Answer the Question – In My Defense, I Was Left Unsupervised.

The one thing I know about life is that everyone lives it. Everyone goes through something and, essentially, the one thing I know about life is everybody is recovering from something.
Everyone has a past and a secret; but more, everyone has had to face adversity of some kind. It would be inaccurate to look at someone and believe their life has been absolutely untouched or untarnished.

To each their own, of course.
Not everyone’s adversity is the same. Not everyone experiences life on the same level.
No, we all have our own personal casualties and tragedies and, to me, my problems might seem luxurious to someone else. Or better yet, my complications are only a challenge to me.

I make no mistake in trying to say that I can always relate or that I will always understand. At best, I have the capacity to learn and inquire. At best, I can listen and, at best, I can empathize.
But all I know is this: Life happens to everybody.
No one gets out alive. I say this all the time.

I say this more now than ever because as I have grown in my journey, I have had the opportunity to meet more people who have gone through something difficult in their life. I have met people who have endured the unthinkable. Yet somehow, they still manage to get up, dress up and show up for their lives on a daily basis.

To the best of my knowledge, no one asks to be tested. No one ever asks to be hurt or to have their lives turned upside-down. No one asks for depression or the constant worry that comes with anxiety.
To the best of my understanding, no one chooses to be rejected or asks to be the odd one out.
Nobody wants to seem flawed or unacceptable. 
But either way, truth is truth. The truth is there are different levels of our social atmosphere which are less-than fair. The truth is there are different divisions of popularity or the lack thereof. There are economic differences and social differences. There are cultural differences and religious differences. And there are background differences such as the way we speak might represent an area in which we come from. 

We all have “Something” unique about us. At the same time, we all have a commonality that places us in a stereotypical pattern.
Take my accent for example. No one would ever mistake me for someone who comes from the south. No one could safely assume, just by looking at me, the things that I’ve seen or the feelings that I’ve felt. 

No one would know about my adversity unless I tell them. Oh, believe me, I used to tell everyone.
I still do in some ways; only, my intentions are different and my models of living are not based on the same levels of intimidation. 

I was at a wedding once . . .
Did I ever tell you about this?

This was in what I consider a past life. I was with people who I had no business being with.
I had no business being in the relationship that I was in; but to be clear, that is a different story altogether and regrets aside, I will go on accordingly.

I was pre-warned before going to this wedding by my so-called significant other that I was not to be weird or tell any of my funny or crazy stories. I was told to behave. I was told that I was not to be embarrassing for anyone. Yes, I fully admit that, at the time, I was completely out-of-place.
I was uncomfortable for countless reasons and namely this: I was never a student. I never had a college background and, oftentimes, I’d be uncomfortable around people who spoke about their college life or what they do for a living.
I was insecure. I was humbled because in my mind, at best, I would be seen as a janitor or seen as “the help!”

I sat at a table with people from wealthy backgrounds with trust funds and family businesses. I sat with people who all knew each other from college. They all had history with each other and me, like I said, I was the odd one.

I listened as these people talked about themselves in such a terrible way. They talked about the help and the people who worked for their family businesses. I heard them talk about people in such a way that I took this personally.
I recall thinking, “If they only knew . . . I wonder what they would say about me if I were to get up and walk away?”

I never spoke much at the table which is unlike me. I am not a quiet person. I enjoy a laugh and I enjoy good conversation. However, there was nothing funny and the conversation at the table was tacky and far from good.
I was asked by one of the louder or more braggartly of the group, “You don’t say much.”
“I never talk about politics or religion because they start arguments,” is what I answered which was apropos for the moment because the conversation had turned to politics.
To me – well, these were not people who I’d call anyone that lived in the real world nor were they people who I’d seek political advice from.
But, taking a step back, I can recognize that perhaps this was my bias and to refrain from any future judgment, I will simply go on with the story.

Again, my view of the world has nothing to do with anyone else. I am not so worldly that I know it all. I am not so in-tune with the world that I can relate to anybody or everybody. To be clear, I recognize my insecurities and my default settings which I immediately went back to as a means of self-defense.

I started to find myself grinding my teeth because the conversation (in my opinion) was snobbish at best. And then the conversation turned.
All of the women decided to go off and dance which meant it was “just us boys” at the table.
Hence, in my defense, I was left unsupervised.

They started to talk about their crazy life and their wild nights and the rebellious antics of their youth. I listened mostly. But more, I minded the instructions that I was given before arriving at the wedding which, by the way, was the biggest wedding I had ever seen.
The hall was beautiful. It was a castle, I think. Everything was top-notch and expensive.
Of course, I chose the prime rib option over the chicken or fish. I had a few hors d’oeuvres at the cocktail hour which weren’t too bad. 

I clanked my spoon against the glass when the guests called for the bride and groom to kiss. I put my napkin on my lap the same as any other civilized person would do in a place like this.

