Answer the Question – Understanding a Teenage Joyride

In the case of me vs the world or wait, better yet, as it is in the case of most kids when faced with a letter that came home from school, or in answer to the main question which is the question I will be answering throughout this journal; oftentimes, there was an obvious answer to the question of “What the hell were you thinking?”
I am going to explain more ways to diagram our thoughts, feelings and emotions. But first, this begins with the need to understand them.
I understand that parts of my story are either harsh or raw. My apologies if this is uneasy for you.
My intention is not to be harsh or intense; instead, I use my stories as a graphic narrative to accentuate the details of emotion and understanding. For the faint of heart, sorry but you either brought the wrong book or you backed the wrong pony. As for the critics . . .

Well, you already know that you can kiss my ass.
So, let’s get back to that question again;
What the hell were you thinking?

In the case of me taking The Old Man’s car out when my parents were away and in my defense to the result of me driving like a mad lunatic and smacking up my Old Man’s Chevy Caprice Classic, I was faced with the eventual question, ‘What the hell were you thinking?”
Well, in fairness to the question and to answer this honestly, I can say the first thing I didn’t think is that I would be caught.
I was thinking that this would be fun. I thought I was going to be wild. I was thinking that I would go crazy in the best ways possible.
I was thinking that I was going to make this a weekend to remember. However, what I didn’t realize is that I didn’t know how to drive very well. In addition to this, I was also too stupid to realize that doing donuts in a small intersection on a quiet side street in my little town was not an altogether bright idea.
No, I was too busy trying to look cool or be crazy to think about anything from a rational perspective.

So, now that I cracked up my Old Man’s car, I had to come up with an excuse. I had to come up with something quickly too because I couldn’t just say, “Sorry, Pop. I had a little accident around one of those turns.”
No, I had to figure out what to say because the first thing I was thinking is “I don’t want to get caught.”

In all, the damage was done. I bent the rear axel. I bent the rim of the back, passenger’s side wheel.
The day before I busted a tire and caught a flat.
At the time, the idea was to switch the tire and put the flat back where the spare was.
So, I was already operating on a big lie that I had hoped I’d get away with.
I switched the flat tire back with the tire that had a bent rim and when Mom and The Old Man came home, I explained that I didn’t know what happened. I told them that somehow it seemed The Old Man’s tire went flat. “Gee, sorry Pop. I don’t know what happened.”
Then I left as quickly as I could.

Needless to say, when he went to change the spare he realized the rim was no good. Then he went to have this repaired and noticed the car was shaking.
Why was it shaking?
I’ll tell you why. It’s because of me, this genius, and yours truly as your humble narrator; I smacked the car up. That’s why.
I hit a curb while doing donuts and then I tried to get away with it.
Unscathed, I might add. 

That’s right. I did it.
I was asked the question, “What the hell were you thinking?”
“Answer the question. What the hell were you thinking?”

Okay, so here it goes.
I was thinking that I could look wild and cool.
I was thinking that some of the girls from my neighborhood would see me and maybe now they’d think that I was a badass.
I was thinking that I was going to have a good time; that I was going to be wild and crazy and that somehow this would amplify my stock and make me more desirable or welcomed in my social circles.
What was I thinking?
I was thinking that I could get away with this. I was thinking that none of this would happen; that my so-called friends and I would take out the car, have a little fun, or go visit a few girls that we knew from another town. I was thinking that somehow this could get me laid. Please forgive the crassness of this. But like I said, I’m being honest.
I was thinking that somehow my parents would come home, not notice, or not realize that it was me who did this.
I was thinking that my excuse might work and that my parents might actually believe me which they did…at first.
They believed me until The Old Man recognized that I parked the car differently from when he last parked in the driveway.

What was I thinking?
This was more like me reacting to a want or a need. I wasn’t thinking per se or thinking rationally at all.
I was thinking that some of this wildness could somehow scratch an unreachable itch within my mind.
I was thinking that I was tired of being unappealing or undesirable; therefore, I was not thinking on an honest behalf or in fairness to anyone but me.

We are truly a selfish, self-centered species.
Don’t believe me?
Look around.
Unless we learn to modify and understand the difference between emotional thinking and logical thinking or unless we learn to decipher between intuition or anxiety, we find ourselves lost in the hamster wheel of a bad-habit loop.

See, this is what we call the truth.
So let’s break this down – 

My ego took a role in this.
My fears of not being relevant or wanted and included took over.
My need to belong or find a connection in spite of my discomforts or rejective anticipations took place here.
My insecurities were honored and my need to be attractive or wanted; or the need to have something about me seem more desirable was triggered. Essentially, my greed took over because my drive to feel something more than common was replaced by the temptation of being regarded or included.
This is what I was thinking.
The feelings are different.
Feelings are not thoughts and thoughts are not feelings
It is best for me to split this so that I can truly understand my motivations and my inventory behind my actions.

