More and more, I see the world changing, which is fine because change is a natural act and no amount of pretending will ever change this fact. I see this in business and in personal interactions.
Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has their own system of beliefs. Everyone has their own political view, their own passions, and their own rights to each. You have your way and I have mine.
More and more, however, I see a great imposition between others with conflicting opinions. I see fights and division. I see hatred and frustration and people pointing fingers at this one or that one, quick to say which one is right or wrong, but never daring to listen to an opposing view because it my disturb their system f beliefs
I watch people argue over politics and privilege as if it were a sports event. I have also known friendships and business relationships that were severed and damaged because of opposing beliefs.
Back in my late 20’s, I was forced to go to a wedding with a woman I was supposed to marry. She grew up very differently from me. Her family was extremely wealthy. Therefore her circle of influence was also wealthy.
The wedding was held in a castle. The place was enormous and beautiful. The guests were all dressed exceptionally well. And me, well, I was dressed in a tux and uncomfortable because of my own internal biases.
We found our table, which was round, big, and set with a beautiful centerpiece. Everything was lavish and beautiful. Everything was top of the line and the best that money can buy.
In fairness, I had never seen an occasion like this. It was beautiful to me; however, the conversation at the table was not focused on how beautiful the bride looked or how happy the groom was when he saw his soon-to-be- wife as she walked down the aisle. No one remarked about the father of the bride, proud as ever, awaiting the moment to give his daughter away. His facial expression was touching and priceless to say the least.
No, the main topic of conversation was about money and politics and how hard it is to find good help these days.
The table was mixed with different backgrounds and people from different places. I was the odd man out. These were not my friends but they all seemed to know each other. They laughed and discussed their memories of past trips and vacations.
I listened as they discussed things such as inheritance and the family business. All of the companies were well-known and large.
I listened to them speak but I mainly kept quiet. I had different views. I saw the world from a different standpoint. I grew up differently and thought differently.
I listened to them discuss politics and wealth as if they earned their money the old fashioned way. But no. They earned their money another old fashioned way; they inherited it.
It was noted by one of the men that I was very quiet. It was noted by the man who spoke most at the table. All were boastful but he boasted more than the others. Everyone bragged in their own way but this man bragged most.
I was forewarned to be on my best behavior. I was told not to talk about my younger, crazy days. I was asked not to get drawn into any crazy conversations or embarrass my significant other, which, I agreed to.
The boastful one at the table mentioned, “You don’t say much.”
“I never talk about religion or politics,” I responded.
“They cause fights,” I said and hoped for a conversion in the topic of conversation.
“Smart man,” said the boastful one as he rambled on about an upcoming presidential election.
I grew up in a much different household than the boastful one. My father worked hard. He never spoke about money and never discussed politics with others. I was the Jewish kid with Irish and mixed background in a Roman Catholic, Irish Catholic town.
My Old Man was a licensed steamfitter. He worked on oil burners and pumps. He repaired sewerage ejector pumps, which mean he repaired pumps that removed human waste from residential buildings. As his helper, I worked on those pumps too.
My Father was born out of the depression, which meant he saw our country through a different time. He lived a tough life, which made him hard in some ways. However, this also made him more understanding in ways I was too young to understand.
My Mother worked as well. Nothing was given; everything was earned. As for the help and how hard it was to find good help, that was me. I was the help. I was the only one at the table with rough hands. I never had time or the means for vacations like them. I had to wait for seniority before I could take vacations. My family did not own the business I worked for; therefore, I had to follow the rules of my company.
I found myself feeling resentful. I found my anger growing by the minute. Eventually, the girls went off to dance and the table was left to just-us-boys.
This is when the conversation grew interesting. This is when the true identity of the table came out. They boys were bragging about how they were crazy once. They started talking about their frat life and their crazy days in high school. I mostly listened. I smiled at times because their version of tough was slightly different from mine.
The boastful one decided to poke at me. “You look like you must have gotten high at least once in your life.”
“You can say that,” I answered.
