now. I told them I didn’t know, but it was beginning to become clear that I was gunning for a ceremonious return to my gaming clan. It was time to stop hiding from it. You can’t run forever, after all.
“Any chance you could stay and watch us launch the guild officially tonight?” Maxine asked excitedly. “I mean, you’re as much as part of this as we are, now.”
With a chuckle, I responded.
“Sorry, I can’t. I wish I could, though. I have a big date tonight, and I’m heading out to the drive-in theater later. I’ll let you know how it goes, though.”
The seven sisters bid me farewell, and wished me good luck. I would need it. I had been at this same location ten years earlier, on my first date. I couldn’t tell if it was coincidence, or fate that brought me to this place on this day, but at that point I didn’t care. It was the start of a strange, and unfamiliar era, and for the first time in forever, I felt like a different guy.
Dusk came, and the night brought the appealing prospect of a new beginning.
Run, to where the smallest ray of light will never find you
Run, to where you will not need to shield your eyes
Run, away from all the soulless, heartless fiends who hound you
Run, away and let your memories go blind, when I
Take all the pain away
I cannot stay my hand
From reaching out so that I can
For all eternity
It seems to ease my mind
To know that you’ve brought
Meaning to my life
On August 31st, 2010, the heavy metal band Disturbed launched their fifth studio album, Asylum, and my world fell apart.
For some time already, the world of this gaming clan leader had been a diagram of the disastrous. The months leading up to such a plateau weren’t much kinder. A disloyal partner, brought on by the need to atone for a deed she felt was a sleight against the almighty. The seeds of doubt and mutiny, growing with tempered aggression in a clan that had long since become content with bureaucratic disinterest. The loss of a job necessary to his own existence, yet so emotionally draining that it pushed him to the brink of suicide, and the fateful night that brought about the cataclysmic chain of events…
I hated 2010. It was a horrible fucking year, and nothing of value happened during it. It was one tragedy after another, and regardless of how I try to look back on it with a positive light, I just keep cringing. Seemingly nothing went right, and the more I tried to fix things, the more people I could count turning away from me. My friends no longer looked to my solutions. Not like I blame them; I was a kid then and more often than not I still feel like it. I was growing up in the wrong aspects, and trying desperately to justify every mistake I made as someone else’s. Morality wasn’t a sliding scale back then, and ethics weren’t a code of conduct I stuck to as guidelines to live my life by. Black and white weren’t colors. They existed as polar opposites on a short spectrum of ideas. In retrospect, being less absolutist during this time would’ve saved many of my friendships, while simultaneously damaging any credibility I had as a decent leader. They didn’t want to step up to the plate, but they didn’t want to watch me do things over their heads anymore. My greatest complaints ranged from being a “tyrant”, all the way up to being titled a “two-faced, hypocritical asshole.” Needless to say, the thin red line was a pretty broad brushstroke on the canvas of my deconstruction. Nothing was accomplished inside our ranks, either. Whether we were stuck in a squabbling match, or lost in the irrelevance of a politically correct dystopia of our own design—it was a nightmare. My admins barely respected me. They looked to me for advice that never came without resistance, and I permitted it. I gave in because I was afraid to make anyone angry. I didn’t want to say no to them. They transformed from peers to paper dolls; fragile, finite sources of entertainment and evidence that I had “done” something. I know now that this was a mistake, as it threw perspective out the window, and replaced it with a magnifying glass. It was a vain attempt to see how they functioned without me. They weren’t ants, and the looking glass I trapped them beneath burned them. I regret it.
It had become evident since the night of the car crash that something wasn’t right. She was incoherent on the way to the hospital, laying on a flimsy gurney, her face drenched in tears. Loose, unending strands of frizzy hair stuck to the sides of her cheeks. The white powder from the airbag had deployed in a distressing manner over her upper chest and neck. Dark bruises from the seat belt began to appear on her collar-bone. It was a miracle that I had not been injured, but a terrifying reality that she had. Riding in the ambulance with the siren on and the light blazing was unsettling enough. Listening to the sobs of my beloved in the back were intolerable though. Still, I was concerned over the snippets of words that were coming through loud and clear. Phrases along the lines of, “I should’ve never left him,” or insulting stabs of “I made a mistake,” all of which being uttered while I was only inches away. I clasped my hand over the center console, biting my tongue to cease my attitude. The driver knew instantly that she wasn’t whimpering about me, but the fuming man she left behind in the apartment mere minutes beforehand. It’s why I chose to drive. She was inconsolable, and feeling like she had betrayed him was now reason enough to cast me aside in her moment of weakness. I blamed her in that moment, and I cursed my own frailty for returning to her open embrace. As we settled into a thin chamber of the emergency room ward, her mother leaned into the hug her daughter. She thanked me casually, and I sat down in a chair in the opposite corner from the bed. Her voice quivering and shaky, she confided in her mother her true feelings.
