There is a line from a movie that I remember very clearly. I remember this because at war, there is one tool for survival. At war, there is only one machine to keep you alive. In the movie, there is a boot camp scene where the soldiers lay in their bunks and recite, “This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine.”
I have transitioned this same premise and say, this is my story. There are many like it but this one is mine. And it has taken me years to embrace this. Wait no, it has taken me decades to shape and polish this. It has taken me up to now to understand and see clearly that yes, of course; this is my life. There are many like it but this one is mine and before I go onward, I say this with all that I have: This is me.
I am that person. I was that child. I was that kid and I am still that searcher who looks for the reason and the purpose to gain at least a semblance of understanding. I am that person who looks to know why, but yet; I understand that all of this has led me up to here, now, with you.
I say this again. I am me. I was this boy. I was afraid. I was uncomfortable, but yet, I could never understand why. I could never understand why there was a disconnect between me and you and the rest of the world.
I didn’t understand why there was always a concern that something was wrong; that there was always something on the way and the other shoe was always about to drop. The impending doom was very real to me—even if this was not real at all; even if on the surface, the world was a beautiful place; even if everything around me was bright and everyone was smiling, — even if everything was picture perfect and the sun was out, there was this uncomfortable sense about me. There was cloak of awkwardness and a tragic disconnect that was like an invisible barrier between me and the world. I could reach for what I wanted. I could try but yet, it always seemed that I could only come so close. I could try to grasp but I could never actually feel the grip of satisfaction.
I was that boy. I was that kid. I was that person who could not understand love. I did not understand why the people in my life who were supposed to love me most would place me in a box that I understood the least. I could not understand the reasons why things happen. Why would someone touch a young boy in a way that no one is supposed to touch a young boy? Why do people think, act and live the way they do? Why me? What did I do?
None of this made sense to me. I was more like a fixture in this world than a person born to inhabit the Earth. I was a piece on a map of a family diagram. I was the lost child and the scapegoat, and yet, I always wanted to be so much more. I didn’t want to be the villain. I didn’t want to be the underdog anymore—above all, I wanted to be the hero. But how? How does one change their direction? How does one redirect themselves and become a totally new person? Or better yet, how does someone change their thinking? How can someone change their reflection in the mirror and be satisfied with what they see?
Ever think about this?
I was that boy, so small and so scared. I was that kid in class. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t understand the information on the blackboard. I couldn’t understand why the other kids could read so well and at best; all I could do was stutter. I was that boy who became that teen who became this man. I am complete with stories and biases, subconscious programs and tapes that play in my mind that have been mapped and embossed in my memory. I am the pathways or repetitiveness. I am that one who repeated the same things, over and over again; however in my insanity, I’m not quite sure if I ever expected different results.
There comes a time when both the mind and the body have had enough. There comes a time when the anticipation and the anxiety becomes too much. The mind needs to shut down and protect itself. More than anything, when you can’t sleep or when you can’t relax or make the pain go away and figuratively speaking, life is being lived in a foxhole and the artillery of our surroundings and the social landmines are more unthinkable by the minute, the mind snaps—and that was me.
I snapped on the mornings where I would have to go to school and undergo yet another humiliation. I snapped when I would volley back and forth with the other kids and tell “Momma jokes” that grew incessantly worse and more degrading. I snapped when I had nothing left to fall back on. I snapped when I pointed a gun in someone’s face, just to show them what power really means. I snapped when I could not find a comfortable space in my work life. I could never come out on top. My tongue wasn’t sharp enough. Or better yet, I wasn’t sharp enough. I wasn’t smart enough—so I looked for the tools. I looked for the machines of battle so that I could right the wrongs and level the playing field. I grew to be more punishing than any war machine could possibly be; and though I was loveless; and though I was always on the attack; at least nobody could attack me.
Our minds always work the same way. We want peace. We want comfort. In fact, our will to find peace and comfort is not bad at all. No, this is the way we survive. This is the animal in us that teaches us what to look for so that we know we are in safe territory. This is no different from our fear nor is this different from our anxiety, which teaches us that there is danger on the horizon; only, we are not uncivilized anymore. We have evolved from caveman times but still, there is this old piece of us that fear that long drawn out sense of overthinking.
This is our oldest program yet, still; this is our fight or flight, which is why it makes sense to me that people would drink or use drugs. This makes sense why people look for a quick fix in whichever shape it comes in because there are times when there is no other way to shut the machine. There is no other way to stop the thoughts and soften the edges of life—so you find yourself a hole. You find a little cocoon to protect yourself. You look for someplace warm where things make sense and even in chaos, at least the rules of engagement are understandable.
I used to wonder if there was ever going to be a point to any of this. I used to wonder if there was ever going to be a way for me to pay back all of the things that I hurt or destroyed. I used to wonder if there was ever going to be a way for me to believe that I have paid my debt—that I am settled and square with the house—or better yet, I used to wonder if there was ever going to be a way that I, me, that boy, or that person who could never look in the mirror or wipe the blood from my old truths, or if I, me, that kid would ever find out whatever it is that I am suppose to do with myself and more than anything—I used to wonder if I could ever be okay with the world. Would I always be the underdog? Could I ever be the hero?
Would I ever find my place in the circle and say, “This is me.”
Today is day four of five in a class which I am attending for specialized training. I am here and what have I learned? I learned that my social discomforts are still real to me. I have learned that my misjudgments can become problematic. I learned that behind the eyes of everyone is a whole different world. We all have life in front of us. We all have fears. We all have a story. And I have one too. There are many like it but this one is mine—so rather than fight it; I own this.
We often mistake success for something that it is not. Success is a feeling. This is an understanding. This has nothing to do with fame or all the ego-building facades that say, “Hey, look at me. I’m cool.”
If one is to find their purpose and find what it is they choose to do; this is success. If one is able to define their life and the way they want to live it by any means necessary; and if one is to be able to create a course for themselves and stick to their dreams and keep moving through the mental landmines and social warfare then above all things; this is successful. Therefore, I am successful.
I might not have my name up in lights. I might not be popular or even well known; but I know that above all things, there is something I have which no one else in the world has—and that’s me; my story.
There are many people looking to do what I do. There are billions of people out there, looking to pull off their trick, —but this trick here; this one is mine. And because this is mine, I will shape this and polish it and when the curtain opens and I’ll have my chance, I will say the magic words, “Presto,” and then “Ta-Da!”
I showed a person a tiny sliver of my world to make them feel comfortable about theirs. I allowed myself a tear to show that this is very real to me. It was worth it. All of this is worth it. I have something. I have this story. I have this thing in me that I want to nurture so that at some point, if possible, if I can rest the nightmares of someone else then I will have been successful. If I can settle by showing someone a rendition of my challenges, maybe together, we can make it through—If I can do this, then so be it.
I say that if I had to go through my own contortions of hell—then let me make it worth it. If I had to hurt then let me use it. Let me be me. Let me find my way because deep down; I know that I have found my purpose. And someday, this will all be clear
It’s okay, world. You and I can settle up now.
I’ve found my way to pay back.