True Character

Not all is lost on the old days. Or maybe it would be better to say that not all of my old ways were bad. Instead, I have learned to merge my older patterns with the newer edition of life. At one point, yes, I lived differently. Perhaps some would call this growth. On the other hand, I just call this being me.
I understand when people say there is no honor amongst thieves. I’ve heard this before. I have also heard long winded lectures and hard-to-listen-to diatribes from different people in my life.
I don’t think I am alone with this. I think this is part of growing up. I think this is part of life because there is always someone coming around here, trying to say how to live, how to do things or how to be. They say this as if they are the perfect authority. But no. They’re not.

Everyone is playing a game with their suggestions. This of course is their projection of their beliefs and their opinions. And this is fine too. This is not always bad either. There is always a lesson somewhere. Some of the lessons are useful and some are painful but either way, we learn. Right?

I used to hear The Old Man say, “I’m telling ya kid, if you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas.”
This was his way of telling me to be careful of the company I keep. In fairness, I never caught fleas nor a tick, but I understood The Old Man’s point.

There was a person who was influential in getting me my position as an operating engineer. I can say that he was a friend and yet, I can also say that he wasn’t always a good friend. I can say that his surface did not match the character beneath his skin.
I can recall his way of speaking to me; as if he were an authority; as if he were above me or better; or, as if he could do no wrong. The saying about pride coming before the fall is true. Consequences are a bitch and yes, pride did come before the fall in his case.
I have been told about the need to walk the line. I have been told to live my life a certain way. I have been told to polish up, clean up, soften my accent and adapt my personality to a more professional look.
Years back, I was told to “Get honest,” and be ready for Corporate America.
Meanwhile, Corporate America is a lot of things but the one thing it’s not is honest. I have seen more backstabbing and throat-cutting in boardrooms than I have on street corners. I’ve seen people like my friend whose pride came before the fall; and I think to myself. I shake my head. I wonder how some people never received a beating in their life or at minimum, at least been punched in the face.

The boys in the jail used to love my classes. The reason is because one of the things I’d explain is the reason why people act or say the things they do is because they’ve never been punched in the face. And I mean really punched. Hit hard. Right in the nose. Your eyes water. Your nose is leaking and blood is swallowed down the back of your throat. This is type of pain and humiliation is a great lesson. The problem is too many people are looking to be the teacher of this lesson.

There was a lesson I learned a long time ago. Never rat on your friends. Never bend over because it becomes too hard to stand straight again. Don’t crumple your character.
I agree with this.
I agree that you never rat on your friends. However, I think The Old Man’s rule applies best here, which means I had to learn how to properly monitor my inner circle.
“If you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas.”
I recall the first time I was cuffed up in an interrogation room. I didn’t rat on anyone but a bunch of people ratted on me. I knew this for sure. And further, I knew that this meant you had to choose better friends.

Safe to say that I have met people from different backgrounds. I have worked with people that had no money. I’ve worked with the wealthy. I worked with people in homeless shelters and I’ve worked with people that live in homes that were bigger than anything I could imagine. And I can imagine a lot too.
I have worked with people that never graduated from high school. I’ve worked with those who graduated from prestigious schools at the top of their class. I learned something from this.

I think about this and the dichotomy of people. I can say that although money does help, money does not buy character. Money does not stop the fleas from itching and certainly, no matter how wealthy or poor, something The Old Man taught me is true. “An asshole is an asshole, no matter how big their bank account is.”

Whether I end up on the bestsellers list one day or if I remain unknown and unfollowed, either way, the one thing I have learned is life is best when it’s lived with dignity. This is a personal choice as well as a personal definition. My version might differ but still, at the end of the day when I see my reflection in the mirror; I am the one that needs to be comfortable with what I see.
Never rat on your friends. Don’t compromise yourself for something undeserving and, — don’t bend your principles for anyone because once you do, it’s really hard to straighten out again.

There was a code that I was taught about. I learned about consequences. I learned about the old adage, what comes around, goes around. I learned that you get burned if you play with fire.
I’ve also learned there are people in this world that will use you for firewood if it means they will keep from being cold. I’ve seen this.
I’ve seen this from people who I never expected would do such things. I’ve seen people in suits and ties be escorted off the premises by federal agents.
I once knew someone in charge of payroll that was jammed up and in the paper. I was not a fan of his. Neither were a lot of people but when the news of him embezzling money hit the newspapers, justice was served.

Back when I was somewhere around the age of 15 or so, I worked for The Old Man, which was tough. He was a tough Father but he was even tougher as a boss.
One night, I worked late. I was filthy. I must have washed my hands a thousand times and I still couldn’t get them clean. I worked inside of a large boiler for most of the day. And this sucked.
The black soot was ingrained in my skin. I was hot and sweaty. I wanted to go home but The Old Man wanted to stop and eat. I complained about this but I was outvoted.
The Old Man was clear. “We are going inside to eat.”
I remember being self-conscious because I was dirty. My hair was all scraggly and messy. I was sweaty and in need of a shower. The Old Man sat across from me, eating his burger. I can still recall his face as he watched his hands bring the burger to his mouth.
He must have known. He must have understood. He told me, “Never be ashamed to get your hands dirty at work. This means you know how to earn a living.”

I didn’t realize it back then but this was a moment of pride for my Father. To him, this was a Father and son moment. This was him and me after a long day’s work, together, like father and son. We ate quietly. We ate well. And then we went home.
I didn’t understand the pride The Old Man felt back then. But I do now. I understand that each lesson that I’ve learned in life is a useful tool. Some of the lessons I learned were in terrible places. Some of those places had bars on the doors. Some of those lessons were most helpful when I was in boardrooms around dishonest people. I learned not to judge by the appearance of prestige because character can be dressed in any fashion. 

The one thing I learned is no matter how beautiful someone is on the outside, if they’re ugly on the inside, they can only be average at best.

And to me, there’s nothing attractive about being average.
No, I’d rather be beautiful. Flaws and all.

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