Meanwhile, this man had no idea what I decided to dedicate my life to. He had no idea what the word sobriety meant to me nor did he have an understanding of what I saw.
He talked about steeling his parent’s car. And who knows what kind of car it was. Whatever the make; it was certainly a lot better than my Old Man’s caprice classic.
“Did you ever do that?” asked the boastful one.
“Take out my Old Man’s car, you mean?”
“You mean to tell me you never took out your father’s car for a joyride?”
The look on this man’s face was entertaining to say the least.
Truth is I did take out The Old Man’s car. I smacked it up too, which is why my friends and I used to go see a buddy of ours over at the Mobil gas station. They repaired cars at the shop and we would sneak in and swipe the keys of cars that were recently fixed.
Once the shop closed, we took the car. We drove around and flipped it or lit the car on fire. We did whatever the mood called for at the time. And sometimes, we’d bring the car back in whichever condition we destroyed it to, just for laughs. Most times though, we’d leave it on someone’s front lawn.
I explained this story to the boastful man at the table, to which, his smile and expression turned slightly awkward.
He discussed the times he and his friends went to a place in Rockaway to buy weed. I went there too. I explained about a time my friends ripped them off and the dealers started chasing my friends through the streets.
I told him about a kid named junior that shoved a .22 caliber pistol in my face. Then I told them about the time I watched a man be shot on a street in East New York Brooklyn
The conversation quickly became a comparison of scars. Quid pro quo, back and forth, the boastful one explained that his high school was tough and the kids were crazy. However, I detailed a story about the time the police came to my school and then we attacked the police car.
This last story put the boastful one over the edge.
“Man,” he remarked.
“What kind of high school did you go to?”
To quiet him, I explained, “Oh, no, that was my junior high. All of my friends were in jail by high school.”
The boastful one became very quiet.
Two things happened after this. First is I realized that it was me that was immature and not the boastful one. First and foremost, I reacted to my own biases. I reacted on behalf of my insecurities. I told war stories to compete and made it a point to intimidate because I was intimidated by my surroundings.
It’s not that I loss; it’s that I allowed myself to be taken away.
The second thing that happened is I felt worse after the interaction. Why be the beast someone claims me to be? Why play the role? Why give in and react?
Instead, what if I recognized my thinking? What if I realized that he is him and I am me and neither of us need to be similar or come from the same place or think the same way?
More and more, I see politics trickle into the workplace. I have seen this divide the workforce into angry or overly-opinionated groups. I have seen policies change at the workplace because of this and overheard arguments over who is right or wrong. I have seen this dwindle morale in the workplace and create hostility within the work environment.
A father of a young boy told me about his son who came home crying because his teacher in school explained that the boy and his family will be deported. The boy was too young to understand much of our politics. He was too young to understand that while although his family was not born in our country, his parents were legal citizens, Either way, the opinion of the boy’s teacher (whether valid or otherwise) was not meant for the young boy’s ears.
I never discuss my political views. I never puch politics or religion because same as not everyone believes in God or a higher power, not everyone believes in the same political views.
Getting back to that wedding:
Had I disassociated myself from the political debates and had I not allowed myself to be drawn into the boastfulness of macho, who beats who conversations, I might have had the chance to enjoy the atmosphere or danced or simply had a great time at the most extravagant wedding I have ever seen.
More and more, I see the struggles of racism. I hear the problems with sexism. I see the arguments fuel between the views.
When I decided to be active in the wellness world and act as a life coach and sober coach, I met people with different views. I worked on different initiatives with law enforcement. I worked as a specialist that was deployed to hospital.
I met people with different backgrounds and different religions. Some people were from different countries and some had different skin color than mine.
My job is to connect. My job is to interact, to support, and to coach my clients to achieve their goals. Therefore, I abstain from political interaction or discussions of opinion regarding God or the presence thereof.
I do my job to the best of my ability. I know who I am. I know my beliefs, which I am entitled to
I had to learn the hard way that arguing my point is as useful as having comparison conversation with the boastful one at the wedding because even if I get my point across, I still drain my energy.
And I need my energy