Why did I lie about this?
First off, let’s not forget the need for self-preservation. Let’s not pretend that my Father wasn’t from a different hard working generation. Let’s not pretend that I wasn’t afraid of a beating coming my way.
Next let’s address my need to protect myself beyond a physical sense.
Besides, bruises heal and fade away but emotional pains and scars can last lifetimes.

One, I lied because obviously I didn’t want to get caught. I didn’t want to deal with the shame of my dishonesty.
I didn’t want the confrontation nor the loss of my parent’s love – and let’s be very clear about who I was as a teenager. I was NOT a Cub Scout by any means.
I was not innocent. This was not my first lie nor was this my last one.   
I was a very shame-based and fear-based person.
I was on my way to see life from a different or more violent perspective.
I was on the verge of doing things that would lead me to witness experiences that no teenager should ever see.

By the way, this is where shame-based and fear-based thinking intercept our better judgment and lead us to act out of fear or insecurity.

Let’s not pretend that I did not have overwhelming bouts with shame and anxiety on a regular basis. Now to add color to my already unsettled existence, I was going to have to add the shame of crashing The Old Man’s car. I would have to face the fact that I degraded and disrespected my parent’s trust in me.
I was about to ruin their vacation and as soon as they came home, my parents came back to the understanding that I was a constant disappointment as well as an emotional, mental, and heavy behavioral problem. 

What was I thinking?
I was thinking that I was ashamed of myself. I was ashamed enough to allow myself to submit to the situation at hand and since I had to deal with the outcome, I was thinking that if I had better friends and if I hung around a better element of people; as in, if I hung around those who I didn’t have to impress or if I hung around true friends who would look out for my best interest; I might not have taken my Old Man’s car out for a joy ride.
Yes, I thought this too.

There is so much inventory in one tiny decision. Our mind is indeed a complex journey that moves through thoughts and connects with feelings, needs, wants, experiences and fears.
If we’re being honest, we always know what we were thinking.
We always know what’s going on behind our surface thinking
It’s just humbling to admit the truth.
That’s why people say, “I don’t know,” when asked why they did something wrong.
Plus, it takes effort to be this honest.
But . . . it gets easier.

Something that I mention often is a quote from Socrates.
“If you don’t get what you want, you suffer. If you get what you don’t want, you suffer. Even if you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. Your mind is the predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.”

I offer this quote as a great explanation as to why we do what we do. 

I am decades older now and nothing about me is the same. On a cellular level, I am not the same person. I am older and I have grown. I have aged beyond my expectations. Through efforts of improvement, I have surpassed my personal limitations. However, there are times when I think back about the wild and crazy antics. And yes, I’ll still ask myself that question.
What they hell was I thinking.
The answer is clear. Our mind is the predicament.
All we want is to feel better.
All we want is the simple emotion of pleasure.

I remember sitting in a class to gain a mental health credential. I was taught about the differences between thoughts, feelings and emotions.
The teacher was a tough woman. She was not as warm towards me as she was towards others.
But this could be my interpretation or this could partly be intuition because, in fact, I was the only white student in the school. This was something told to me not just so obvious and noticeable. There were some awkward moments of discussion too. But in the end, this worked out to be a great experience.
At the time, I was working a coaching job that was paying my way. Not to mention the fact that I had a managing agent who set up my work for me who told me what my schedule was, where to go, what time to be there and how long I’d have to stay. Aside from being the only white student or occupant in the building, I suppose my awareness and my differences were changed as well as illuminated to a new degree.
I overheard someone in the school’s office ask, “Who the hell is that guy anyway?” They thought I was on some kind of “Big-Money” kick.

In fairness, this was one of the most eye-opening events for me. It had been a while since I was in that part of Harlem.
It had been a while since I’d seen the streets by 116th. At one time, I was there scrounging around that neighborhood like some drugged out zombie. 
In fact, the other students were explaining what the neighborhood was like and told me, “You would never be around up here back in the day.”
I remember asking, “What are you talking about? I used to pick up right down the street.”

But Harlem has changed since my youthful adventures.
And so had I.
I remember thinking about my interaction with people and in the need to have a reprieve from the constant debates, I found my oasis.
Somehow, right smack-dab in the middle of Harlem on 105th Street and right there in Central Park was this beautiful garden which made it seem like you weren’t in New York City anymore.
This is the Central Park Conservatory Garden which is a beautiful place to be during the summertime.
The conservatory was built in 1937 and in spite of the changes of the neighborhood and in spite of being in the middle of the New York City rumbles, the garden exists with a beautiful sense of old world charm.