Meanwhile, I was sitting and listening to the stories of youth. I was listening to a group of men as they told about their crazy rebellions as if to quid pro quo one another or compare scares.
Again, I stayed mainly quiet. I laughed when the punchlines came through and said things like, “Wow, that’s crazy.”
Once more, the louder more braggartly one said something to me about being so quiet.

“I’m sure you’ve gotten high at least once or twice in your life,” he said.
“Sure,” I answered.
He began to tell me about the times he took out his parents car to go to a place in Rockaway so that he and his friends could buy weed.
“Have you ever been to Rockaway?”
“Sure,” I told him 
What else could I tell him?
No, I was around the block in crack houses and dope dens . . .

I say this because my corner was a little different from the corner he went to. I knew them both. Both were in Rockaway. I remember when they shot one of the dealers in the head.
However, I also knew that I wasn’t supposed to talk about this stuff – but after a while, I couldn’t take much more.
So, I decided to let the mask slip.
They wanted to talk tough. Therefore, I decided to show the table a different side of me.

I explained how a friend of mine used to work at one of the local repair stations. Once the station was closed and my friend was done pumping gas, we used to swipe the keys to the cars that were just fixed.
Then we’d go to Rockaway or East New York, Brooklyn and we’d leave the car somewhere or, on a few occasions, we lit the car on fire and left it on someone’s lawn.

I could see the loud one at the table as he stirred in his seat.
He didn’t expect this.
I could tell he wanted to go back at me.
He was telling me about a time when he went to buy weed and they tried to rob him – but he was too tough for them. At least, I suppose this was the intention of his story.
I explained about the first time I had a gun put in my face and saw a bullet go through someone’s flesh. I explained this with a supposed emphasis on the word first.

Then he started to tell me about how crazy his friends were in high school and how the cops would come to the school every once in a while. He told me about the fight they had. He kept going to see if he could compare his scars.

I saw that this was a volleying conversation, back and forth, which I took part in. But only out of boredom.
He talked about fights and the toughness of his crowd.
I responded in kind and told them about helicopters chasing me through the neighborhood and how I had to hide in a creek just to get away. I left out a few occasions because, as it was, I already knew there was going to be trouble over this.

I remembered an occasion by the bus ramps when a police car pulled in and all of us (and I mean all of us) crazy kids surrounded the squad car and we started bouncing and jumping up and down on the hood and the trunk.
The car was bouncing up and down and us, like the mad lunatics of a town called East Meadow, we screamed and shouted and carried on as if this was the best thing since the revolution!
The policemen in the car flipped on the sirens and woop, woop, they drove away. 

“Where the hell did you grow up,” asked the loud one.
“You went to a really fucked up high school.”
“Oh no,” I answered. “That was junior high. All of my friends were in jail by high school.”

Suddenly the loud one (and everyone else at the table) grew awkwardly quiet.
There was a piece of me that enjoyed their facial expression as their smiles turned uncomfortable,
As if to worry if they were safe – or not . . .
Eventually the girls came back from their dance. One of the wives asked, “So what have you boys been talking about.”
It was funny to see them all scatter with discomfort.

“Nothing . . . nothing at all.”

Now, let’s break down the conversation for a minute.
What exactly happened?
The truth is I was insecure and I allowed my personal biases to drum up a series of feelings that connected to old memories of bullying and the social coordination of popularity.
I allowed my old recollections of the divisions between the crowd to further an outdated feeling of “Us against them.”
I allowed a group of people, whose opinions and approach as well as their life and their wealth, to intimidate me. In return, I decided to show a more haunting side of my past to create a separation of fear as if to quote a line from Joan Crawford from the film Mommy Dearest when she said, “Don’t fuck with me fellas!”
And that’s exactly what I did.
I used my adversity as a shield and more accurately, I allowed myself to disparagingly talk about my recovery and discuss who I am in a self-deprecating way. To what avail?
To impress or frighten a group of people who I never met before and never had to see again?

I used to think that my adversity was like a black mark. Thus, when someone would challenge me or when my interpretation was that someone was challenging me, I believed that they thought they were better than me.
So, I had to punish them.

So what was I thinking?
I was thinking that I wanted to punish them for having a life that I never had.
I wanted them to shut up. I wanted them to stop talking about people like they were slaves.
I wanted them to stop talking about their college days and their prom nights.
I wanted them to stop talking about “the help” as if the help were poor peasants who beg for crumbs.

I am not sure how I would react if I were to sit at a table like this now.
I suppose I would excuse myself because I choose not to sit at tables where respect is no longer served.
(I love that saying.)
I suppose I wouldn’t be as threatened as I was at that time because I have grown since then.

Plus, the person I was all those years ago is long gone.
All that remains of him is this person I am now.
As for success, I might not be able to afford an event at a castle, but I can say that I have earned a spot at any table.

I can say that I don’t have to defend myself.
I don’t have to allow myself to be intimidated by the different social categories or the different echelons of popularity or wealth.

I am wealthy. 
Now . . .
This is true in more ways than one.
But to be honest, I don’t think I would have been able to see my life or my success this way

(Without you).

Know what I mean?

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