“Mom, God is punishing me. He’s punishing me for leaving Jay.”
It became abundantly clear that I was not Jay, and that her mother’s gentle head-nods were a way to shut her up so I wouldn’t hear her. It was too late, and the damage had been done. I mourned my loss. Not because I had ended someone’s life; she had long since died inside to become someone else. This was the grief you can only experience at the hands of someone who never truly loved you in the first place. My throat stung with the grip of someone strangling the pathetic nature out of me. No longer did I loathe her for choosing someone else over me. I genuinely hated her for trying to find a place for me in her life, when she knew the only care she had was a pipe-dream. The visions of my happy future with my perfect girl, and my perfect house, and my perfect life all disintegrated in a matter of hours. July fourth was no longer a holiday I could connect to freedom. It was about enslavement. The enslavement of all the time I spent trying to fix things, and sacrifice for a better future. All at once, I knew that for the remainder of our pitiful journey together I would think simply of shackles for her, because she would never see me for anything more than the vessel to ferry her towards household misery.
I wished for a better tomorrow, and my wishes were buried with ashes.
I cried out for self-immolation, and everyone hid the matches.
I called out for the warmth of a friend,
and was warned “it will never end.”
Everything, and everyone you know will ditch, decay, or die.
My crown sat high on the chessboard. I was the king of the black. Around me laid the tools of my success. I played the wrong game.
The first two turns were a merciless assault of one close death after the other. The third and fourth brought to me a mass exodus. The past five turns have been a suffocating, dehumanizing necrosis. Piece by piece I have struggled to maintain some sense of sanity as I slowly descend into this grave. Talent squandered, care devoted to poor choices and poor people, attention constantly diverted toward the stars of systems light-years away. I can’t see around the mirror I’ve put up, and within it lies a hollow boy with little left to grin at, and nothing left to overcome.
Wallowing would be easier to do, if I weren’t too busy withering.
I: I sit a king on the mountain of dirt. My queen watches all and I drive the Lincoln Continental of our victory tour. It’s not to last. The pawns of the board are beginning to flare, and the knights have rallied a mutiny. They take their shot, and I’m left with less than a quarter of my previous squad. Stricken by defeat, the rooks fearfully swarm. They scramble to hide behind the king, forgetting the game and retaining nothing. They have no moves. No rules. No honor. The board turns white, and the last remnants of the black army hold tight to their corner. It’s not a friendly table, anymore.
II: The queen no longer values her kingdom. She removes her crown, and exits the game. The king desperately clings to the last of the pieces. The white army is no longer playing. The board has consumed them, and is now slowly sinking. The king sends pawns to return as queens, knowing it for the suicide mission it is. They return with the power, and none of the will. Their resentment of the king drives them away from his corner. The king attempts to alter the game; a last ditch effort to save what was left of the kingdom. The board just changes direction. The table stays the same.
III: You can change the game, and you can stop being black and white. You can’t remove the red you’ve earned, though. It’s permanently stuck to you, and will eventually be the last trace of you. Unlike black or white, you have to take red. It’s a color of passion, and worse. Red is proof you’ve made victims, and those who smell red come running. Red attracts hyenas, and those same hyenas who were once part of your pack eventually will devour you. I inform them all that I can lead us again. I tell them that I have the ability. I give them assurance, and feed their needs. I don’t supply their food, though. My fatal mistake came too late. When living amongst hyenas, only females can be their leader.
IV: This game is not chess. It’s a grapple with the others for carrion, and the king is now fighting to get across the board for scraps. We no longer see the board. We just see orders, demands, and requests. The game has long since become a bloodsport, and the last animals standing are wandering in circles. The king trips, and falls off the table. On his way down, he is met with visions of other games; these realms are filled with other pieces, cards, and boards that he had never imagined. He just wants to find a game where he fits; one that allows him to take off his crown, and find somewhere that his decisions, and the decisions of others can no longer harm him. He hits the floor.
V: As I regain my footing, I look back up at the table. Suspended miles above the ground, is the island of chaos. Black and white clash as the remaining bishops, pawns, and queens struggle for my crown. I pity them, and I begin the long walk away from the feet of the table. The towering appearance casts a long shadow, and the weight of the world above me begins to lift. It doesn’t lift far, though. The pieces peer over the side of the table, calling my name and urging me to return. Behind them stands a fiery glow. The table is burning, and the ashes are a snowfall on my head. I can’t save them. I can barely recognize them. My words fall on dying ears. The table splinters, and collapses on itself. I approach slowly, and as the dust settles I catch a glimpse of a shattered bottle, and the crushed contents of a cake. The labels hit me in the chest. Scrawled on the two notes are either instructions, or pleas of suicide I had dreamed of for years. They say:
Eat me, Drink me.