Here’s where I learned a simpler way to diagram my personal inventory.
I was taught about our basic emotions. I was taught about this throught an acronym F.L.A.P.P.

I learned this in my class. The letters stand for Fear, Loneliness, Anger, Pain and Pleasure.
I think about this often because out of all five feelings, only one of them is delightful – and that’s pleasure.
We all want this. We all need this. Yet we have an internal chemistry which fears the loss of this one special thing: pleasure.

I write this to you now, 33 years later on the day when The Old Man passed away.
I write this with a full understanding of how I was and why. I also write this with pride in my heart because again, I am not that person at all anymore.
There are times when I am emotionally unsettled and yes I look back at my list of emotions. I understand more about my chemistry and how emotion is a chemical state. Since this is my chemistry, I understand more about why I did what I did or why I reacted (or acted) out of haste.

This is because I was afraid. I was afraid of feeling lonely and I was angry too because fear and shame leads to pain; and as someone who was afraid to miss out; and as someone who was responding to different traumas and unresolved tensions in my life; and as someone who was tired of being uncomfortable or seeing my reflection with the inaccuracies of awkwardness and insecurity; in the case of me against the world and in answer to the question: What the hell was I thinking?
I was thinking I wanted to feel better.
Even if it was only for a moment – even if the moment was a quick fix or a gain through a toxic light; then at least I had the rush of that moment. However, as I grew older, it wasn’t until I understood that knowing the benefits of my value would prevent me from spending time with people who did not deserve my company.
Once I came into a better awareness of self and grew to a better level of understanding, I started to realize that people-pleasing never sets me up as the priority. Since I was never a priority, it was difficult for me to monitor the value of those who I loved most.
It was also difficult to honor the fact that they loved me; hence my shame for disloyalty and the need to lie or to avoid the pain, shame, fault, guilt, blame or regret. 

What was I thinking?
I was thinking that I was selfish and I knew this.
But I’m not so selfish anymore, at least not in a bad regard.
I am selfish in a way that I would rather be good to you because being good to you allows me to enjoy the return of a better love, better time, and, to be honest, a good relationship is made up of an honest set of checks and balances. This allows for true friends, true romance and a truthfully better life because at last the mind is not the same predicament. 

You know what?
I was away when my Old Man was sick.
They let me go home to spend the last days of The Old Man’s life with him.
I was sitting in my room which was rearranged and nothing like it was when I lived there. I was reliving the crimes of my past and rethinking the drug binges and the crazy paranoia which came to the point where I swore there was a team of police outside of my house just waiting to take me in. 

I was thinking about my psychosis. I was thinking about the times when my nose would bleed all over my sheets. I was thinking about the bedroom nods and the stashing spots. 
I remembered when I finally entered the doors of a treatment center. I was told that my friends were not my friends. To which, of course, I argued this and told them “What the fuck do you know about me?”
I denied this. 

I suppose there was a drive-by that took place near my house. Some of my so-called friends were in a car on their way to Knickerbocker to score a few bags and perhaps a few vials – maybe a little dope. 

The phone rang. I was standing in my old bedroom; finally understanding what I had done to myself.
I remember this. I can still see the look of fear on my Mom’s face. She told me there was a phone call. I suppose she thought that I would look to run out. Maybe she thought she was about to lose me too. 
Maybe she thought that I was going to run away again and head back out into the drug system.

I took the phone. I knew the person on the other end.
For now we’ll call him Toothpick for this one.
Toothpick asked, “Are you home for good now?
“No,” I told him. “My Father just died. They let me come back for the funeral”

“Oh wow,” said Toothpick.
“You want us to come get you?”
He didn’t say, “Hey man, I’m really sorry to hear that. Your Father was awesome.”
He didn’t say, “We’re coming over and we’re gonna sit with you.”
No . . .
Toothpick was with a few people who I used to run around with.
What he was really saying is this: “We’re going to get high. Do you want to come?”
See this is the truth. This is what he was thinking.
He wasn’t thinking, “Wow my oldest friend is hurting.”

He wasn’t telling me, “I’ll be right over.”

He wasn’t saying that he was glad that I’m out of trouble and clean or that I got out of the mix.
He wasn’t saying, “Good for you. At least your Old Man saw you sober before he died.”
He was saying let’s get you back to where you were. 
Let’s get the poison back in your veins.

So, in answer to the question of “What the hell was I thinking?”
I was thinking that I deserved better friends. . .
That’s what I was thinking.


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