I was invited to
A beheading today.
I thought I was a butterfly
Next to your flame.
A rush of panic and
The lock has been raped.
This is only a game,
This is only a game…
Dusk came, and the night brought the appealing prospect of a new beginning.
My hand gripped the wheel tight, becoming an anchor to the shaking sensation that was trying to control my every action. Trembling was not a sign of confidence, and if there was anything I desired at that moment, it was the facade of unfazed arrogance. I played an inspiring song in my head, turning the truck around to face the screen. It was another mistake in a night where oversight was determined to stomp all over my dreams.
I forced my foot to stop tapping; I knew this was a blatant retaliation of my body against my mind. The movie had already started, but it was irrelevant. It wasn’t my focus, nor did it hold the answers I sought. My eyes crept slowly to the right, more than likely in a manner less subtle than I believed it to be. Her top, a cream or pearl shade (I’m terrible with colors), held a mesh screen at its heart; the revealing neckline simultaneously alluring, and provoking to my more carnal desires. The top ended with a thick black belt, giving way to dark azure flairs of smooth cloth. Her legs, both strong and commanding, flowed down into a pair of shoes that tip-toed across my line. These devil-may-care heels were as heavy metal as you could get without stepping into evil territory. Black and studded with the softest of pseudo-spikes; it was her way of showing me she meant business. Very seldom does clothing choice inspire a sense of intrigue, but this ensemble was just good enough to fuck with me in all the wrong ways.
I sat back in my seat, attempting to lean the chair back in the vain hope that I would stop being awkward, and start being both sweet and charismatic. She grinned, the outline of her face glowing brilliantly in the reflective light of the projected screen. Whether it was a cinematic joke or an inner acknowledgement, this jovial moment struck a spark within me, setting ablaze the pyre on which I left my doubts to die.
The center console suddenly became a nucleus; a conduit that juxtaposed the chaos of my sound to the calm of hers. Fingers danced against each other in a ballet of intertwined affection. Eyes locked through lenses of plastic and acid. Her past was a cloudy mystery that gave me hope and hunger; mine, a decade of aggression that was shoved forward by haste and hatred. None of it mattered at that moment. I was lost, clawing softly for just a few more seconds of her warm fingers and delicate tendrils. The movies passed without a hitch. Stimulated by a few shared hours of epic battles and ultra-violence, I turned my eyes to the journey home, angry at nightfall for its brevity, and dawn for its swift approach.
The highway’s blur of grey flew under our feet as the soft blues rhythm of the guitar played over the speakers. Swaying melodies and soft cymbal splashes set the tone and the speed of our comfortably quiet ride. I turned my head slowly, almost trepidantly, towards her. Relaxation encompassed her in both mind and body, as she leaned her head to the side, dozing in peaceful respite. Her chest rose and sank with each breath, as an undeniable spring of relief washed over me. We had a good time, and her moment of security was the only assurance I needed.
As we pulled up to the front drive, her eyes gazed over at me. Beneath her comedic remarks about “being happy she could go to bed”, she grappled with an exhaustive look of gloom on her face. She had a good time, and I knew what she felt. I didn’t want it to pause, and it felt like an act of cruelty to do so. I just wanted her to be close. We walked slowly to her car. Inconsiderately slow. As we reached the driver’s side door, she quickly opened the door and threw her purse like a brick in a riot. Now facing each other at the end of the day’s fun, she turned her gaze up towards me. Lust met a momentary lapse of true happiness, and I graciously accepted this outcome with suppressed elation.
“Lay it on me,” she exclaimed with arms outstretched. Her scent was poison, and in that moment we locked lips for a split second. Mutually surprised by its initial display, we retracted.
“Again?” I asked with a smirk, already instigating a second encounter. She nodded, and we returned to our lock. Tongues met teeth and each other as they moved in playful repetition. When we released, all I was left with was a fading taste of her presence.
As her car slid effortlessly down the street, away from me and my newly found chasm of loss, I walked into the house, and trudged back to my room. As I collapsed on the bed, I stared up at the ceiling, clinging desperately to every single image, sound, scent, and touch of warmth I could recall. I held my phone tight. I couldn’t sleep. I knew I’d miss her if I closed my eyes.
My pain is not ashamed to repeat itself
My pain is not ashamed to repeat itself
My pain is not ashamed to repeat itself
My pain is not ashamed to repeat itself
I can’t sleep until I devour you
I can’t sleep until I devour you
I can’t sleep until I devour you
I can’t sleep until I devour you
and I’ll love you,
if you let me
and I’ll love you,
if you wont make me stop…
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
Happy 2014, children.
While I constantly receive the urge to write, I admit that over the past year I have grown so critical of my own work that I refuse to hit “publish” until I am absolutely sure it’s perfect. Then, once I am satisfied and have pressed the button I enter a panicked frenzy where I’m caught second-guessing every other line, and quotation as sounding too cliché or simply idiotic. It’s a new year though, so I should probably resolve to stop doing that.
…Or are resolutions too cliché?
The good news is that I haven’t run short on things to observe in my mundane existence, and I still feel obligated to throw war-paint all over them in order to get my point across. I should hit pretty close to home for some of you today, and I’d like to think there are many people who are not only familiar with this epidemic, but loathe it to the extent that I do.
Life as we know it is a never-ending grind through monotonous tasks, plastered smiles, and fleeting climaxes all gift-wrapped as the “experience of a lifetime“. We’re all stuck together in a system that dances circles like the hands on a clock, and much like the clock you can go insane from taking too hard of a look at it. That moment turns into an excruciatingly cruel reminder of why it is that people take vacations, and why therapists exist. However, for that unlucky crowd of isolated units who don’t have their own handful of happiness, or a vice to drown out that emptiness- life is just their own personal tale as Sisyphus.
It’s one thing to be able to look at the world around you from an emotional gutter. The world seems like a utopia that you’re barred from, where you’re forced to face a sea of pairs, being carried effortlessly upwards towards some golden skyline. It’s an entirely different issue altogether to turn towards your small corner of the world, and view one of your own throwing happiness at you like a trophy.
The first world we inhabit is not a cooperative community, where we strive to flourish as a whole and better ourselves. It’s not even a large raft where we’re all fighting for survival in a chaotic sea while trying to keep each other afloat. Our world has become a vast ocean where millions of tiny islands dot the surface mere inches from one another. It’s a lonely grid where everyone is close enough to reach out and touch each other, but tragically lack the companionship and altruism required to bring others closer to them.
As an adult, you’re forced to confront the fact no one is there to help you. You’re on your own, and people feel the need to consistently remind you of this. Upon leaving high-school, an image is drilled into your head of what you have to earn. It’s a terrible, uninspiring image that few should ever consider. The “American Dream“, a picture so grim that Philip K. Dick made it a tragedy in all of its banal glory in A Scanner Darkly. In retrospect, my entire childhood was based around a loosely translated panorama of the 1950’s where the perfect family unit sits together watching their first color TV and dreaming of a world where technology makes all their fantasies come to life.
The reality could be no further from the truth. My ever-shrinking list of family and friends have turned into a social-media propaganda squad, whose only apparent mission is to rise higher than the rest of their peers. This sad portrait is repeated daily like a chore, where they exchange hollow pleasantries momentarily before unfurling a new list of pseudo-achievements to gloat over. When they exhaust their reserve of words for their success, they quickly switch to a bulky slideshow of recently recorded personal victories, as they cluster together with acquaintances and strangers to paste a smile on and show off the exotic places and strange attractions they’ve visited. It’s a cruel injustice to this amazing planet that we live on, that we’ve become so obsessed with capturing the perfect moments on camera that we’ve completely neglected to take part in, or savior them.
I no longer crave the loud, and crowded parties where seemingly popular people gather to have the time of their lives. I care not for the three-piece suit and the slick appearance of being a hotshot in a trade with no character and no mind of my own. I can’t picture the group of friends locked shoulder-to-shoulder in brotherly and sisterly affection. I don’t buy the millions of photos depicting happy couples locked in a tender kiss. I don’t believe that anyone who engages in this ritualistic, digital sadomasochism ever receives the pleasure they seek from it.
Our world will share a common regret when everyone stops competing for who can look the prettiest for the longest amount of time. I sincerely hope that someday soon people begin trying to write their story in ink, and stop standing still in the hopes that someone will paint it for the ages to gawk at and admire. You should not be impressed by those around you who actively seek to set a “life-example” for you to follow. As young as I am, I’ve come to realize that life is much less of a hassle when you don’t take it too seriously.
It’s also a lot less cruel when you stop wishing to appear happy, and actually start being happy.
Because it’s a great big white world
And we are drained of our colors
We used to love ourselves,
We used to love one another